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Jan152013

Marketing Poo

(Note: this is an article I wrote shortly after leaving Microsoft.  I just rediscovered it and found it amusing and still germane.  Let me know what you think.)

There’s this great quote in the book “The Republic of Tea” by Bill Rosensweig and Mel and Patricia Ziegler. Mel scolds Bill for thinking that their marketing pitch has to make the product appealing to people who otherwise wouldn’t want it.  Mel says something like “the job of marketing is to allow the product to reveal itself, not to mask or obscure.  When you fall into the trap of thinking that we’re not the customer, you fall into thinking that marketing needs to convince people of an untruth.”

Most marketing teams act like it is their job to market something really unappealing.  They act like they’re the marketing division for Poo Inc.  Imagine being the marketing team for poo.  Your job is to sell poo to people as an indispensable product.  You’d come up with ideas like “Celebrity Poos”, “Pet Poos”, “Bronzed Poo D’Art”, “Poo sculptures”, and after a few hours of brainstorming, you’d convince yourself that you could actually sell this stuff.

The only problem is - it would still be poo.

Marketing teams screw up when they first make the assumption that they should ever be in the position of selling something they themselves wouldn’t want.  How could there be anything more spiritually void than spending your life selling something you didn’t care about.  Isn’t there something completely bogus about being creative in selling a boring product?  Why don’t we all spend our energies turning these products into something worth buying in the first place?

And is the product really as devoid of quality as we marketing folks (and managers) sometimes want to believe?  Maybe we feel that way because we’re too far away from the creative energy which is shaping the quality.  What would happen if marketers assumed that development wanted to create the right product, and needed strong customer and market advocacy to do so.  Maybe the marketing team actually “creates” the product with development?  Its a lot harder to ignore the smell when you create it. 

Whether we admit it or not, the relationship between marketing and development shows up in every aspect of the product.  Ignoring the stinkiness of that relationship is the same as ignoring the fact that our product sucks and our customers hate us.  Living in denial is like not washing.  You get used to it, but everyone else walks away when you come by.

Let’s all stop selling poo.  Let’s use our noses earlier, and hook them up to the right brains, so we stop creating smells we have to mask over. 

Quality sells.  Denial smells.

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