Two Rules About Marketing That Will Make Or Break Your Career.

ChangeEverything you are about to read is true. Don’t be mad at me if the truth hurts.

There are two fundamental rules about marketing – and perhaps about life – that I have struggled with for more than 30 years now. I want to share these rules with everyone in the industry or anyone thinking about getting into the industry so they are prepared for what lies ahead.

Rule #1: Change is the only constant

More than 2,500 years ago, Heraclitus of Ephesos (you know who I am talking about) proclaimed “The way up and the way down are one and the same. Living and dead, waking and sleeping, young and old, are the same.” These things are the ‘same’, according to Professor of Philosophy at Marist College Joshua J. Mark, in that they are all subject to change, arise from one change to vanish into another and all things, constantly, are in flux.

As a fundamental example, let’s consider the state of technology over the past 30-40 years and how it has impacted our industry… our lives. When I entered the world of advertising and public relations in 1980 (yeah, there’s that), I spent my days tapping out news releases on manual typewriters with three sheets of paper and two sheets of carbon paper. Then along came the electric typewriter, quickly followed by word processing machines. Right about that time, copy machines had become portable, telephones were becoming mobile and something called the facsimile machine was all the rage. Suddenly overnight mail wasn’t even fast enough. Enter the desktop computer and the portable computer and the laptop computer and the Internet, and life as we knew it ceased to exist.

Every time we got used to communicating one way, a better way arrived. Time and change march on, which brings us to our second rule.

Rule #2: The more things change, the more they stay the same

With all due respect to Heraclitus, there was this other guy, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a French critic, journalist, and novelist, who famously penned the epigram: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

By way of example, I reach into my personal-professional history once again, to a popular marketing concept referred to as “Push-Pull Marketing”; this is a concept that has been widely practiced in our industry for more than five decades now. In push marketing, the idea is to promote products by pushing them onto people. In pull marketing, the idea is to establish a loyal following and draw consumers to the products.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and this sounds exactly like “Outbound-Inbound Marketing.” In fact, it is the same thing reincarnated with new technologies. And the same arguments that ensued 50 years ago about which is the best approach – push or pull – are the same arguments we hear today. And so it goes.

Everything changes and everything remains the same. If you can handle these truths… if you can accept these rules of engagement, you will survive the struggles and win the war.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.