Monthly Archives: October 2014

Why many folks think marketers are liars (Charter cable, anyone?)


I’ve written elsewhere what I think marketing is. Here’s what marketing isn’t, and why some companies give “marketing” a bad name.

Charter Cable (and I guess other cable companies around the US) have been moving to “all digital signals.” The core reason, which makes technical sense, is that every analog cable TV channel uses enough room on the cable for the equivalent of 4 digital channels.


Liar by Alexa LaSpisa on Flickr

So, moving to “all digital” makes sense. More channels, same space, higher quality. Wins for the company and wins for the customers.

However, that is not all that Charter and others have done. They lobbied the FCC to encrypt (scramble) the digital signals—even the ones for basic local channels like NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX—so that folks who previously had no converter box on their flat screen TV would now have to do one of two things:

  1. Subscribe to an additional level of service that included an advanced set-top box (what most people do anyway, hence their “most people won’t have to do anything” message)
  2. Rent a smaller, “simpler”, “digital converter” box (really an addressable descrambler) and connect it to the flat screen TV, having to tune all stations from the converter box instead of from your TV.

What Charter et al would have you believe is that your TV is not capable of receiving the digital signal straight from the cable. In fact, all TV’s sold in almost the past decade and certainly anyone with a flat screen TV can receive the digital signals off the cable (or over the air for that matter) via the thing built into these sets called the QAM tuner. What they can’t do is descramble the digital signal that Charter et al is now sending over the cable, thanks to the FCC ruling.

Now, there are advantages to Charter et al for this new approach. There are essentially zero advantages to the consumer.

However, Charter’s constant messaging about how it is good for consumers is mailed, emailed, and shown on TV over and over and over. This is where marketing gets a bad rap. Charter is “spinning” their self-serving decision into a message that makes it look good for a customer, rather than updating products in a way that is beneficial to consumers that would make us want to spend more money.

Let’s review what is really happening:

Things that are good for everyone, and one basis for Charter’s messaging:

  1. Removing analog signals on the cable releases room so that there can be more digital HD stations and possibly serve higher Internet speeds on the same cable.
  2. Um, that’s it. And that can be accomplished WITHOUT encrypting (scrambling) basic tiers of TV stations. (I am not suggesting that they don’t scramble premium stations like HBO that you need to pay for).

Good just for Charter et al, but they don’t really want to tell you their change:

  1. Enables Charter to disable customers who haven’t subscribed to certain tiers of basic channels from seeing them on their flat screen TV via the tuner in their TV they already paid for (the QAM tuner). (OK, I understand this one. But Charter could prevent this in a slightly more expensive way by rolling a truck and disabling this at the telephone pole).
  2. Enables Charter to track what you are watching (like they can on an advanced converter box). Now they will have no customers watching their service without them being able to know, on a device-by-device basis, what you are tuned to at any time.
  3. Disables customers from using computer-based TV tuners (QAM tuner cards or devices with built-in QAM tuners) to watch TV. So, if you have a computer or DVR that can currently independently tune in digital TV signals, that now goes away.
  4. Enables Charter to have an additional revenue stream for “converter” device rental on a set-by-set basis. Yes, they offered some converters for free for a while, but that goes away.
  5. Enables Charter to “shut off” service immediately without rolling a truck. (Arguably an OK thing for non-payment, but this sort of encourages them to reduce grace periods for late payments with an immediate shut off.)
  6. Prevents secondary, non-main TV’s in your house (like a kitchen TV or workshop TV) that customers didn’t want a cable box for from being able to receive ANY signal unless they add and pay for an additional cable box.

The reality is that this effort to move to encrypted digital service is really done for the benefit of the cable companies, for the most part. And their brilliant “spin” in their marketing materials (it even sort of snowed the FCC) is exactly why many people think that “marketing” means “how can we spin a position that is really an advantage to us into a message that makes it look good for consumers?”

That’s not what marketing is. That’s what quasi-monopolies and overly-influential lobbying of regulators is.


Five amazing things employers have done for a job applicant who didn’t get the job

Whether it’s an employer’s market or an employee’s market, the things people do (and don’t do) impact reputations of all parties. This impact happens whether or not there is a match for the position under consideration.

Most career consultants say that it is how the applicant conducts him or herself that is the most important marketing—”personal brand” is the term of the day.  But it is important to note that how the company conducts itself admirably (or not) is also marketing.

At first, I was going to write an essay about the sheer crappiness of things people have done to me over the years during various career searches. But that’s been done to death. Instead, here are five amazing things companies and people have done over the years during career searches that was plain-old free, good marketing for the people and companies involved.

1. “I don’t have a position for you, but I was so impressed with your outreach, I’m passing your package on to my network”

After a paper-based “pain letter” and “human voiced resume” (modified by me from Liz Ryan’s Human Workplace approach) went to a large number of VP’s of marketing, I received this reply (real and unedited):

I wanted to personally reach out to you to say thank you for sending me your resume.  While I don’t believe your experience is a fit for what I am looking for, I wanted to say that your resume caught my attention and I spent 3-4 minutes looking for some way to see if you could fit into this organization.  3-4 minutes may not seem like a long time to you, but when you consider most resumes get 30 secs, I really focused on both your resume and cover letter.
So, why you ask did I bother to respond at all?  I am emailing because I thought your approach unique enough to say that I admired your style and ”marketing sense.”
You got my attention and I felt it worth letting you know that your tactic worked and to keep doing this.  I am in need of someone that has significant expertise in marketing to <xyz> buyers and I did not see that in your resume. 
However, my promise to you is to send this packet to my network and let them know about your goals for employment. 
Good luck in your search and best wishes moving forward.

Pretty amazing, huh?

2. Reminding you that your story is amazing

Sometimes we get so caught up in what we are “supposed” to do in a career search that we end up creating materials that don’t set us apart. On numerous occasions, I was coached by some great people into getting away from “standard” stuff to let my personality shine through.  Here are the key lessons they taught me:

  1. There are real people at the other end of the resume and cover letter, and they are interested in the human side of how you’ll work for their team.  It’s perfectly OK to show your human side and likely will get you more credit (and at least noticed in a pile of “same old same old” materials) for being authentic.
  2. If you show who you are in a phone call, cover letter, resume, and interview and the employer doesn’t like what they see, that’s OK.  It’s really better than trying to “fake your way” into a job. If you present something that  “isn’t you”, you may end up getting the job.  But what you sold the employer isn’t really you. If you do happen to succeed, you are going to be miserable as you know have to be someone you aren’t for a really long time. Besides, any good hiring manager or HR person worth their salt will detect insincerity fairly quickly.

3. Providing useful and detailed feedback about why you didn’t get the offer

It really sucks when you don’t get an offer for a position you really want.  But it sucks even more if you don’t know why. I have been lucky to have had discussions with both hiring managers and excellent HR professionals who provided specific and sometimes lengthy feedback about why we weren’t a match.  How refreshing to hear from people not afraid of lawsuits, who spend time building relationships, and who know how to move past the trite and non-specific “we just didn’t see a match” answer.

4. Becoming an active part of your professional network after a “no thanks.”

I am absolutely thrilled to say that I have kept in touch with a number of folks I have interviewed with who didn’t hire me or who I chose not to work for at a particular time. And these relationships have been professionally and personally valuable.

5. Apologizing for the “black hole” applicant tracking system and taking your call directly

On a few occasions, I was completely flustered by the applicant tracking system.  For example, bugs that made me waste 20 minutes of “data entry time” or really burdensome application questions that are required (no, I will not give you my social security number on a “first contact” form).  Liz Ryan calls this the “black hole” and she and many others have written about how this methodology causes companies to lose really good candidates. But, back to the positive.

On one occasion, I called the HR manager directly and told her “I really want to apply for this job, but your applicant tracking system keeps booting me out.  I am a high tech person and tried twice on two different browsers.  Can I just sent you my resume and cover letter directly and take 3 minutes of your time to pitch myself?”

She apologized, said sure, and I had an interview with the hiring manager the next week.

What great things have folks done for you even if you didn’t get the job?


Gary Dietz










With that, here are some of the amazing things that people have done during my career search.