Nothing – Part 5 – What the !@#$ Does Marketing Do?

When I started this series I wanted to the say the following things, but I kept getting off track.

  • In an ideal world there would be “nothing” for people with marketing titles to do.
    • Each department would “gather & coordinate” all the information needed to develop the product that sells itself.
  • In the “real world” Marketing peoples tasks are all about “passing & playmaking“.
    • They keep the ball/puck “in play“, put it “where it needs to go“, and most importantly they “let go“.
    • The “glory guys do the scoring”. (Exec, Sales, Engineering)
  • Steve Nash & Gretzky are the “sports analogies”.
    • This presents an extreme challenge for companies because a Nash, or Gretzky, only comes along once a decade. These types of people are very difficult to find, develop, recognize, reward, etc.
    • These guys don’t look the part of “star”. Gretzky & Nash are the scrawniest guys on the playing surface … most great Marketing people share the same traits … they have great stats (if someone actually collects them ), but they don’t look the part.
    • Marketing departments are “scrawny” and don’t have the bulk to do the glory. Marketing departments are very small relative to other departments. This is not a bad thing (just a fact )
  • This “highly skilled unselfish play”, “lack of bulk”, and “secondary glory” is hard to live every day. Thus most marketing departments bias themselves towards “sales” or “engineering”. The tasks are do-able and there will be a chance to share in some glory.

The full series can be found in the “Marketing” tab at the top of this page.

Note: In re-reading this … it appears kinda harsh. I’m not trying to be pessimistic here. I’m just trying to get at some of the fundamental challenges of working in marketing departments. I know that understanding the above “really” helped me many times.


5 Replies to “Nothing – Part 5 – What the !@#$ Does Marketing Do?”

  1. * I’d like to note that I am all about “playmaking and passing” — to me it is the ideal for marketing. Even with the challenges that I note. It is the way things should be.

    * Apple & Google are the poster children for this ideal “Drucker-style” Marketing that I’ve been describing. They understand that a successful product requires an “ecosystem”. They build products that “sell themselves”. They make sure to give their engineers glory. There are numerous articles on Apple guys who did the industrial design, the iTunes database, etc and the Google engineers who developed GMail are well publicized. But note that the marketers of these projects are not well publicized. This is in stark contrast to Yahoo who glorifies the marketers. This is not bad, it makes sense to honour the guys who did the majority of the work. Great marketers enable the development system “to fire on all cylinders” — they are not the development (or sales) system. (and yes I own stock in all 3 of them & yes Yahoo frustrates me to no end. Their style grates on my soul. ).

  2. I would categorize (somewhat pessimistically, but realistic based on experience) a marketing/product manager role to be “all responsibility with no authority”. When things go wrong, you are the big red target. When things go right, you are considered lucky, if anyone remembers.

    It takes real humility/sacrifice/strong self-esteem to be a good at this, to be the “catalyst” to “make it happen”. Having said this, a lot of really successful role models are humble, like Warren Buffett.

  3. good to hear from you! thanks for the comment. Yes, it is difficult to come to terms with the fact that “catalyst” and “make it happen” don’t mean … “do all the work yourself”.

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