Canning Marketers’ Spiciest Takes
If there’s one thing marketers love talking about, it’s marketing.
So all it took to curate an article full of insightful marketing takes was to ask a simple question:
From the controversial to the conflicting to the on-point, the responses leave no corner of the marketing world unscorched—even the lunch table. 🔥
Marketers shared their deepest, darkest takes, from what they think is overrated or underutilized to misunderstood or just plain stupid.
Take Josh Garofalo who came in swinging with strong opinions about the design process and when not to create demand.
We could unpack so much in these takes, but 3b is a little too real for every marketer who’s had to sacrifice quality in the name of an arbitrary timeline.
Truth be told, most of our sky-is-falling stress as marketers is just as artificially constructed as the so-called “universal” marketing rules we tend to live by—like Amy Morales says:
The rules are only binding when you know that they work for your specific audience, product, or industry.
No matter how heralded or hyped a so-called marketing “law” may be, there’s probably a marketer out there who could disprove it with a cleverly crafted campaign or A/B testing. (Or just a killer meme.)
In short—there just might be room at the table for all of our hottest takes.
So pull up a chair and pour some milk and/or water. These spicy takes are about to put us all in an episode of Hot Ones. 🌶
What even is marketing?
Let’s start with the basics—because surely at least the fundamentals of the marketing field are universal, right? *cue audience laugh track*
Harlow co-founder Samantha Anderl kicked up the hot take that marketing might need a broader definition than we thought:
This perspective means marketing isn’t just the proactive, thoughtful, and strategic efforts we put our heart and soul into. It’s also the good, bad, ugly, and miscellaneous exposure brands get even when they don’t mean to.
Marketing isn’t just what we carefully curate on behalf of the brand—it’s everything...everywhere…all at once.
If that prospect wasn’t overwhelming enough, we can’t always control or predict what will affect public opinion. (This is one of many reasons why a CEO putting “go viral” on a marketer’s to-do list is a lot like asking ChatGPT to sit down with you for a cup of coffee. You can try, but the request itself is pretty nonsensical.)
Faced with the quasi-unpredictability of our audience, how can marketers proceed strategically?
Amalia Fowler’s hot take: Most marketers don’t.
Marketing is an iterative game of trial and error, experimentation, and A/B testing—AKA, throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. But without an overarching strategy, a clear why, and a plan to stay consistent and make improvements, your testing won’t go anywhere.
Craft a customer-informed strategy, track your results, and do more of what works.
(Feel free to skip the haphazard, “just throw something out there” stage.)
Don’t be boring
We’ve all encountered content so dull that we’d rather be subjected to the awkward silence of someone struggling to share their screen via Zoom than read it.
Correction: We’ve come across those boring ads and blog posts but we’ve scrolled past or clicked away faster than you can say, “ToFu/MoFu/BoFu.”
Boring content is often forgettable content, which means it severely lacks value for your audience.
So how do you make sure your marketing packs a punch and sticks with prospects? Make ‘em laugh, according to Joshua W. Powers.
A well-timed joke rooted in empathy for your audience speaks volumes and stays with them longer.
Try roasting your customers’ pain points, like Jon Selig teaches his sales coaching clients to do. When done well, this approach shows that you actually get it, and an expertly crafted joke (ironically) makes a prospect take you seriously.
Partnering with real people to spread the word about your product to their audience should result in some of your brand’s most interesting and human content.
But when it’s fake, forced, or merely a carbon copy of everyone else’s version of a trend, odds are good your user-generated content (UGC) won’t generate revenue.
Sadly, social content often falls prey to the pull of pedestrian copy, too.
Where better to use relevance and relatable humor in your marketing than on social? (Look no further than the National Park Service Twitter for inspo here—they’re just like us.)
This doesn’t just go for B2C brands, either. Liz Willits breaks down why (and how) B2B doesn’t have to mean “Boring to Boring” on LinkedIn.
To break through the noise and make your customers remember you, you've got to ruthlessly buff the boring from your marketing content.
But not according to Jon Park.
Matthew Kobach adds a bit more explanation to the same take that boring is best:
Matthew proposes that boring > clever but unclear.
If you’re so afraid of being “boring” that you sacrifice clarity for confusing pizzazz, you’ll lose your audience.
You might be aiming for unforgettable, but if your audience doesn’t get the message, they still won’t trust you.
A simple message someone feels was written just for them—and speaks to their exact pain points and needs—will actually stay with them.
That’s not boring. That’s just good marketing.
Know. Your. Customers.
Marketing wouldn’t exist without the humans we’re selling to behind the screens.
Just ask Amanda Natividad.
…or is it? 👀🍿
Kushaan goes on to clarify that, instead, marketing is about money. Then again, who’s spending the money if not…people?
In order to reach those big spenders effectively, you need to understand them as humans.
Like Stephanie Griffith says, knowing where someone’s traffic came from amounts to jack if you don’t understand where they are on their journey.
Those numbers will just be numbers unless your customer knowledge and context are on point.
Even the most highly praised marketing falls flat, according to Dana Engelbert, if you don’t say what your customers want to hear when they need to hear it:
You could have the slickest copy, the best design, and a seemingly airtight distribution plan, but if you miss on your timing and audience, the praise means nothing.
(Besides, the only recognition that matters comes from your customers.)
Do marketers know their audience?
Not according to Edoardo Stradella—who kept receipts.
Customer understanding is essential for marketers because it lets us create helpful content and build relationships until they’re ready to buy.
A disconnect between marketers and their customers makes marketing, as Edoardo puts it, “useless”—to both the sales team and the customer.
Plus, when we don’t know who we’re marketing to, we definitely won’t know what to say to them. Nicolas Cole hits the nail on the head:
This take adds another dimension to our calling to be clear but not boring.
Copy filled with fun puns or a little alliteration is useless if you’re not actually connecting with customers.
If marketing really is about people (and/or their money), those people have to know instinctively that your message is for them if they’re going to take action.
Try appealing to *ahem* their inherent selfishness.
You might be thinking to yourself, “But what about our customer referrals and testimonials? People love our product.” And they might!
However, it’s more likely that they love what your product does for them and how it makes their lives better or easier, like Chris says. When we zoom out from our carefully crafted messaging and the product we spend our days with, it gets easier to see that people buy products to meet their own needs.
Put yourself in the customers’ shoes. They’re asking, “What’s in it for me?” And your marketing had better answer.
Smash or pass?
Time for the lightning round—the marketing tactics some of us love to hate.
A caution: Some of these takes might come for a few of your favorite things…you have been warned.
Marketing funnels: 📣or ❌
If you hold the tried-and-true funnel near and dear, Codi Dantu-Johnson begs to differ:
Codi goes on in the comments:
You’ll encounter some prospects right when they’re ready to buy; you’ll need to nurture others until they are.
Your marketing efforts might not be what “moves” them through the funnel. (You might not make them ready to buy by increasing their budget or convincing their leadership that they need your product, for instance.)
But expert marketing will help you stay ready for when that day comes.
Email marketing: 📩 or 🙅
Email marketing has long been held up as the ultimate owned channel.
You have sole custody of your email list, and you need it for when, say, your favorite social media channel changes hands. (That’s a spicy topic for another day.)
But Chi Thukral votes that some brands don’t, in fact, have to rely on intercepting customers in their inboxes.
Chi cites that other channels like communities have become more interactive and offer brands other hands-on ways to connect.
(Fwiw, Beam doesn’t have an email newsletter. But we are pretty excited about the conversations we’ve had on social on our brand and individual accounts. Dealer’s choice.)
Blog: 📝 or 👎
In their infancy, blogs housed travel recommendations and reposted screencaps from our favorite sci-fi shows. (Thanks, tumblr.)
Today, you can find 600 million blogs on the content scene, and most B2B brands use a blog to showcase expertise and try to rank for relevant keywords in the dog-eat-dog SEO sphere.
Deb Mukherjee isn’t sure it has to be that way, though. Only you know what’s right for your brand—you might stick with a healthy combo of social, email, podcast, and video.
But for those who do still opt to use their blog to put out valuable reading material (and/or spicy marketing-take roundups), it can be a solid base for your content strategy—if you use and repurpose it right.
Marketing awards: 🏆or 💩
Every year, brands and individuals alike hit our LinkedIn feeds, humbly accepting their laurels.
But how valuable are these pay-to-play marketing awards? Jason says what some of us have been thinking all along:
It’s not surprising that brands would pay exorbitant fees to apply for industry marketing accolades. They might walk away with a plaque and just enough content for a pat-themselves-on-the-back blog post.
But before investing too much time or effort into these recognitions, you might consider asking yourself if even the top honors will move the needle with your audience.
Do they care? Will this marketing award actually do something for our marketing strategy?
Or are you just chasing something shiny (and/or mediocre banquet food)?
Canva: 🎨or 🚽
Digital cameras made everyone a photographer. Drag-and-drop website tools turned anyone into a web designer.
To the chagrin of graphic designers everywhere (and Julia Pizzolato), Canva turned every marketer into a graphics expert.
News flash: Using Canva does not a graphic designer make. But it does contribute to the watering down and ‘cookie-cuttering’ of design—which your customers can still probably spot from a mile away.
If you want awesome graphics, you still need to:
- Invest significant time into actually learning design (rather than defaulting to the lowest common template denominator), or
- Cough up the cash to pay a graphic artist or designer who will make your visuals shine (shoutout to Haven, who makes sure our Darkroom graphics are 10/10 every time!)
But mom, everybody is doing it!
“If all the other brands used Pedro Pascal memes to go viral, would you do that too?” (On TikTok, the answer is apparently a resounding yes.)
In the age of trending sounds and impressions, marketers need to separate fleeting fads from lasting marketing staples.
Brands crave the trust-based relationships that TikTok and Instagram macro- and micro-influencers help them build. But it’s not yet clear whether the tactic drives value for brands long-term, especially as the market continues to grow more saturated.
Regardless, UGC is likely to look drastically different in the years to come, especially as the tech that enables immersive experiences keeps advancing.
Only time will tell if Dan’s spicy take, er, takes.
One trend that we currently see in action is Anthony Kennada’s:
When most of us think of a media company, we picture major publishers and distributors of content like TV and digital news outlets.
But the modern marketer’s go-to digital channels—from podcasts to videos to blogs—essentially make them into mini media outlets by most definitions…for better or for worse.
Media ethics calls for impartiality—or at least, an attempt at it.
Much like the press, brands should steer clear of bias toward their messaging as much as possible, as Chris Booth explains in his take:
All too many marketers fall so in love with their product or message that they can’t bear to listen to user feedback or consider another perspective.
But strong marketing stems from being willing to listen to what your customers are saying and adjusting accordingly.
If you surround yourself with ‘yes people’ and ignore your customers’ qualms, your message will stay in an echo chamber. And your marketing will suck.
Listen to the people that matter, then do something about it. That way, you and your customers win.
Content is the BFF that marketing can’t live without—although if you ask Chris Koske, they might actually just be one and the same:
And honestly, he’s got a point.
Every marketing campaign you could dream of calls for content. To limit “content marketing” to an SEO strategy or a blog calendar isn’t just an oversimplification—it’s actually wrong.
Some marketers acknowledge that, while content is critical…it might not be the thing. 🌶️
These three aspects of distribution could make or break your content efforts:
Are your content efforts a total wash if you send your audience to the wrong destination? Alex Giedt thinks so.
Incredible ads—with conversion-driven copy and *ahem* graphics you didn’t make on Canva—build momentum.
But if your clickthrough destination isn’t a landing page or CTA designed to close the conversion, you’ve dropped the ball.
Use the momentum of a clickthrough. Rather than taking someone to an impersonal webpage (which they could’ve found on their own), keep them excited to learn more and take them across the finish line.
2. Internal promotion
No matter how great your content is, pressing publish and going on with your day doesn’t cut it for distribution. Garrett Sussman points out one of the softballs marketers just.aren’t.using.
Your sales and support teams are your content Avengers.
They spend every day talking to the exact right audience for your content. But if you’re not asking them to save the day, there’s no way you’ll, um, Hulk-smash your marketing goals.
Your blog posts will die on the vine, and your research reports will waste away.
Instead, make it easy for your internal team to share what you’ve worked so hard to produce. Provide multiple ways for them to post and share the content in their conversations, and never underestimate the power of a strong repurposing strategy.
Trust me—you’ll run laps around your competitors.
Before you agonize over the subject line, preview text, or even copy of your next email, check out Nick Berry’s thoughts on why they might not even matter. 😉
Okay, okay, so “almost” is a key operative word here. I don’t recommend campy email copy or using Comic Sans—or heaven forbid, Papyrus—in your next campaign. (To each their own, though.)
But Nick is right that timing is critical, which is why consistency and strategic retargeting are essential companions to even the most well-crafted and personalized email.
Killer content? Absolutely. But the real secret is showing up at the right moment.
Take a cue from Winston Bishop: Be there.
Can anyone be a marketer?
After all these spicy takes, if you’re still wondering what it takes to be a marketer, the answer’s actually pretty simple.
Marketing teams—especially small ones—do it all:
- Support sales and product.
- Conduct customer research.
- Manage email, social, PR, SEO, and partnerships.
- Tackle everything else in a job description that somehow never seems to stop growing.
If that task list wasn’t enough, Josh Spector’s take adds another degree of heat:
On top of a never-ending day job (and having marketing brains that don’t ever seem to turn off), Josh says we also need to have personal uses for the platforms we market with.
While having a thriving LinkedIn personal brand or an active TikTok certainly might help with branded efforts on those channels, we don’t hold most marketing platforms to those standards. (You don’t have to have a personal website or email list to effectively market using those tactics, for instance.)
What’s more, Shana Bull offers the flip side of this perspective:
Personal use of a channel can be helpful, but it doesn’t guarantee marketing chops there, either. Plus, the lines between personal and professional can blur constantly—a so-called “personal brand” is inherently professional.
However you build your marketing channel expertise, you need the collaboration of your team and deep knowledge of your customers—plus the willingness to try new things until you find what works for your audience.
That’s a high calling—and one that makes a truly well-rounded marketer a unicorn.
Case in point: Ranee Soundara dropped one of the spiciest marketing takes of all.
We’ll end with this: Here’s to a world where we all share more of our marketing takes—you know, the super spicy ones—and to hoping those takes don’t put us all out of a job.