Does Technology really need Marketing?
In 1440 a German goldsmith named Mr. Gutenberg invented the printing press. This technology eventually impacted all religions, sciences, education systems, political structures and almost every citizen of this planet. This sort of culture shaping invention is a rarity, so pardon me if an invention called Tik Tok doesn’t crank this author’s clock. A technological innovation like Gutenberg’s ink spewing marvel didn’t need an agency to promote or accelerate the growth of printed books. The medium and the message were designed seamlessly into the invention and it fulfilled a compelling unmet need. Today we might call this a Blue Ocean.
The book, Blue Ocean Strategy, uses this wonderful metaphorical pairing of Red and Blue Oceans. The Red Ocean is symbolic of blood in the water. An indication of a competitive feeding frenzy. In the Bluer waters, we enjoy less competitive situations and have opportunities to deliver on unmet needs. When you design an invention, brand or new venture for a marketplace, finding a Blue Ocean takes Magellan like talent.
If you had a game changing invention, just putting it out into the world used to be enough. Design, marketing and brand didn’t really matter if you were swimming in blue waters and could get distribution. Those days are not long passed, yet sometimes the mindset remains.
Why can’t we just invent a great product, offering or solution, make it available to the world and let the cash flow? Honestly, life would be so much easier. It would be so efficient if we had a high viscosity marketplace, unmet needs would pair with ideal solutions and we’d save all those “marketing” dollars. The Internet implied the promise of a new, more perfect marketplace, but alas it still takes a team to get your brand “Amazon or Target ready.”
Let’s test this with a few Gutenbergery (apologies to every English teacher I’ve ever had) scale inventions. Have you heard of INSIGHTEC’s answer for alzheimer’s – which could be a big part of the cure or Blickfeld’s LiDAR for driverless vehicles in all forms or even the hover motorcycle? Tweet at me (@KellerOfCapsule) if you’ve honestly learned of any of these inventions before the start of 2020 and I’ll buy you a coffee. I’m betting on only making one trip to Bachelor Farmer Cafe.
We’ve seen industries discover the importance of brand in recent decades. Just over two decades ago, a law firm wouldn't need a brand, now they all have them and some even have a CMO. Just over two decades ago commodities companies – the exact opposite of a brand – would sell their goods to brands in order for those brands to even exist. Now those commodity firms have brand managers. And, just two decades ago retailers carried brands, and some sold “private brands” yet now they have a portfolio of brands.
Why does this matter? Because consumer, medical and almost any form of technology fall prey to the importance of design, brand and marketing. Pause and you might think we have Apple to thank. Actually, Apple was just there at the right time when computing horsepower passed mass market needs and aesthetics became more important. Some will argue, it was the brilliance of Steve Jobs. But if he was so brilliant why didn’t he do it the first time around? If he were alive, I’d think he’d admit, Apple was at the right place, with the right offer, at the right time, with the right focus on design; this is the trifecta of luck.
Okay, Steve might never admit that; doesn’t make it less true. Maybe you’re wondering how does design, brand and marketing deliver “Steve Jobs”mojo? The short answer, by removing the friction between your offering and the marketplace. The concept of a high viscosity marketplace doesn’t exist because there are too many other products, mediums, messages and offerings creating friction between your brand and an audience. By focusing on reducing friction, everyone becomes centered on continuous improvement. It doesn’t increase your odds of success, it reduces the chances of failure from unnecessary friction.
Before we get too high on our mighty marketing stallion, let’s argue it from the other side of the table. What if marketing doesn’t need an offering? We can put anything out there, because we’re so good at marketing, brand and design; they’ll buy it up. This kind of thinking takes a few forms, vaporware, fraud or what many used to call snake oil. These are not sustainable business models and when Microsoft deployed vaporware, eventually regulators came to visit.
Inventions, even great ones like INSIGHTEC, Blickfeld’s LiDAR and hover motorcycle should be found by an audience. The world is a better place brands pair up with those who should know they exist. Even the technologies we should love, need love and attention provided by a creative team.
At Capsule Worldwide HQ, we look for clients who don’t just need a website, logo or package design. Don’t get us wrong, we’re happy to provide these deliverables, but a brand is larger than the primary mediums where we interface with it. And, to be successful, brand owners often need a bit more than just the deliverables.
We wake up in the morning to improve the relationships brands have with their most important audiences.