Are We Seeing A Growth In “McDonalds Marketing”?

Cheryl Andonian (aka Momblebee) suggested in a comment that Michael Arrington’s “McDonalds content” issue I wrote about yesterday goes beyond news and content, and affects marketing as a whole. She says:

“This “McDonalds” issue is larger than just news and content. It is affecting creative work as well. Talented and trained professional freelance writers, graphic designers and web designers are competing against a glut of low end slingers who will give businesses “creative” work for pennies.”

Essentially, she say we’re seeing an increase in “McDonalds marketers” who capitalize on their clients’ lack of knowledge of creative and strategy – people who hand over low-end work at low-end prices.

Still, haven’t we always had this? There have always been “marketers” (whatever their stripes) who hawk standard, low-investment tactics in place of carefully crafted strategies. My argument would normally be that people will see the results of these efforts for what they are and that “survival of the fittest” would enable the real professionals to prevail (despite my cynicism when it comes to “social media experts“). However, Cheryl seems to suggest that this trend is a growing problem.

I wonder:

  1. Has the recession of the last year or so increased companies’ price sensitivity to the point where they will go to the lowest bidder?
  2. Has the growth of easy-to-access social media tools enabled these McDonalds marketers to reach their target audiences more easily?
  3. Is this a trend you’ve seen too?

What’s your take?

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  • Dave,
    I think it’s a combination of factors…But the primary one in my mind is the easy accessibility of tools to anyone who wants them. The issue is that knowing how to use a tool doesn’t give someone talent. Knowing how to hit a nail with a hammer doesn’t make someone a carpenter. Knowing how to type doesn’t make someone a writer. Knowing html doesn’t make someone a web designer. I see this over and over. Knowledge of tool use is confused with talent. (Can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine?) And yes, I think in this time of ultimate access to tools, combined with the poor economy, and the anonymity of the internet, anyone can claim to be whatever they want, and unless you are a very savvy and sharp business owner, then it’s likely that you won’t know the difference. I’ve used this analogy before, but it’s like one of those poor tone deaf people auditioning on American Idol. They THINK they sound just like Whitney Houston, but in reality, they sound like a dying moose. They just can’t hear the difference.

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  • I’ve spent all but the last year of a my career on the client side of the fence, so I can’t shake that hat off very easily.

    When I was a client, here’s what I wanted: bandwidth–and talent. In other words, if I were going to have to spend money to get help with something I couldn’t do myself (whether for reasons of time, expertise, or otherwise), I wanted to make damn sure I wasn’t wasting that money.

    What that mens is that, yes, sometimes the decision is based on price alone. But that’s rarely the only factor. When price matters is when it’s combined with perceived value–and sorry, folks, that value is assessed by the clients themselves.

    If the work you do isn’t perceived to be of significantly higher value, then people will not pay a significantly higher price for it.

    What I want to know is: how can we turn the conversation away from, “How to we make people see our value?” to “How can I better figure out how to match what I do, and how I do it, to what my customers value?”

    • Tamsen,

      I too have spent a good deal of my time on the client side too, so I have the perspective of both sides as well. I think the problem though is that honestly some people really do just see the price and are illiterate (so to speak) in seeing or having the ability to understand the difference between low level and high level talent. I know this from trying to explain internally to a few of my colleagues why something is better than something else. If people don’t speak the same language to have the ability understand or really see what they are looking at, I’m not sure there is anything anyone can do about that. Sometimes it simply boils down to a right brain, left brain thing.

      • I absolutely agree–and those people who only see price are not the potential customers of those of us who perceive our services to be of higher value.

        It likely does boil down to something as simple as right brain/left brain (or slightly more complicated like some common classes of values). But on the agency side, we seem to waste a lot of time trying to change people’s values to match ours, rather than getting better at finding and pursuing better matches. For the clients (as you know), this means a lot of time wasted listening to–or fending off–irrelevant pitches.

        • I’m usually on the client side, so I balance price with delivery. The most important aspect is timeliness for all creative work. I need designers + writers to make a few assumptions and deliver a product with my input and theirs.
          What tools do you see superseding creative input?

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