Back in 2011, Marc Andreessen penned an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Software Is Eating The World”. That piece has now become the battle cry for every technology person and seems to be quoted as much as the Bible. In short, software companies and programmers are the new hotness and everything else is old school. Today, you hear people going around and saying how everyone should learn to program because software is eating the world. Being a technology person, even I bought into the article and drank the Kool-Aid until one day I woke-up and realized how skewed that narrative is.
Any computer network engineer worth their salt has created a Visio diagram or PowerPoint slide showing some sort of network topology. In variably, there will be a connection to a WAN (Wide Area Network) or nowadays an internet connection. Even when I created these diagrams back in 1995 the same clipart was used to represent a WAN or internet connection – a cloud. Oh my god, I can’t believe technology people have been staring at these graphical cloud icons for the past 20+ years and it took some marketing guy to rechristen the entire thing as Cloud Computing. The score? Marketing folks – 50 and technology folks – 0.
The technology focused startups I meet just don’t care about marketing and tend to put it on the back burner which is just so wrong. I think it stems from the fact that technology people are quantitative driven meaning they are all about numbers and coding fits right in. Whereas marketing is more touchy feely and qualitative in nature. Technology startups feel they can just string together a marketing plan or campaign and people will just hammer their website and use their product/service. Usually what happens is they create a great product and then you can hear the crickets chirping. Why? Because marketing was an after thought which meant no one knew about the product.
I’m was guilty of this as well. When I was an undergrad at Indiana University business school, everyone wanted to be a marketing major. There were three reasons: it was something that everyone felt they could relate to, it was perceived to be an easy major and all the hot girls were majoring in it. I opted for a technology major because I just thought marketing was a waste of time…how wrong I was. Now when I look around, I tend to be in awe of great marketing instead of great technology startups.
For me one of the great marketing stories is DeBeers, the diamond cartel once owned by the Oppenheimer’s from South Africa. One of their marketing campaigns was for the “Eternity Ring” which came about when Russians mines were producing smaller diamonds that were not very high quality. So they took 20 of these diamonds and set them into a ring and called it the “Eternity Ring” – brilliant marketing. In another marketing coup, J. Walter Thompson erased a 1,500 year Japanese tradition in 14 short years with the introduction of the diamond engagement ring from DeBeers.
I’ve recently read several reports that the Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO) budget will grow faster then a company’s technology budget. I would tend to agree, as technology costs keep going down companies will be spending more on marketing to differeniate and to get noticed by their potential customers. With the advent of social media marketing it’s yet another line item for a CMO’s budget.
As far as software eating the world, when all you have is a hammer then everything starts to look like a nail.