Today’s Marketer Is Batman … And That’s a Problem

There’s a tension in marketing today: The customer journey is emotional. Working the tools of marketing is technical. How many marketers are suited to balance those correctly? Not Batman.

Always be Batman.
I respectfully disagree.

Last week I talked about the marketer of the future, and how Phil Fernandez (CEO of Marketo) and Vincent Ircandia (SVP business operations of the Portland Trailblazers) see that as the person who unites the company, its technology, and its customer strategy.

It’s hard to argue with their assessment of the opportunity. But their talks also exposed the tension in marketing today: The customer journey is emotional. Working the tools of marketing is technical. How many marketers are suited to balance those correctly?

What Are Marketers Now? Batman?

It almost sounds like you are Batman! Tracking customers from six computer screens in the Bat Cave and calculating how to hit them with a batarang from two miles away at exactly the right time.

Awesome, right? Batman is awesome. Everyone wants to be Batman.

But Batman is not a good role model for marketers.

Batman does not connect emotionally with the criminals he’s tracking. Batman’s version of the customer journey does not end in them choosing to make a purchase. It ends with them getting ambushed, beaten to within an inch of their lives and left tied up, humiliated, for the police.

That’s no way to treat your customers.

More and more I wonder if the technology we’re looking at is turning us into Batman, hiding in the cave staring at the data, and not necessarily understanding the emotional connection customers want to make on the buyer’s journey.

You know who’s a good emotional marketing role model? Professor X. He’s got this big machine (Cerebro) that lets him read the minds of mutants all over the world and target them directly with messaging. He sends famous superheroes to go ask them to join the team. He has their buy in, emotional loyalty, and they’re more than happy to go risk their lives for him. (Yes, Robin will risk his life for Batman, but clearly that’s Stockholm syndrome.)

The catch: Professor X doesn’t help close hundreds of cases/sales a year. Professor X recruits a couple kids to attend his private boarding school for free. Revenue isn’t his thing. (Neither is accountability, but I digress.)

How the CEO sees Professor X CMO.
How the CFO sees Professor X CMO.

Professor X makes the emotional connection, but he doesn’t have the numbers. Batman has the numbers, but he’s a sociopath abusing his prospects and customers.

Which one are you? Is there another metaphor? Are you Wolverine, Bub? (Don’t be Wolverine to your customers! That would be bad.)

Wolverine slaps Robin, with his claws.
Yeah, that’s much worse.

The idea behind marketing automation and all the rest of this martech is to provide tools to listen and react to customers at various levels of granularity. But I think there’s cognitive dissonance there. Are marketers supposed to succeed by playing the marketing tool better, or by knowing the customer better?

Because to really do both effectively, you might need to be some kind of superhero.

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

3 thoughts on “Today’s Marketer Is Batman … And That’s a Problem”

  1. OK, this is brilliant. As a self-proclaimed Geek, I applaud the correlation between Batman’s antisocial personality and distanced marketing. This has been a bit of a challenge for me over the last few years as our company engages more and more martech to respond more quickly, to automate our responses, to generate more and more (and more) analytics. Is that what the customer really wants? And shouldn’t what the customer wants/needs be the most important factor?

    I feel that we are distancing ourselves as we put more layers of technology between ourselves and the people we try to talk to and engage with. I still prefer including actual live human events in the integrated marketing approach because what people tell you in person does not always match up with the 140 character blurb about what they want on Twitter.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking (and validating) piece, Thorin!

    1. Thanks!

      Getting personal feedback from your customers, in person, is a great tool when you can do it. But even then you run into bias issues. After all, you’re only getting personal feedback from customers who wanted to personally engage, and they also seem to be a shrinking breed.

      I wonder if anyone’s done any research on how customers want automation vs. personal outreach. We might be surprised to see how many pick the robots.

      1. I think there is something to be said for the convenience of automation (from the consumer side) and not having to interact with a ‘sales’ person (in whatever capacity that person is actually operating). But I don’t think that ultimately it’s ever a bad thing to make a personal connection. For me, personally, I want it on my terms and maybe that’s the disconnect. I have seen some–but not many–automated systems that let you select a personal touch at your convenience, with your consent.

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