Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Solution Looking for a Problem, part 1

I’d like to look at the problem with marketing at high tech companies. The problem is, most of the marketers are engineers who think “marketing” sounds like fun. They are not genetic marketers. In many cases, they do not even have a “recessive marketing gene.” These are the people who make up the marketing organizations at most technology companies (Apple being a notable exception) and the marketing working groups of most technology trade groups.

About three years ago, I was working with a sister organization who wanted to co-market 1394 with the 1394TA. They wanted to run an ad in a tradeshow magazine to build traffic to their booth. They looked at a bunch of concepts from the creative company they’d hired to develop print ads and migrated as a body to the least interesting ads presented. Anything truly creative made them uncomfortable. Their “engineering mind” kept raising doubts. They were second-guessing themselves to death.

In the end, they selected the one concept that looked the most like all other ads in the magazine. Literally, when I picked up the magazine at the show to look for the ad, I flipped past it twice before I found it. It looked so much like every other ad, it was almost camouflaged.

It was at that moment that I had an epiphany. One reason why engineers make such poor marketers is because they are looking for the “correct” solution. It has to be something that can be measured in some respect. The solution cannot be one that just feels right. It cannot be something that you just know is right but cannot explain why it is right. That “correct” solution must be the one that everyone else is doing. That is the criteria by which print ads are so often measured and what makes them so ineffective.

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