Fast food is great when you’re a kid. What’s not to love? It’s colorful, loaded with the best flavor (salt), and comes with a toy surprise.
But when you’re at the age where a couple of chicken nuggets make you go apeshit with happiness, you’re not quite in tune with the finer things in life.
An eight-year-old couldn’t care less about the difference between Wagyu beef and processed cow lips. They’d rather have a plastic ball pit than live music. Nutrition? They don’t even know how to spell it.
At the end of the day, fast food does satisfy the hunger need in a very basic and straightforward way. But by and large, fast food is very self aware of its limitations. That’s why — despite being restaurants — their offerings aren’t primarily about the food. For adults, they sell on price and convenience. For kids, they use toys, playgrounds, clowns, and boxes printed with little games.
When you think about it, the food is almost an afterthought. But isn’t food the reason why you’re supposed to be in a restaurant? You’re there to eat, right?
Fast food marketing is a sort of misdirection. These businesses divert attention away from what they’re meant to be selling — food — by drawing the eye elsewhere. They want people to forget that the actual product is truly inferior. They don’t want you to think about how they use the addictive qualities of unhealthy food to keep you coming back. They don’t want you to think about adult onset diabetes or heart disease.
One of the oft overlooked joys of maturing into adulthood is that we’re free to escape that trap if we so choose. We begin to develop a taste for quality. We can appreciate the atmosphere and ambiance of a fine restaurant. Ingredients — and hopefully our own health — start to matter to us. We realize that a huge tub of fries might be emotionally satisfying, but it doesn’t do a very good job of being food.
The experience of dining itself evolves, often to the point where the very idea of a drive-thru line puts us off our appetites.
There’s another industry that plays off this type of misdirection in marketing: the marketing industry.
The IT channel is rife with what we call McMarketing — the business development version of fast food.
These companies sell on price and convenience. Their onboarding processes are like being rushed through a drive-thru line. They don’t care about what they’re actually serving you, because what they think their product is and what you think their product is are two different things.
Of course, you would be right to assume that a marketing agency’s product should be something like “growth”, “leads”, or “results”. But our many years in this business — during which we’ve closely evaluated the methods of other agencies — have proven otherwise. Their product isn’t marketing so much as it is selling the “feeling of marketing” in high volumes.
Let me explain by making some comparisons:
How many Le Cordon Bleu-trained chefs do you know who work at Burger King? With the vast majority of digital marketing agencies, you’re assigned an account manager. These account managers are rarely trained, experienced marketing professionals. In fact, at the agency I worked for years ago, they hired people off the street as account managers, no experience or training necessary (or provided). For as long as I worked at that agency, I was the only person on the staff, including the leadership, who had gone to school for marketing.
Five-star restaurants don’t tend to have drive-thrus. When a chef is preparing complex meals to order, it’s difficult to push customers through in three to five minutes. Real marketing takes time to develop, just like a fine meal takes time to prepare. When a McMarketing agency rushes new clients through their “system” with a one-hour onboarding call, it’s the same as ordering at the drive through. And you end up with about the same thing: a soggy bag of nonsense and a stomach ache.
McMarketing agencies have “menus” that are geared more toward making you spend money than actually developing a marketing strategy. When MSPs are offered “combo meals” without any context or consideration for their actual needs, they’re already getting boned. If you’re looking for marketing guidance, how can you be expected to know what you need and what you don’t need? It’s no different than an MSP throwing down a list of services and saying “pick what you think you want”. (You wouldn’t do that, I hope.)
How does a fast food restaurant serve so many customers so quickly? The same way a McMarketing agency serves 300 clients at once: with low-quality canned ingredients, simple recipes, and low-wage labor. You don’t get creativity at Taco Bell — you get reheated, processed food assembled by the numbers by someone who would rather be somewhere else. That’s the dining equivalent of marketing templates, syndicated content, and “systems” that aren’t methodologies as much as they are assembly lines of packaged ideas.
How many times have you eaten fast food and thought, “I feel like I’ve eaten. I’m so full I feel sick, actually…so why do I feel so unsatisfied?” Fast food, by and large, is not designed to be nutritionally satisfying. It’s meant to trigger salty-sweet responses in your brain, release serotonin, and hopefully make you come back again and again. McMarketing works the same way. Reports, dashboards, metrics, flashy tools — these are the Happy Meals of marketing. They don’t actually do anything, but they give you that “feeling of marketing” that they’re really selling.
McMarketing only cares about things that it can automate and scale so they can push through as many clients as possible while paying for the least amount of talent. That’s why they don’t get creative. That’s why nothing you get is unique. And that’s why you probably know more about marketing than your account manager.
It’s a shame to see so many MSPs who clearly understand the value of quality and the allure of a high-end experience, yet are still swinging into the drive-thru for McMarketing to grow their business.
Why does this happen? It’s just that most people don’t realize the difference between five-star marketing and McMarketing.
Sort of the same way you don’t begin to appreciate quality dining until you’ve tried it for yourself. That’s when you realize that “food is food” is NOT a true statement — and neither is “marketing is marketing”.
If you want to experience the difference for yourself and really understand what I’ve said in this article, schedule a call with our team.
Call other marketing agencies and it’s like talking to the cashier at McDonald’s; call us, and it’s like sitting down with trained chefs. (We’ve been told this by nearly every person we’ve ever had a call with. I’m not just blustering.) You will never be able to fully appreciate the differences until you’ve made that call — and until you do, you might find yourself forever stuck in drive-thru lines waiting for your next greasy bag of substandard marketing.