In praise of marketing rebellions

Mark Schaefer
4 min readSep 25

A couple years ago, I noticed a pattern with the many marketing leaders I met.

They all seemed to be stuck.

Everywhere, everyone, and at almost every company I know.

Even the biggest marketing stars at the most famous brands seem to be struggling. Every year, I’m honored to help facilitate an invitation-only meeting of Chief Marketing Officers. It includes some of the biggest names in business who use this private meeting to engage in honest roundtable discussions about the most pressing marketing topics of the day.

At the last meeting, we went around the table and each executive named their biggest challenge. One-by-one they each exclaimed, “We’re falling so far behind … on everything!

I almost laughed out loud. Keep in mind that these are experienced, deeply-respected executives with some of the biggest companies in the world. They have nearly limitless resources, access to the best people, and premier agency partner relationships. And yet, they echoed the same desperate sentiment I hear every day from small businesses, non-profits, universities, and entrepreneurs with little or no budget at all. Things are just not working like they used to.

So I started digging into the reason why. And what I found was amazing.

The third rebellion

There is a rebellion against marketing going on right in front of us. Actually, it has been taking place in one form or another for more than 100 years.

The first rebellion occurred in the 1900s. The advertising business was just beginning, an industry built on extraordinary promises. As competition heated up, these promises became more and more extraordinary until they were outright lies. Eventually journalists began exposing these lies and the consumers revolted, demanding reform. Legislation was passed which demanded truth in advertising.

The first rebellion was over. It was the end of lies.

The second rebellion was enabled by technology. Consumers hated ads and fought against them with TV remote controls in the 1960s, ad-free cable TV in the 1970s, VCR’s in the 1980s, and streaming services today.

Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!