Have been reading a bunch of presentations/posts/articles on how the future of marketing depends less on advertising and more on making better stuff. Here’s one on Isakson's blog, but you can find similar arguments about marketing as a service at zeus/jones, or brand utility on PSFK or others on the importance of design. What struck me this time on my pass through these next gen positions was that they sounded kind of old-fashioned, denouncing all this hot air and slick salesmanship which we marketers used to see as our stock in trade. “What we need, son, is less talk and a little more spit and elbow grease. Now get in there and dig me up a really beautifully designed keyboard!"
You want to have a successful brand, these arguments go, make a better widget or at least a nicer looking one. It’s why we return over and over again to the same examples: Mac, Starbucks, etc.
The argument for making better and more useful products is fine so far as it goes (a point Paul acknowledges but doesn’t fully address except through the partial solution of “content”), but seems to forget that one of the foundational values of modern marketing is that it’s a substitute for or at least a supplement to product superiority. Advertising is expensive, sure, but much less expensive, often, than R & D or retooling production.
The points about design and utility work best on (again, no surprise here) functional products and utilities like Ebay and Google. They don’t help much when you are selling perfume or vodka. There and in many other places, style and fast-talk still count for a lot.
We all want better widgets, but we are often in the business of selling ones that are less good, or more likely, just as good as every other version. That might be unappetizing to the utopian band of next gen marketers but less unpleasant to those of us who either enjoy the terrible symmetry of business or who have found you can change people's minds by telling them the same thing over and over again.