Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Marketing Is Not An Expense.

Marketing is the price you pay for creating mediocre products.

That's a phrase that was apparently repeated at a panel at SXSW. It went down well, but it's so wrong. Without knowing the context, I can only observe that it sounds like yet another example of the tendency (prevalent in geekdom and beyond) to believe that marketing and advertising/promotion are synonomous and that great products sell themselves. They're not and they probably won't.

If you create mediocre products, you probably will have a high price to pay but it won't be an increased marketing spend - indeed you're already behind the eight-ball in that respect because marketing starts with deciding what products/services you can develop to best meet customer needs in a certain area. If this leads to mediocrity then your marketing effort is wrong-headed already and frankly there's not much point paying a price in promotional expenditure.

If you create great products, you're in much better shape obviously but you still need to distribute, support and communicate in order to ensure they sell. That may not involve advertising or direct marketing style promotion. It may not even cost you much. But it most certainly will involve marketing.

Marketing is not an expense, it's an investment cost that is inherent in the creation of your product/service from development through promotion and distribution and on to the sales experience and post-sales service. That's a subtle accounting distinction but a crucial one. The price you pay for not understanding marketing is much worse than mediocre products - it's commercial extinction.

23 Comments:

Blogger whatsnext said...

you are so right.

if only accounting, VC, CFOs, CMOs could understand that marketing is in fact part of the sales process and not a frill or an extra. i guess we can dream
B.L. Ochman
What's Next Blog

3:25 PM, March 14, 2008  
Blogger john dodds said...

Or we can keep telling people till they get it.

5:32 PM, March 14, 2008  
Anonymous paul kim said...

i wasn't at SxSW this year but i'm pretty sure this was a diluted rebroadcast of this quote made semi famous in 2007: "Advertising is a tax you pay for being unremarkable." attributed to the founder of Geek Squad. much more focused critique implied of traditional image advertising. more details in this businessweek article

for obvious reasons (my livelihood, ahem), i'm with you for the most part in your defense of marketing. i firmly believe that there's so much room to make it better, more relevant and more useful to people than how it's come to be defined over the past 150 odd years.

6:56 PM, March 14, 2008  
Anonymous lauren said...

do we really need more products anyway?

aside from that, great post. you just have to ask the kids who developed betamax about the importance of marketing as an intrinsic aspect of good product.

5:38 AM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger john dodds said...

Thanks for that Paul - that Vulkan gets everywhere.

12:31 PM, March 15, 2008  
Blogger Rob Mortimer said...

Absolutely Lauren, Beta was a far better product than VHS in most areas.

Maybe that phrase needs reasserting, as its heart is in the right place:

Something like...
The excess cost of marketing over your competitors = (The lesser quality of your products + Lack of understanding of marketing)

4:17 AM, March 17, 2008  
Blogger john dodds said...

Rob Now I see why you're a planner and not a copywriter.

4:47 AM, March 17, 2008  
Blogger Rob Mortimer said...

Hahaha, dare I ask what specifically made you notice?

5:07 AM, March 17, 2008  
Anonymous Tom "Bald Dog" Varjan said...

My observation is that many high-tech companies jump with joy that they're saving money by cutting out the marketing function, but what they fail to realise is that they lose even more money by hiring and managing an army of peddlers and sending them out to dial for dollar and combat gatekeepers for appointments.

And since people hate peddlers, they have no hope in hell to meet the highest calibre buyers.

The other problem is that with this approach the company loses it's position as a trusted technology advisor and becomes a fungible vendor a dreaded peddler.

I believe that it's marketing that makes it possible for agile low-headcount firms to outperform high-headcount behemoths.

The funny thing is that some many high-tech firms spend the king's ransom on technology and either ignore marketing or hire some minimum-wage kids to create cute slogans and fancy logos. And when they start flashing this stuff to the market's face, they call it marketing.

I think this is one of the reasons why so many five year old or even older high-tech companies can't stay alive without investor's money. The very function that would create the money - marketing - is missing.

And now back to my porridge.

8:22 AM, March 17, 2008  
Blogger Rob Mortimer said...

Saving money by cutting out marketing is a bit like saving money on a car by removing a wheel.

8:45 AM, March 17, 2008  
Blogger john dodds said...

Tom - I think you earned your porridge with that comment and amongst many salient observations, you reminded us that marketing has a big role to play in removing the reasons for people to say no - as much as it gets them to say yes.

Rob - pithier this time, but still needs work ;O)

10:00 AM, March 17, 2008  
Blogger Rob Mortimer said...

Well, that's one of the problems with posting on coffee breaks. You don't have time to filter things down as much!

3:20 AM, March 18, 2008  
Blogger fiat lux said...

As a marketer, this post is preaching to the choir, but I agree. Well said.

2:48 PM, March 18, 2008  
Blogger Cynical Rob said...

The only guarantee you can get with marketing is that if you don't do it, you're definitely going to be fucked.

8:42 AM, March 19, 2008  
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