Written by Steven Tate


In the rapidly evolving world of marketing, where anyone with a computer and internet access can proclaim themselves a marketer, there’s a pressing need for change. The time has come for digital marketers, marketing consultants, and marketing agencies to unite, embrace licensing, and form their own version of the Bar Association. Here’s why:


The Proliferation of Marketing “Experts”

One of the most significant challenges facing the marketing industry today is the proliferation of self-proclaimed marketing experts. Thanks to the accessibility of online courses, webinars, and social media platforms, almost anyone can claim to be a marketing guru. This has created a situation where clients often find themselves dealing with individuals or marketing agencies who lack the necessary skills and expertise to deliver on their promises.


Streamlining the Mess

The marketing arena, swamped with these self-proclaimed experts and agencies, presents a glaring challenge: the aftermath of unprofessional marketing ploys. Clients frequently find themselves playing clean-up, which can demand substantial time and resources. This predicament doesn’t merely impede a client’s progress, it tarnishes the entire marketing industry’s reputation.

Novice marketers, fueled by a lack of skills and knowledge, frequently resort to such questionable tactics that can harm a client’s brand. Spammy email campaigns, misleading advertisements, or ineffective social media strategies are just the beginning. As a result, clients are left grappling with the aftermath, including trying to salvage their brand image and rebuild customer trust.

The price tag of such marketing fiascos is also hefty. Clients are forced to divert additional resources, both in terms of time and budget, to rectify the havoc wrought by these inexperienced marketers. This costs a pretty penny while also straining the very fabric of the client-marketer relationship.


In this article, we’ll dive into why the marketing industry should consider adopting a licensing system and forming a Marketing Bar Association, how it can benefit both marketers and clients, and what steps can be taken to make this vision a reality.


1. Licensing: Setting Professional Standards

Yes, marketers need to be held to professional standards, just like doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Licensing is a mechanism to ensure that those who claim to be marketers or marketing consultants are not just self-proclaimed experts but have the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver results.

 Licensing will, in turn, elevate the industry’s credibility and reputation. Clients will have greater confidence in hiring licensed marketers, knowing they adhere to established standards. This elevated credibility can result in several advantages for the marketing industry as a whole:


  • Trustworthiness

Clients often approach the hiring of marketers with skepticism due to the proliferation of these online “experts.” Licensing establishes a new level of trust. When clients know that a marketer is licensed, they can be more confident that they’re hiring a professional with the requisite knowledge and skills.


  • Improved Client Relationships

A licensed marketer is more likely to maintain professional conduct and adhere to ethical guidelines. This can lead to better client relationships and more fruitful collaborations, as clients can trust that their interests are being prioritized.


  • Enhanced Reputation

An industry with licensed professionals is more likely to be seen as legitimate and reliable. This can attract more talent to the marketing field, creating a positive feedback loop of growth and professionalism.


Quality Assurance

Licensing isn’t just about rubber-stamping marketers or digital marketing agencies. It should ensure they have a basic foundation of marketing principles, ethics, and best practices—all so clients and customers at large can be shielded from scammy and unscrupulous tactics.


  • Core Competencies

Licensing examinations can be designed to cover essential marketing knowledge and skills, including market analysis, campaign planning, data analytics, and ethical considerations.


  • Ethical Guidelines

Ethical guidelines can be established that all licensed marketers must adhere to. These guidelines can cover issues such as transparency in advertising, data privacy, and responsible marketing practices.


  • Accountability

Licensed marketers are more likely to be accountable for their actions. If a client feels that a licensed marketer has engaged in unethical or fraudulent behavior, they should be able to report it to the licensing body.


Consumer Protection

Licensing protects consumers (clients) from hiring individuals or agencies that lack the expertise to deliver on their promises. This reduces the likelihood of wasted resources and unprofessional behavior.


  • Knowledge Verification

Clients can have confidence that a licensed marketer or marketing consultant has undergone a rigorous examination process to verify their knowledge and skills. This reduces the risk of hiring someone who merely talks the talk without being able to walk the walk.


  • Preventing Deceptive Practices

Licensed marketers will be less likely to engage in deceptive or fraudulent practices. They’ll have a reputation to uphold, and the fear of losing their license can serve as a strong deterrent against unethical behavior.


  • Legal Recourse

In cases where a licensed marketer fails to deliver as promised or engages in unethical conduct, clients can have legal recourse, with options to report the matter to the licensing body, which can then investigate and take appropriate action.

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2. Professional Associations: The Marketing Bar Association

Similar to how lawyers have the Bar Association, marketers need their own professional body. This association can oversee the licensing process, set ethical standards, and offer continuous education for marketers.


Standardized Testing

Just as lawyers pass the bar exam, marketers should pass a comprehensive marketing exam to become licensed. This ensures a baseline level of competence and knowledge.


  • Comprehensive Knowledge

The licensing examination can cover a wide range of marketing topics, including market research, consumer behavior, digital marketing, branding, and ethics. This guarantees that licensed marketers have a well-rounded understanding of the field.


  • Practical Application

The examination can also include practical scenarios and case studies to assess a marketer’s ability to apply their knowledge to real-world situations, helping to demonstrate that licensed marketers can translate theory into action.


  • Ongoing Certification

To maintain their license, marketers can be required to undergo regular recertification or continuing education. In a constantly fluctuating field, this would ensure that they stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and best practices.


Ethical Oversight

The Marketing Bar Association can further establish a code of ethics that all licensed marketers must adhere to in order to promote ethical marketing practices and prevent deceptive tactics.


  • Transparency

Ethical guidelines can require marketers to be transparent in their advertising and marketing communications, with details such as disclosing paid partnerships, accurately representing products or services, and respecting consumer privacy.


  • Responsibility

Marketers can be held responsible for the consequences of their campaigns. If a marketing strategy results in harm or legal issues, for example, the marketer may face disciplinary action, including the suspension or revocation of their license.


  • Consumer Protection

The code of ethics can prioritize consumer protection by prohibiting manipulative or harmful marketing tactics to encourage marketers to prioritize the well-being of consumers over short-term gains.


Continuing Education

The marketing landscape is ever-changing. This association can offer ongoing training and certification programs to keep marketers up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies.


  • Industry Updates

Marketers can benefit from regular updates on industry trends, consumer behavior, and emerging technologies.


  • Skill Enhancement

Continuous education programs can help marketers develop new skills and refine existing ones so they can stay competitive in the fast-moving industry.


  • Networking Opportunities

Professional associations provide valuable networking opportunities. Marketers can connect with peers, mentors, and industry leaders, facilitating knowledge sharing and collaboration.


3. Confronting Unprofessional Practices

In an era where unprofessional marketing tactics have regrettably become commonplace, clients often find themselves wary and with a lot of questions. However, through the introduction of licensing and the establishment of professional associations, these concerns can be effectively addressed:


Licensed marketers and marketing agencies will bear the responsibility for their actions, which will help ethical conduct be upheld. Clients possess the avenue to report any unethical behavior to the association, which, when deemed necessary, can initiate disciplinary measures.

Streamlined Reporting

The Marketing Bar Association can strive for transparency and empower clients with a straightforward mechanism to report unethical behavior. Clients can thus have an active role in upholding the industry’s professional standards.

Thorough Investigation and Resolution

Upon receiving a complaint, the association can promptly launch an investigation to assess the validity of the claim. In cases where a marketer is found to have engaged in unethical conduct, swift and appropriate action, such as license suspension or revocation, can be taken, all in the name of reinforcing the commitment to industry integrity.


Takeaways: The Role of Licensing and Collaboration

  1. Setting Professional Standards: Licensing ensures that marketers and marketing agencies have a foundational understanding of marketing principles, ethical guidelines, and best practices. This prevents the use of unprofessional tactics and minimizes the risk of brand damage.
  2. Accountability and Oversight: Licensed marketers and marketing agencies are more likely to uphold professional conduct and adhere to ethical standards. If misconduct occurs, clients can report it to the licensing body, which can then take appropriate action, fostering accountability within the industry.
  3. Consumer Protection: Licensing protects clients from hiring individuals or marketing agencies that lack the expertise to deliver on their promises. Clients can confidently choose licensed marketers, reducing the likelihood of wasted resources and unprofessional behavior.
  4. Reduced Cleanup Efforts: With licensed marketers following industry standards and best practices, clients are less likely to face the aftermath of marketing disasters, saving them time, money, and headaches.


Conclusion: A Unified and Regulated Marketing Industry

In conclusion, grappling with the aftermath of inept marketers stands as a glaring issue within the marketing industry. However, the remedy lies within our grasp—licensing, collaboration, and unwavering commitment to professional standards. Through the implementation of these transformative measures, we can reshape the marketing arena into a domain that prioritizes accountability, client-centricity, and efficiency.

The time has come for marketers, marketing consultants, digital marketing agencies, and all others in the industry to unite, boldly embrace licensing, and create a Marketing Bar Association dedicated to nurturing the industry’s growth and professionalism. In doing so, we can trim the excesses of extensive cleanup work and deliver to clients marketing services they can truly trust.

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