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Idea: Great marketing isn’t the result of the tools you use. Great marketing is the result of who’s using the tools.

If you’re old enough to recall the first decade of the Apple Macintosh, you’ll recall the term “desktop publishing.” Apple promoted the notion that software running on a Mac and connected to a color laser printer could turn the rest of us into designers and publishers. With visions of no more expensive design firms dancing in their heads, the marketing departments of companies and organizations large and small rushed to purchase desktop publishing systems.

What was the result? The proliferation of brochures using multi-colored Comic Sans.

It soon became obvious that desktop publishing tools were only as good as the people using them. It became so obvious that the term desktop publishing barely exists in marketing vocabulary today.

From Google, here’s a trendline of the use of desktop publishing as a search query:

What desktop publishing was to the 1990s, popular terms like “content marketing” or “social media marketing” can be to today. As with the desktop publishing myth, a company can purchase all of the software and mine all the data, only to discover that it is the talent, experience, creativity, skills and intelligence of the people using those tools that will determine the success or failure of an organization’s marketing.

Marketing toolsets with trendy titles don’t turn people into amazing designers, savvy users of social media, great writers or precise editors. Tools don’t turn workplace novices into instant experts in your industry niche or the nuances of your corporate strategy.

Buying marketing tools and expecting someone to sit in front of them and suddenly become a master of any form of marketing is like buying a table saw and expecting someone to flip on a switch and suddenly possess the carpentry skills to build a corner cabinet. Not only will they be unable to do it, there’s a good chance someone will lose a finger in the process.

Bottom line: While it’s important to stay abreast of every advance in the tools of marketing, don’t confuse the tools of the trade with success in the trade. Using paper and quill, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays still being performed 400 years later. Were those simple tools Shakespeare’s secret to success?

Image: Thinkstock.com

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