April 8, 2006
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Engineering and Marketing

My cat swiped the link and hid it somewhere, but yesterday I was reading about a claim in Seth Godin's Google talk to the effect that engineering gets you in the game, after which software marketing is what counts.

Can brilliant marketing beat superior engineering? If you meet someone who advocates this, I think you may have just met a sales consultant who wants to sell you a bridge.

Occasionally a slightly superior engineering solution loses to a product that has better marketing. Almost invariably, though, the engineering advantages in these cases are slight and the marketing differences huge. Betamax may have been better than VHS, but it took an engineer to see the difference. Dvorak may have been better than QWERTY -- lots of keyboards might be better than QWERTY -- but not sufficiently better to defray the retraining costs. (Voice recognition will do the trick, once it's about as accurate as a stenographer)

Let's face it: some car ads are a little better than others, but all car marketing is pretty much the same these days. The winners are the cars people want, not the campaigns people enjoy.

If you believe that marketing beats engineering, talk to some of the Madison avenue folks who tried to defend the railroads and the steamships against air travel.