What does …”But I am not in marketing means” really mean?

If you’re in marketing, I know you’ve heard it. You’re in a meeting, and the CFO or the technology person prefaces a marketing idea with that phrase, “but I’m not in marketing”. It can mean a few things depending on who is saying it. It can mean; “Don’t blame me if this is a stupid idea – after all I am not in marketing.” Or it can mean, “Even I, who do not work in marketing, can figure this problem out.”

Either way, the implication is clear – don’t attach any stigma to them in the high likelihood that the idea fails. It is, in other words, their disclaimer and they are throwing you under the bus.

That’s not so unexpected given the fate of marketing as the corporate sacrificial lamb. But the perpetuation of that type of thinking is entirely misguided because modern marketing should not be thought of as just a functional organization. It should be thought of as a company wide discipline inclusive of everyone that touches any part of the customer experience. That probably covers most people in most companies.

So once that new type of marketing thinking is adopted, let’s turn our attention to understanding what people really mean when they say it (beyond the obvious CYA dimension of the expression).

The answer lies in why Judy Consumer was born, back in the halls of the Bell Labs New Venture Group of Lucent Technology on this very day about a decade ago.  Judy Consumer I was in marketing then and my job was to help developers determine what (if any) market value their innovations may have. I had to thread lightly – after all each technology was the personal creation of a developer. I had to understand a technology clearly before I could give the developer the news about whether their technology “baby” could have market value or not.

But getting a good understanding of a technology proved to be more of a challenge than you might think. Developers, as brilliant as they are, tend to be quite esoteric when describing the benefits of a technology. In other words, more often than not, when a developer explained a certain technology to me, I had no idea why anyone would use it.

It was then that Judy Consumer made her debut. I was working on a cool audio technology (5 point surround sound delivered with just 2 speakers), but the developer would speak in terms of decibel and sound perimeter and so forth. I understood the basics, but not the real benefit.

Then, in a moment of inspiration (or frustration – who knows), I told the developer, “Talk to me like I am Judy Consumer and not an employee here. Pretend you are explaining this technology to a friend in a coffee shop”. Then, I could see the light in his eyes and he started to describe why Judy Consumer would love this innovation.

It was then that I began to use the notion of Judy Consumer to help me get developers in the right frame of mind. I needed Judy Consumer to take these clever developers out of their technical world and into the real world where Judy Consumers really live.

But as I continued to use Judy Consumer over the years she helped me understand the phrase, “But I’m not in marketing” better. She helped me realize that what people really mean to say is that they don’t believe they could put themselves in the shoes of a Judy Consumer and see the world through her eyes. They lacked confidence that they had the imagination to get it right.

This is what people mean when they say they are not in marketing. And to some degree they are right. The ability to understand how someone else will respond to technology is what often separates the “marketing pro’s” from the hacks. But that does not let everyone else off the hook. Great marketers learn how to train their corporate and technology partners into seeing the world from the perspective of Judy Consumer.

That’s why I have become so attached to her. She helps me teach everyone in a company that they too are in marketing and Judy Consumer likes the company.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

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2 Responses

  1. Quite clever insight and useful for marketers to know.

  2. Great article! I am not really in marketing…well I wasn’t before reading this that is!

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