Let's face it, high-tech is not known for its stellar marketing.
Sure, there's Dennis Carter's Intel Inside branding campaign, Steve Jobs' iMac, iPod, iPhone, iWhatever, and Michael Dell's direct-marketing concept. Aside from the obvious characters, even folks in the business--like me--have a hard time naming great high-tech marketers.
That's because much of high-tech marketing happens behind the scenes. Like Broadcom somehow managing to nail almost every market it enters, Google turning a great search engine into virtually limitless ad revenue, or Intel defining a next-generation microprocessor four years in advance of its launch.
That's a whole lot different from coming up with an ad campaign to sell beer or batteries.
You see, high-tech marketing is so interwoven with the technology that it's often unclear where the technology ends and the marketing begins. As we discussed in a prior post, marketing's job is to turn technology into successful products. But that statement doesn't imply or require that the transition from technology to product is either distinct or simple. Therein lies the rub.
These days, all successful technology products engender that unique combination of "how did they do that" and "it's just what I needed." Achieving that is all about integration. That word, integration, has been a cornerstone of the technology industry since day one, and it applies here in spades.
OK, let's cut to the chase. The big question is how do companies come up with those high-tech marketing breakthroughs?
Since I'm typically inclined to provide sarcastic, rhetorical comebacks, my first response would be "Who the hell knows?" My wife finds this incredibly annoying. Can't say I blame her.
Most technology CEOs think the answer is to hire a marketing person with a technology background. Most of the time, that strategy fails, the reason being that what they get are techies who think they knows marketing.
The problem is this: every company has its own DNA. DNA is more than just the company's technology; it can include a unique process, behavior, culture, lots of things. And marketing is a unique skill-set. Combining all that in one individual would be great, but there are far fewer of those folks around than there are companies that need them.
Actually, David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, had the right idea when he said, "Marketing is far too important to leave to the marketing department." Smart man, that Packard.
Unlike other industries, high-tech marketing's job isn't so much about coming up with great ideas, as it is achieving the integration of technology and marketing to create leadership products. And, as Packard suggested, marketing can't do it alone.
Of course, you can always put a bunch of smart people in a room together and see what happens. Actually, that's not a bad idea. But you don't just throw them in a room. Instead, you create an iterative process that allows for unconstrained brainstorming while driving all those smart people to consensus. It's a bit tricky, especially when the CEO has a really dumb idea, but it works if you do it right.
Even then, you need strong marketing leadership to facilitate decision-making, develop plans, and of course to execute, but that just comes with the territory.
At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter where or who brilliant marketing concepts come from, as long as they come. High-tech marketers who think they can do that alone will fail. Those who successfully lead their companies in a process that integrates the company's technology, its unique DNA, and marketing may indeed succeed in developing the world's next breakthrough products.