Inexperience Shines Through Again

I recently read a blog post about the changes in the health care marketing and research industry and how there has been a mass exodus of talent. I was not surprised to read this, only surprised to read it recently. I spent the majority of my career working in medical education and marketing in small agencies supporting pharmaceutical companies and the associations they give those “unrestricted educational grants” to.

When I began in the industry I worked closely with a great number of experienced, intelligent people. Brand and product managers on the pharmaceutical side knew their business, products and objectives inside and out. Project and program managers, writers, artists and architects new their initiatives, roles, requirements and regulations inside and out.

There were of course some who would slip up now and again, but there were so many smart people involved that these slip ups would always be caught. The checks and balances were always there.

About 10 years ago, after a brief hiatus from the industry, I returned. (Yes, the money INSIDE pharma was WAY better than the money OUTSIDE pharma and I had a family to support). At this time the economy was several years into tanking, and health care always getting hit first by it had been suffering for more than the few years I was away. Upon my return I was stunned. Pharmaceutical companies were now working with junior product and brand managers who were inexperienced in the nuances of off-label discussions and promotion, unsure of regulatory requirements, unclear on documentation needs, and overall, just plain green. Their bosses were only slightly more experienced, but even more swamped with additional work and doing double duty that there were no internal nets.

Thankfully they were still using agencies who still had some experienced senior people. The one I worked with closely was a raging nasty egotistical wretch, but she knew her stuff inside and out, and caught many of the nuances, and did double duty, usually doing the brand managers’ jobs. She covered their butts very well.

Not long after leaving there I edged back out of pharma (yes, the money is good, but the moral cost was just too high for me) and found that other industries were now being hit. Still I worked with health care, mostly hospitals, and quickly learned that junior people, those with little experience, now had big titles, and threw those around with matching attitudes. I then began to see in other industries how that continued.

Today, after a prolonged recession, industry overall has changed. Intelligence, experience, understanding is no longer valued. My current work title reflects the change in business.

I am a marketing strategist. Before marketing came about there was advertising. I get into this discussion regularly with folks, but advertising was an industry unto itself. It took into consideration behavior, customers, targets, expectations, needs, messaging, creative, and getting results. Darren Stevens from Bewitched did not work in marketing, he worked in advertising. Today we call it marketing, and advertising is a mere subset of it. The name just changed. Advertising has become a “channel”, a tactic, and marketing became the word used for all the thinking around it.

But where did marketing strategist come from? It came from the recession. No longer did working in marketing require thinking. It became like advertising, a tactic, or rather, a group of tactics. Why? Because marketers who are tactical based are cheaper. They do what they’re told (in an ideal world). But who tells them what to do? Leadership is now mainly comprised of junior people who have “titled up”. An entire working generation has lived with doing work without raises or bonuses, being told to be happy that they have a job, and regardless of conditions, they were. Instead of raises they got titles and promotions.

The rest became consultants. And marketing strategists. Having to only pay one person to think was cheaper. And easier on upper management to deal with.

Business these days is seriously devoid of experience and thinking. They have worked themselves into a hole and due to lack of experience, don’t know how to get out, because they don’t know how they got here. And their title-ups don’t allow them to look inside. They remain inexperienced, unaware.

But it’s not just business. Just like corporations, public sector groups have early retired, laid off, and reassigned positions to junior teams, reducing their overhead and payroll loads. I heard another shining example of that today.

Today my middle school son came home and was amused at the opportunity to tell me blond jokes. I had heard all the ones he told, and giggled appropriately, and then as a good responsible parent does, in order to explain why blond jokes, or any jokes singling out stereotypes are wrong, asked where he heard them, fully expecting to hear from one of his buddies.


He heard them from his math teacher.

During class.

After one of the other kids reminded her to tell them.

Apparently this was a discussion that previously occurred and it seems the teacher promised to tell them. This was planned.

I have not yet been brave enough to ask how the kid remembered to remind her because I have been getting progressively more and more annoyed as the evening has gone on.

I explained that this was wrong and he said, “Oh, no, it’s ok, she told us it’s ok because she is blond.”

After feeling that my jaw had been open for long enough for my tongue to completely dry out, I took a sip of soda and regained the ability to speak. I couldn’t though, so I went to play with the dogs to regain my composure. After returning and explaining how and why this was utterly wrong to a child who is repeatedly told to look to teachers as trustworthy authority figures, I explained how this is bullying and unacceptable.

When it was clear that he still wasn’t sure how to react I said fine, here’s what I give you, as your parent, permission to do tomorrow. You can approach the teacher who told the jokes and say “My mom says that your telling those jokes apparently shows they are correct, since as a blond you clearly lack intelligence and awareness to know that sharing bullying stereotypes to a class full of impressionable middle school kids, which included several blonds, was wholly inappropriate.”

I know full well that if that ever gets conveyed it will be more in lines of “My mom was mad you told us those jokes.”

For the record, I am not blond, I have told my share of blond jokes and will do so again. I have a great sense of humor and will continue to find blond jokes funny, along with other jokes. But I am not 12, nor am I responsible for a class full of 12 year olds. I did remind him, and will remind him again, that her singling out people to make fun of their appearance is bullying, and told him that what she did was wrong. Again reminding him he has my permission to respectfully call her out on that (or, if he so chooses, he can skip the respect part and use the phrasing I suggested).

I am pissed off. But again reminded that inexperience reins. She is not a new teacher, but she has been teaching during the change of seniority during these troubled economic times, rendering her a senior level educator. It reminds me that junior people are now preparing a new generation based on inexperience.

The brain drain is becoming exponential.


About Laurissa Doonan

I'm a marketer. I've been a professional marketer for over 25 years, but in reality, I have always been one. Marketing to me is about communicating effectively, regardless of platform, regardless of channel. Marketing is understanding both your objectives and your audience, and finding the right method and message for your customers to reach them where they are. Now I dedicate my efforts to helping very small and small companies pursue their passions and grow their businesses through marketing; providing agency trained expertise without the overhead.
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