The Misadventures of Jane the Marketer: A Cautionary Tale

Note: Names and identities have been changed to protect the innocent.

My friend “Jane,” a whip-smart marketing professional with a sharp eye and devilishly good looks, called me over the weekend in a state of near-homicidal rage over the fact that her boss had “once again climbed 10 feet up my ass” (her ass, not mine, of course). Naturally, I probed her for details (get your mind out of the gutter), and after a 5-minute swear-fest that would make a sailor blush, she managed to divulge the following:

Jane had joined the marketing team of this very-hip-and-innovative-Web-2.0 company just a few short months ago. Since then, she’s worked till her fingers bled, breathing life into their lead-generation engine, turning wimp-a-rific brand messages into clever, compelling gems, and single-handedly orchestrating a multi-channel marketing program so precise and well-timed that it could make a Swiss watch turn green with envy. What’s more, Jane was creative and frugal in her efforts—spending a teeny-weeny fraction of what her dim-witted boss spends on hair plugs and hookers each month—and her impressive arsenal of non-traditional marketing tricks paid off:

– 385% increase in registered users
– 6-fold increase in website traffic, yielding 3x the number of page views
– 200% Conversation Index
– 20% jump in Technorati “Authority” rank

And all of the above results were achieved within the first 45 days of the program. Not too shabby.

And that’s precisely when Jane’s boss, anti-genius that he is, woke up one morning (probably feeling particularly anxious about his receding hairline and his growing need for ever more Viagra to “get the job done”—but I’m just guessing), and marched into her office proclaiming that “user acquisition costs were too high” and therefore, her budget would be reduced by 70%, effective immediately.

the Anti-Genius himself

Yes, I’m serious.

Yes, he’s an idiot.

Obviously, this course of action put a kink in Jane’s ability to continue producing the kind of dramatic results previously described. And when user acquisition rates took a sharp dive south, just weeks after Anti-Genius put the kibosh on the only successful marketing program his fledgling company had ever seen, he marched back into her office, denounced the possibility that the lack of actual marketing activity might be responsible for the lack of new business, and proclaimed, “The problem, Jane, is that the messaging is all wrong.”


This logic is the metaphoric equivalent of training daily and vigorously for the Olympics (and watching your level of fitness and athletic skill improve accordingly), then suddenly becoming a complete couch potato. After a month of eating bon-bons and watching soap operas, you realize that you’re not in the Olympics as planned… and conclude that if only you’d worn a red shirt instead of a blue one, that gold medal would have been yours!


This reminds me of the old adage that I continually try to impress upon my children: You reap what you sow.

Don’t think that you can plant sunflowers and grow roses. If you plant sunflowers, you’ll get sunflowers.
And perhaps, more importantly, don’t expect anything to grow if you don’t care for and nurture the garden itself—constantly. Water, sunlight, food, love. In Jane’s case, the “garden” required cash, creativity, and a whole lot of “measure, rinse, and [improve or] repeat”—all of which she was 150% committed to. Until the Anti-Genius (distant cousin of the Anti-Christ) decided to get involved.

My message to Jane?

First, find yourself a new boss, preferably one that isn’t such an idiot.

Second, never send a CEO to do a smart marketer’s job.


4 Responses

  1. Aah, the pleasures of working for self-reverential maniacs. I call it CEO syndrome–the ability to cast blame far and wide BUT NOT TAKE ANY PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANYTHING. And yet they seem to thrive and get rich. Really rich. While the rest of us get high blood pressure and an insomnia habit. What’s the cure? I sure don’t know, but maybe I should examine my penchant for laboring for charismatic “leaders” who don’t actually lead.

  2. Now, now. It’s not just CEOs who pull that one. Let’s share the blame, shall we? 😉

  3. Running your own business is HARD. But working for idiots is harder (if the idiot is not you).

    Sometimes, I get misty eyed remembering the perks of the traditionally employed… employer paid health insurance, 401K plans, stock options, expense accounts, corporate Amex. SNIFF!!!

    Then, I read a post like this and suddenly, the “chains” that come with those perks come into view. As the camera pans out, the hideous monster (hair plugs, hookers and all) comes into the scene. SHIVER!

    Thanks for the reminder. You are a genius!

  4. i used to have a boss like this when I worked in marketing at a large real estate firm. He just simply did not get web 2.0 and while other companies simply passed us by on the internet he point balnk refused to spend money on it becuase it didn’t yield the instant result he was used to from more direct form of marketing. He’s now out of business btw!

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