Why do so many technical people think that marketing is not needed to sell the products they make, while failing to see how marketing messages have shaped their own opinions about what they buy as consumers?
I had an experience a few years ago with a technical person who was the epitome of this contradictory view of reality. I worked for a company that had amazing software that let users easily create complex applications with no programming experience. The founder of the company, Ian, a brilliant engineer, took the typical view of sales people – on a scale of which professions one could trust, salesmen placed higher then politicians, but somewhere below prostitutes.
Ian felt that all a salesman needed to do was demonstrate his software. Our bright prospect would certainly have knowledge of all the characteristics of all the products in the marketplace, and choose us since, objectively, we were better. Of course, Ian argued, if the prospect wasn’t bright enough and couldn’t see how much better we were, then we were wasting our time with him and we should move on.
Well, soon after I joined this company we went public. Since Ian was a founder and had many shares of stock, he was an instant millionaire. To celebrate, he bought his dream car. I called him and the conversation went something like this:
Me: “Hey Ian, congratulations, I heard you bought a car. What kind?”
Ian: “Aston Martin DB5.”
Me: “Hmm, a great car. Being a logical, objective engineer, I imagine you created a spreadsheet with all the vehicles you might consider purchasing, then loaded the spreadsheet with every conceivable characteristic, from price, to type of steering, gas mileage, turning ratio, etc, and then rated each vehicle in each characteristic, giving every car a score and that the Aston Martin DB5 won. Correct?”
Ian: “Well, not exactly.”
Me: “Oh? Really? Well then, why did you buy an Aston Martin?”
Ian: “Because that’s the car that James Bond drives.”
Me: “I see. So you had an image of a car, created by a fiction writer, and when it came time for you to spend your hard-earned money, you decided that this car, driven by a fictional person, was the car you wanted to buy.”
Me: “So, marketing, which created the image of that car in your mind, played a role in your buying decision.”
Me: “Why then, don’t you think that marketing plays a role in the decision making process of our customers?”