High tech marketing in a rut

Seth Godin made a comment in which he related the first sound of a Steely Dan tune to creating a brand. Well, I have news for him, my kids wouldn’t recognise that ‘sound’ brand, or many of the other brands he probably takes for granted. It’s those assumptions of people in the ‘north’, forgetting that brands are age, societal and geographically influenced, except for a few global ones.

In my experience, the high tech marketing blogs come from a developed economy perspective. Take these blogs:

  • Eric Kintz’s Marketing Excellence blog recently covered the issue of how HP marketing is developing a better customer experience. When he says “we will continue our transformation towards customer centricity by combining deeper customer intelligence and experience execution”, what’s the bet that will be done firstly in the US.
  • The B2B Lead Generation blog talks about linking sales and marketing more closely, but assumes that marketers and sales people are in the same place, which of course they are in the US. In SA, the high tech B2B marketers are given little initiative, and so couldn’t have the same dialogue with the local sales team.
  • Josh Greenbaum and the Enterprise System Spectator discuss what marketing to the mid-market should be. Perhaps in the US you could segment companies as those that see IT as either a utility or as strategic because of the level of education and skills in that economy. But in a developing economy, the availability of educated and skilled people is not a given, and I don’t believe that simple kind of segmentation would work.

I was in high tech marketing during the 1990s when, as Eric Kintz says in another blog, marketing was “the growth engine of a company”. Marketing was considered important, not just in the big economies, but also in the smaller ones like SA. But the role of marketing started to change around 2000 and its “ability to produce results began to decline and marketing became quickly perceived as nothing more than creative spending. CEOs turned to other functions such as supply chain, IT or sales to drive profitable growth”. Then high tech marketing only survived in its true form in the big economies, whilst in places like SA it became an admin function, implementing whatever someone in Europe told you to do. 

What that did, in my opinion, was to negate the societal and geographical aspects of marketing that are unique to countries and need to be managed in-country.

Eric believes that marketing “can re-conquer its role of growth architect, provided that it can prove its direct contribution to business results.” As marketing’s re-growth occurs, I hope that the importance of a marketing intelligence and initiative in each country becomes recognised again.

Then instead of being forced to play Steely Dan (because someone in the US has identified it as a brand), we can adapt our local programs and play Mandoza or Freshly Ground.


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