Q. How many marketeers does it take to change a lightbulb?

and the answer is, wait for it….

YES – its Millennials (though DIGITAL would have also been another close one)

This joke recited by Prof. Mark Ritson in one of his lectures is a good summation of the obsession of marketeers, executives and leaders with management and marketing fads that are the flavor of the season. This obsession can be excessive and all consuming, sometimes to the peril of the brands these executives handle.

I am passionate about good writing and some of the best ones I’ve seen are those that go against the grain, willing to take on un-popular stances if need be.  Its easy to be agreeable to what the majority is saying, but to be able to offer an alternative opinion in a cogent way, backed by data is not easy and the good ones need to be celebrated.

In this decade, three regular columns had helped the marketing and advertising community get an alternative perspective and tried their best to educate and make a difference in their own unique way. Here’s a small tribute to them:

The Mythbuster column in Admap: WARC ran a blog for a few years (ended last year) written by Sarah Carter and Les Binet. The Mythbuster would usually talk about a common perception/ practice held by marketeers and why this angered the authors. In a single page column they’d then demolish this widely held belief. Both authors lead several IPA winning campaigns and also worked on the IPA initiatives to benchmark and build learnings from winning marketing campaigns. What made the most difference was the easy lucid style of narration while building a solid case of the topic they were discussing. (One of my favorites was words they wanted to be banned from the marketing lexicon including the all familiar, over-used ones: content, deep-dive, real-time planning, aligning etc. and explaining briefly how these words didn’t mean or stand for much).

Mythbuster used to be available in the free blogs pages of WARC, though now only available to subscribers only.  But its worthwhile reading and re-reading them, especially if you are in advertising – its priceless as a back up when having discussions with your clients.

The second two are well-known and more colourful and also a little extreme in their style, and not for the faint-hearted.

Adcontrarian: Bob Hoffman an advertising veteran who retired after selling his outfit writes the popular Adcontrarian blog. One of the most downloaded articles last year (How the mad men lost their plot) described Bob as a savage critic. And truly, Bob can be colorfully frank while calling a spade by every name that could turn the corporate honchos a dark shade of pink.

Bob does admit that he can be dismissed as a ‘luddite dinosaur’ who is not accepting the new digital reality that is engulfing and taking over the traditional media landscape.  However, as one reads some of the articles (both colorful and entertaining) it turns out that a lot of bluffs that were called out by Bob, sadly turned out to be true. Between digital measurement as well as targeting there is still a lot that has not been understood or done perfectly.

I had made the mistake of catching up on his blog before entering a digital-media conference, and it was hard not to start doubling up, and being forced to leave the room, as I guffawed at speakers overdosing on the hyperbole while talking about digital usage and the miracle cure they were for marketeers.

Prof. Mark Ritson – Another un-popular, equally colorful speaker and author who sheds light on both marketing concepts, developments while exposing the exaggerated claims from digital, CSR etc.  His columns written in Marketing Week are a good source of enlightenment and highly recommended if you are in advertising or marketing.  He has spoken at various fora and his speeches are also a great way to appreciate an alternative perspective of the stuff that marketing takes for granted.

Of course, its not necessary to agree entirely nor subscribe to everything they say, but the discussions these ‘naysayers’ provoke can be enlightening.

In folklore and history, we are familiar with the role the court jesters played in the royal entourage of the kings. The jester would put a humorous spin on events as he saw them, sometimes even pulling the King’s leg. The smarter kings wouldn’t get offended but instead, saw the court jester providing a good ‘reality check’ to the issues the kingdom faced.

The world is changing at a really fast pace, with disruption becoming more than a catchword and increasingly a difficult reality we face in nearly every sphere of life. But as we go on an overdrive to keep pace or be on the forefront of development – it helps to listen to a naysayer.

… because while the naysayer throws a wet blanket, in reality it might douse out a fire.