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Silicon Valley distrusts marketing and devalues the people who practice it (threadling.com)
49 points by anacleto on Dec 11, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 61 comments

I mean, given that vast majority of marketing I experience annoys and offputs me, it's hardly surprising there is a distaste.

This article popped up a full-screen covering banner. Kind of makes the point. That kind of marketing actively makes me dislike you.

Yeah, I totally hear you on the pop up. I kinda hate them and think they suck UX wise, but email opt-ins are my bread and butter, and I only set it only trigger when people are about to click away.

Also, as the article (hopefully) argues, "Marketing" encompasses a whole lot more than lead-gen and customer acquisition (two things pop-ups can help with).

if i was about to close a tab/window, and a popup appears, why would i suddenly go "oh now i want this"

all the popup does is confirm i was right to be leaving. its like letting the door hit me on the way out. also i accidentally trigger them while reading, and then sometimes leave.

I have visited websites offering services I was interested in, however the price was too dear. When attempting to leave the site, I was presented with a better offer, which I accepted.

If you have absolutely no interest in the product or service in the first place, then a pop-up is unlikely to change your mind. But if it's just that the deal wasn't good enough, this strategy can work.

Except you could offer that price from the beginning, but you want to try and raise the value the viewer thinks the product has before hitting them with the real price. That's scummy at best, and would instantly make me never do business with you.

I agree. A discount or coupon is different than "sign up for our newsletter"

Marketing is not the same as advertisement, though.

There's a lot more to it than that.

Advertising is a subset of marketing.

So many people still don't get this.

I guess they need better marketing

They don't. A few years back, clever SV marketers renamed marketing "growth hacking" and everybody's been swallowing it whole ever since.

I'm yet to hear the term "growth hacking" used outside of a joke.

Googling for "growth hacking" will show you a few (thousand) examples.

I skimmed this article, but isn't it basically saying that the distrust is justified? The examples of success are unhealthy, consumer-oriented products (e.g. breakfast cereal, cigarettes, Trump), or marketing aimed at marketers. They couldn't give one example of the value they add to tech startups?

That's a very good point. I could add that Steve Jobs was marketing genius at core, that Salesforce's success (especially early on) was heavily driven by marketing, and that Snap's recent rollout of Spectacles is one of the best product launches I've ever seen.

I'll think about that.

But then the three examples you give are of product launches, not acquisition and retention.

Apple is an example of a product driven company. A really well marketed CreativeRiver is not an iPod, a really well marketed Motorola Razr is not an iPhone and I wouldn't substitute any Galaxy Tab device for an iPad.

Also, since Tim Cook (who is no ones idea of a marketing genius) took charge, Apple's stock price has more than doubled.

Also, as Steve Blank points out (perhaps a bit too harshly), Tim Cook is a brilliant operator and optimizer, but very far from a visionary or brilliant product/marketing mind. So far, he's taken the foundation that Jobs built and made it sing.


But so far, the products Apple has launched under his leadership haven't actually been all that well conceived.

V1 of the Apple Watch was a confusing mess that didn't have a real, concrete purpose or place in anyone's lives.

With v2, they stepped back and focused a bit (on the active/athletic market), but it's hardly a breakthrough device yet.

Meanwhile, the iPad is (so far) falling far short of its potential to revolutionize computing.

All of this could change. But for me, despite the stock price, the jury on the Era of Cook is still out.

C.f Apple Watch - its too early to tell. v1 of the iphone, which shipped without third party apps, and which WIRED recommended that you should jailbreak if you bought it, took many generations to reach maturity.

The iPad takes a beating - somewhat unjustly - for failing to live up to the promises made of it by its marketing. Judged against almost any other product other than the iPhone, it's an enormous success. It created an entire product category, it sold more devices on its opening year than all previous sales of tablet sales combined. It captured an enterprise market that almost everyone said Apple would never be able to touch. It changed the behavior of the competition - BlackBerry, Google and Microsoft all rushed devices to market and Windows 8 was of course heavily inspired by the need to run well on touch devices.

My wife works in an Apple store. During her training/indoctrination/kool-aid drinking, she was asked her impression of the iPad, and she said that it was a device for couch potatoes, consuming content. She was slapped down pretty hard for that. At the time, the ads for iPads showed users climbing mountains, exploring caves, writing symphonies, etc., with the iPad being an essential part of the activity. If the iPad is used in this way at all, it must be with a very, very tiny fraction of users, but maybe that wasn't the point. Maybe the point was to appeal to couch potatoes who imagine themselves to be more active and creative?

I'm not sure there's anything majorly different with iPads in that regard.

A lot of the Surface book and ultrabook adverts have focused on more creative and sexy applications. I haven't seen one for a while that says 'Runs Powerpoint like a motherf*cker'

Also a great point. In my mind, Steve Jobs was a genius marketer AND a genius product person.

His keynote speeches "One More Thing..." were the pure essence of great showmanship.

An amazingly designed and engineered product, marketed brilliantly is the platonic idea. To be "insanely great," you usually need both.

Aside from what someone else said about Jobs being product, not marketing driven (just go google what he said when the org loses focus on product and the focus shifts to sales and marketing), you could argue it takes someone really good at X in order to be independent of X.

For example, I am reasonably good at coding and ops. Therefore, most of the side projects I do are not constrained by coding or ops, but rather, e.g. my ability to design.

Good, marketers and salesmen are basically middle-men who skim from everyone's success. Our current economy favors these types, but we need to move past that.

This view is my case in point.

But given how the marketers at your company seem to be behaving, I understand your frustration.

But look at Steve Jobs: the ULTIMATE marketer if there ever was one. Or Mark Benioff, another brilliant marketer. Would you accuse them of skimming?

That's two people out of an entire industry though, not a great sample size. And it could be argued that for all his marketing expertise and long drawn out pauses, Steve really just had a brilliant set of products to sell.

My experience has been that marketing in a 'normal' organisation is that they expend a lot of time and effort trying to sell a product that's just not that good or innovative. I think that's where the whole 'lipstick on a pig' analogy comes into play, and also where people's inherent distrust for anyone in marketing/advertising stems from.

It's always fascinated me that IT and software development are "cost centres" but no-one ever thinks of marketing that way.

Might be true if you belief in magic or slavery — otherwise, believing sales & marketing are skimming from everyone's success is like saying intellectual property should not ever be owned.

Our marketing department is literally making its revenue by adding hundreds of trackers and ads to our site, which goes counter to the goal of the actual business of selling our goods and services. I call that skimming.

Marketing has taken ad networks and ad to sale attribution, and turned it into "we are going to sell all our customer's data and every click so marketing can claim revenue."

Sounds like you should move to work at a company that is beholden to its paying customers. As a marketer at such a company, my job is twofold--to help people find our product (because they can be in market for what we offer but not know we exist), and get them the info they need to make their experience as positive as possible since there is a bit of a learning curve and our data shows that, shocker... people who know how to use our product are more likely to buy it and remain customers because they get more value out of it and unfortunately it isn't always easy to surface that info within the product.

We don't sell or auction off our data because that would not be in the interest of our customers. Admittedly it can be confusing for sales reps from companies who want to put ads on our site when I explain why we wouldn't sell out our customers like that, so we are probably not the norm.

As a marketer it is frustrating when things are done that harm the reputation of the profession just as i imagine many engineers hate bad actors who write malware or people who write basic CRUD apps, talk it up, and give the impression that software engineering is overly simple.

Giving a single example based on personal experience without context isn't strong argument or support for your claim.

Beyond that, sounds like you're blaming sales & marketing for customers not being willing to pay for your code.

Ever thought that just maybe the issue is your code?

That might be skimming.

But this is exactly what the author highlighted in the article and Suster in his tweet. It's hard to find people who don't suck at it.

Slavery never struck me as something that one believes in.

Awesome marketing blurb to trick people into believing this marketing company is different and better than other marketing companies and, in fact, has a marketing strategy that can change the world. Well done!

Marketing is like makeup. This is why "putting lipstick on a pig" won't make the bacon better, but it might make you think the pig needs a wig and push-up bra to match the competition.

Don't bother reading this, it makes a bunch of baseless assumptions and arguments (Google Wave failed because of marketing? No market need can be fixed with marketing?). It has no substance other than the catchy click-bait title.

Please elaborate on the source of the disconnect for you.

Perhaps I failed, but I tried to make it clear that the foundation of great marketing IS building a product the market needs...because doing that well usually means knowing what the market needs in the first place.

Knowing what a market needs and understanding those needs all the way through is exactly what I mean by "marketing."

Once you understand the substance of that argument, the ideas that Google Wave failed because of bad marketing and that building a product that the market doesn't want IS bad marketing make a lot more sense.

> No market need can be fixed with marketing?

Not really true. Have a look at "A diamond is forever". De Beers literally created a market with marketing.

This post is incredibly reductive and feels like a restatement of Sturgeon's Law - 90% of everything is crap - which doesn't tell us much in and of itself.

I'd argue that much of the time, the distrust of marketing becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Marketing does a bad job at highlighting what it can provide to the business, and thinking strategically about what it can achieve.

This leads to resourcing conversations largely focusing on 'we need someone to write one or two blog posts' - meaning that marketing in startups is often staffed by 2-3 people.

These 2-3 people are then burdened with keeping the entire marketing machine for the company (blog posts, website updates, organizing trade show stands, PPC, SEO, whatever the CEO feels like doing this week).

Surprise - much of the work ends up being crap. Poorly executed and overly broad PPC campaigns to badly optimized landing pages that burn money. Piecemeal SEO efforts that damage brand visibility. A lack of co ordinated PR that rewards 'coverage' over strategic outcomes. Thin 'me too' blog posts that don't add anything new to the conversation. Webinars where more than 70% of people are inactive after the first ten minutes because of poor storytelling.

And then, the OP wants to sell us a 'framework' that is going to fix it! Sorry - I don't buy it. The ability to sort 'leads into buckets', content marketing, nurture marketing and other tactics like that are definitely useful - but only steps that can be taken if the rest of the puzzle is in place.

Hmm. Doesn't sound like you read this closely.

For one thing, the subtitle of my post says "In which the tech industry's stigma against marketing creates a SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY that leaves a trail of failed products, fire sales, and wasted years in its wake."

There is also a big header that says "Our anti-marketing bias has created a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Not quite sure how you missed both of those.

Also, the entire point of the article (and the framework I'm promoting) is that building the right marketing foundation is one of the major keys to getting "the rest of the puzzle in place."

The core of the framework itself has nothing to do with sorting leads into buckets, content marketing, nurture marketing, etc.

It is about building the right foundations. It is about solving the puzzle. It is about getting to the center of the Maze.

But perhaps "The Maze is not meant for you."

We're in disagreement about the source of the problem. You say it's SV anti-marketing bias. I'd disagree and say the problem is more nuanced than that.

CMOs can expect to make top top money. Most of the big problems that businesses face and that CEO's prioritize have their roots in marketing. In recent years at large enterprises the CMO has begun to challenge the CIO for who runs IT overall.

On the whole though, those marketing staff do a poor job of communicating what they can achieve to the business. Some of this is because they're old school campaign marketers who simply don't understand what is possible. Some of it is because they lack the technical ability to successfully implement cross channel marketing. So they fall back on what they know - which is a slick website and the same tired content marketing tricks everyone else is using.

It isn't Silicon Valley's distrust of marketing that is causing campaigns to be poorly executed - it's that when asked, marketing fails to present a strategic vision for what could be achieved.

It's hard to judge what your framework does - and what you quantify as building the right foundations - as this post is just a laundry list of stuff you don't like.

Again, not sure you read the article closely.

I think I made it clear that it's a case of "Yes, and..." not "either/or"

The bias is not the only source of the problem. As you point out correctly, the marketing staff falls short, too.

The real problem I define is the never-ending feedback loop between Silicon Valley's bias against marketing and the relatively low quality of marketers in the talent pool that results.

Hard to say whether the chicken or the egg came first, but it doesn't really matter.

As for the framework vs the "laundry list of stuff" I don't like...

This is just the opening salvo. IMHO, great marketing and great products often (not always) arise from a deep understanding of and insight into big unsolved problems, unmet needs, and unfulfilled desires.

This post is my articulation of a very big unsolved problem and all of its consequences.

More on the solution soon.

A huge part of the problem, which you continue to exacerbate is the conflation of the terms 'marketing' and 'advertising.' It seems you understand the difference, but look throughout the 59 comments in this discussion and you will see people use the term marketing where advertisement or advertising would be the more appropriate term(s); not to mention the places where promotion was conflated with marketing.

There are many people that seem to think marketing is the sophisticated way to say advertising, and it makes nuanced discussions difficult.

Marketing is quite literally "going to market". In the post-industrial age, it had its beginnings in manufacturing and the supply chain but has evolved into today's concept of understanding and meeting customer's needs. Marketing is the most important section of a business as it doesn't matter what you built if you don't have a market willing to exchange value for it.

The comments here seem to highlight the very same misunderstandings in this article. Marketing is not advertising (which is just a small subset of distributing a message). Many ads are badly done, mostly because the ad industry is setup for cheap volume and has work incentives that perpetuate this (although it is slowly changing).

Telling a story, understanding your market and creating customers is the primary purpose of marketing. Read any of several good books on this and you will have the biggest key to success.

Aren't we tech people taught that sales and marketing is the cost you pay for being unoriginal?

Whether we're "taught" that or not, it is certainly not true and comes across as an elitist attitude. There exists plenty of awesome, original content that no one will ever hear about because it's on a website somewhere with no way to really find it without going to page 10 of some specific Google search. Marketing and advertising has its place, and I'm thankful for advertisements sometimes when they have lead me to finding a new product or service that I enjoy.

If you are really taught that, then your teacher has done you a great disservice.

The most original product person in tech's history was also one of it's most brilliant marketing and sales people.

I'm talking, of course, of Steve Jobs.

Engineers: dont get ruffled, this article is not for you.

This marketing is marketing to marketers.

I'm truly sorry you feel that way.

I was hoping to bridge the divide and help technical people understand that their distaste and distrust of marketing hurts them more than anyone else.

Please help me understand how I fell short.

marketing is amoral, and we all want to be right. people within the company want to sell products because the products are good (but marketing is amoral, so they'll sell anything.) customers want to buy the right products (but marketing is amoral, so will sell them anything.)

How I wish this were actually true. It runs contrary to everything I see around me (ecommerce, specifically).

To the commenter who deleted their question:

Customer experience and technical debt concerns always take a backseat to marketing in ecommerce. Marketing is, by far, the primary dictator of priority in this industry.

Yeah, it's true that ecommerce operations are almost always driven by marketing's priorities and demands.

However, Amazon seems to have found a pretty great balance here.

I don't even have to read this to know it's bunk. Apple is the world's most profitable company and among the best marketers around.

Ergo, the valley respects marketing.

"ergo" = therefore. Ergo, there needs to be a strong logical thread between one side of the equation and the other.

The fact that Apple is great at marketing and super-profitable doesn't equate to the Valley respecting marketing. Not at all.

Apple is one of the exceptions that proves the rule.

Sales and marketing are as specialised talents as programming.

Competitive advantage: get a marketer you respect, and get marketing that doesn't suck.

I think the author makes some reasonable points. Although I'm rolling out the 'no true Scotsman' fallacy here, real marketers are invaluable in the same way that real designers are. But you need to understand their true function in order to make best use of them. Marketers also face problems that are similar to those designers face; unsurprising given they employ similar methods that produce outputs that are difficult to quantify.

I'm sure the designers here have all had the following experience at some point:

- designer: I'm a designer at x company.

- other person: Oh, so you make pretty pictures in Photoshop?

- designer: Urghh......

There are similar public misunderstandings about what good marketing is, and what it does. Because of this, they get brought in at the wrong stage of the process, where there's little scope for them to add value. Take talented designers, for example. Ideally, they're part of the product development team from day 1, working side-by-side with devs.

In addition to product improvements that occur when you use 'good design' practices, a good designer will take early concepts and product prototypes, at various stages of development, define appropriate metrics to measure 'goodness', and then test these pre-release bits of work on a representative sample of your target market.

And I don't mean just focus group studies, I'm including other methods too. For example, 1 on 1 'intense observation' type studies, to see how people interact with your product, what they find confusing, unintuitive, annoying etc. Observation, not asking (people lie, people post-rationalise etc.) These insights are then brought back to the product development team and addressed in future development cycles, resulting in a better final product.

If you don't understand this, you will bring designers in after the product is done and you want someone to make a 'nice website' for launch.

Past-Apple and current-Apple are great case-studies here. Past-Apple was a fanatically design-led company who understood design in the more useful sense of the word: it's not about making things pretty, it's about making your product meet the needs and preferences of your target market (one of which might be 'prettiness'). Jobs, I believe, was designer at heart. Current-Apple seems to have forgotten all this, and reverted to the more typical 'good design is pretty things' approach. I won't get in to the results, as I think HN is already well acquainted (going off the recent hand-wringing over the new Macbook Pro).

Although some developers can successfully moonlight as designers, by-and-large developers are terrible designers. Not only do they fall in to the same trap that everyone else does (designing the product for themselves, instead of the people they intend to sell the product to), but because they are highly-skilled technical people, what may seem completely intuitive to them is almost always unintuitive to the non-technical general public, thus compounding the first problem. And you end up with a brilliant technical piece of work that is unusable and unsellable

So, on marketing. Just as people mistake design for 'making things pretty', I believe they also mistake marketing as 'spreading the word after the product is bedded down'. If anything, the skills of good marketers are best employed before product development begins. A lot of this work will revolve around market data acquisition and quantitative analysis. In a sense, they're like 'strategic designers': instead of telling you your target market will find your product hard to use (and here's how to fix it), they'll tell you which market is the richest target (giving you a starting point for your product design), or that you shouldn't be developing your product at all (as there's no market for it).

Good marketing is not solely (nor primarily) concerned with persuading as many people as possible to buy your product, given a fixed product and pre-selected market. I mean, yes marketers (even mediocre ones) can polish a turd, but at the end of the day it's still just a shiny turd. It's trite, but good products are easier to market than bad ones are. Stealing from 'The West Wing': "Bad marketing wasn't the reason people didn't buy new coke; they didn't buy it because they didn't like new coke". It was a product, which I'm sure had lots of clever technical work put in to it, that had no market to sell in to.

I suppose the challenge is dealing with the high signal-to-noise ratio. There are many more shitty marketers out there than there are good ones. The shitty ones don't actually do marketing (they're salesmen, who do sales). I think a key part of this is understanding what marketing is, and how it can be used to maximum effect.

tl;dr: When people understand the true function of 'design', it can be used to great effect. The same applies to marketing, which is a remarkably similar discipline.

They can complain all they like, while they try to monopolise the word "creative", they're fair game in my book.

Only because people have a natural aversion to being peddled to, does marketing exist. Blame the consumer!

Considering its content, it's hilarious to see HN change the title of this submission.

Tech is eating the world and its changing everything. Even how we market. It takes knowledge of tech to understand how those changes happen in order to leverage them. The knowledge is also used as a barrier to entry. Which I think is fair. If you want to market tech you better know how it gets built and how it works.


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