Marketing Effectiveness
Leveraging New Technologies and Marketing Platforms

Does Marketing Have a Shrinking Middle Class?

July 13, 2015


There appears to be a huge and glaring divide in the marketing world.

While it’s certainly important, I’m not referring to the $30 billion gap between ad spending and time spent on digital media (Cited in the recent IAB report entitled “Madison Avenue Meets Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley: Building Collaboration between Creativity and Technology” – which is worth reading by the way).

I’m referring to the marketing Grand Canyon that exists between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’

On one end of the marketing world, you have large, cutting-edge marketers – Unilever, Mondelēz, American Express, Target, T-Mobile – who, with healthy budgets and large teams, often drive the marketing world forward. One might even argue that these internal marketing teams are actually giving the ad agency world a run for its money with their massive databases, targeting capabilities, advanced metrics and marketing attribution methods. However, these companies are not the ones bringing innovative products to the market.

On the other end, you have highly-agile, technologically-savvy start-ups of every shape, stripe and color. They are positively bursting with game-changing ideas, hoping to become the next Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat or Pinterest. Many start-ups have the vision and technical prowess to churn out the products and services we’ll all likely be using in the future. The downside is, whether they’re backed by healthy venture funding or not, many lack the basic marketing understanding to actually bring their innovation to light.

What exists in between these two worlds? Not a lot. Mostly a shrinking sea of bland marketing status quo ‘middle class.’

This is disappointing. So, what do we do?

I’d love to find a way to merge the expertise from our largest marketers and the raw innovation from our brightest start-ups. Perhaps it’s a half-day “un-conference” to share ideas, or a large-scale “job-swap” program of sorts. Ultimately, efforts to bridge this gap could be beneficial to not just those sitting at the end points, but to the entire marketing spectrum.

Who knows, we might even restore the marketing ‘middle class.’

Scott Lahde is Principal of ConduitWorks, a marketing consultancy for emerging companies. He can be reached at

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