Friday, January 22, 2010

Looking for the "Right" Solution

The problem with marketing at high tech companies is that most of the marketers are engineers who think “marketing” sounds like fun. They are not genetic marketers. They were not "born to be 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 the CES Show Daily to build traffic to their booth. I introduced them to one of the most creative people I know to help them create an ad that would "pop." If they were going to entice people to leave the Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung booths to see their demo, the ad would need to grab attention and create curiosity. 

This sister organization looked at a bunch of concepts from the creative company 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 mediocre marketers is because they are looking for the “correct” solution. 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. 

With training, I have found that engineering marketers can be extremely creative, but this has to be nurtured. It will not emerge if they are left to their engineering training and logic.

James Snider is a Global Marketing professional, responsible for developing the 3.4 billion dollar 1394/FireWire market. James spent 16 years in marketing with 7 years working at "for profit" companies, 8 years as executive director of a non-profit and the past year as an independent global business development consultant.

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