Marketing or Engineering?

The topic of marketing and engineering came up today. I won’t go into details. I’ll just share what I said about the two, by throwing out a few company names and just a little snippet about each company.

Digital Equipment Corporation. Brilliant engineering. Mind blowing engineering. You made that out of that? But their marketing had no clue how to sell any of it.  They had a good run, based on technical excellence alone, but without marketing, all those great technologies were relegated to niche status.

Commodore. Brilliant and creative engineering. Marketing was effective at times in the 1980s, especially when they were able to undercut everyone’s prices. But their marketing faded fast as the 1980s wore on. They went out of business in 1994 and most people are surprised they lasted that long.

Microsoft. Mediocre engineering. What they deliver manages to be good enough to meet whatever the public demands of it. And for many years, their marketing was very good, if unconventional. They delivered good-enough product at price points people were willing to pay, and they got the people who controlled the money to really like Excel and Outlook, which opened the door for them to sell other products to support Excel and Outlook. It was covert, and you didn’t really notice it or even recognize it as marketing, but it was effective. They can advertise on TV all they want, but I think the reason Microsoft has been stagnant for so many years is that they haven’t delivered much of anything recently that gets guys talking on the golf course. Windows 7, maybe, but they need something else to go with it.

Apple. Mediocre engineering. Better than Microsoft, sometimes, but that’s not setting the bar very high. And sometimes their engineering’s been bad. Or outsourced altogether. Marketing? I don’t think anyone does it better right now.

Google. Brilliant engineering. I don’t think I even have to elaborate on that. Their marketing isn’t as good as Apple, and it’s sneaky kind of like Microsoft. They’re insanely profitable, and a lot of people don’t even know what they sell. And their name is synonymous with their main product, search. Just like the brand Kleenex is synonymous with facial tissue.

Want some names of companies that are at least adequate at one or the other or both? Think Panasonic or Samsung. They make stuff that lots of people buy. Maybe their stuff isn’t always good enough for the enthusiast or the professional, though sometimes it certainly is. People generally don’t get excited about them. But if one of them went out of business next year, people would be shocked. Lots of long-running, successful companies would fall into this category.

My point was that it’s a lot easier for marketing to make up for engineering than the other way around. And if you have no marketing at all, you’re destined to fail.

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