Wednesday, November 4, 2009
A Solution without a Problem
When I returned to TI as Worldwide Strategic Marketing Manager (after a two year round trip to Philips Semiconductors in Albuquerque) I found that the marketing organization had grown considerably. Attending marketing meetings were a fresh batch of new marketers who were engineers a year or two before. Most of them had no marketing training and certainly no experience. I found that their decisions were not based on sound marketing logic. All they knew about marketing was that they got to travel on company money, go to trade shows, and decide what cool give away to hand out this year. Marketing was fun and they were there to have fun.
While I'd been away, TI started running print ads in EETimes and other major tech magazines. The ads were pretty boring and did little more than state that TI was the undisputed leader in the world of 1394/FireWire silicon. The unstated goal (but clear to me) was to establish TI as the safe choice. This was similar to the old IBM ad which stated, "No one ever got fired for choosing IBM". Of course, most of you don't remember when IBM was in the computer business....so what does that tell you?
I attended a meeting to select the next ad from a stack of a dozen boring ideas. I did not like a thing I was being shown. I'd known advertising majors in the MBA program and knew them to be the most creative people on the planet. What we were being shown had clearly been "made safe for engineering consumption." I.E. they only brought to TI the sort of safe, boring ads that engineers could accept. These people were no fools. They knew what TI was like. However, I'd been entrusted with the task of creating an innovative marketing team. Business as usual was no longer acceptable.
I wanted to move the group in a better direction, but first of all I needed to know what direction they wanted to head in. I needed to know what they were trying to accomplish by spending tons of money on print ads. Being new to the group, I asked the obvious question, "What is your reason for running a print ad? What is it that you want to accomplish?" It was a "deer in the headlights" moment for these young marketers who'd never thought about why they were running an ad. They were "marketers" and "marketers" run ads. That is "marketing."
The answer surprised me but I was pretty sure I knew what needed to be done. The short discussion that followed set into motion a quick series of steps that changed the way this team did marketing forever.
James Snider is an global marketing professional with 15 years experience in the semiconductor and high-tech industry. He is currently working as a consultant while looking for a permanent position.