My long relationship with marketing – part 1

Marketing is a word that has been around for several decades however I feel that its function and applications have been redefined many times over the last few years.   Today I can feel confident speaking about marketing with experts of both B2B and B2C marketing as I had the lucky opportunity of working in some amazing positions and test first hand how marketingt actually works and what sometimes doesn’t work at all.

Back in June 1994, soon after I arrived in Cambridge I met Luca, who later became one of my best friends: I was between curious and intrigued when he told me he was working in marketing.  At that time I had a job as systems engineer and most of my friends in professional jobs were techies like me.  I could (and still can) have a meaningful, conversation with all sort of technical people: mechanical designers, firmware engineers, web developer or data base architect just to mention a few.  When I asked what exactly Luca was doing and I was quite surprised to find out he was a product manager.  Until then I had a very limited idea of what marketing was about: adverts, product image, packaging… that was about it.  I am a strong believer and practitioner of self learning so I decided within a few days to go into a book shop and buy some marketing books.  I remember reading them and feeling as they were written in a language to me unknown.

This happened to me several times during my life; when I was initially interested in computer and bought the first magazine I wasn’t really sure what I was reading as it was so rich of technical terms and there was no Google to check their meaning.  Same happened when I was first reading about cars or hi-fi systems.  Each field or sector has its own jargon and you have to adapt to it in order to absorb its value.  So as I have done many times before I kept reading and speaking to various people.  Within a few months I was conscious (e.g. I had conscious knowledge) about necessary marketing functions, how they operate within companies and what they should deliver.

I was naturally the most commercial person in a tech company so it came quite natural to start talking about marketing with my boss and how our company, at that time a tech start-up, had to evolve and define a clear message about what we were offering, delivering and why were charging certain amounts of money for it.

We later had to organise an exhibition; it was something I never did before but I had direct experience as I  took part in several trade shows on behalf of my previous employer.  So I made lots of inquiries, read lots of forms and bridged the remaining gaps with a bit of common sense; it was a success.  My boss at that time was particularly impressed about my skill of clearly explaining complex technical concepts to random punters and naturally focussing on benefits and why people should buy rather why it was cool.  A few months later, when the annual appraisal was due I was offered to become the marketing manager for the company.  “best tech companies use great engineers to do their top marketing” my boss told me “you are technically very good but also understand how to talk to people, we need to capitalize on this”.  It was December 1995.

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