The Geeks: They Will Rule The Marketing World

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Would never happen in the Old School.  The Old School of Marketing was about those that could play in the sexy image world.

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The Old School Marketing world was about:
  • The ad, with the buzz or shock value
  • The Agency.  The Focus group.  The Third party research house.
  • The slick, innovative new product.  Or more likely, the extensions.  The 37th variety of Italian Salad dressing.  
  • The Market Share Leader.  Because he who has the Power, has the Gold.  And he who has the Gold, made the rules.
    • Translation?  The dollars to out-shout your competitor.  In a one way communication world, traditional media.

The MBA…..the pedigree.  If you worked in an elite Consumer Products Company, a top 5 MBA program was your golden ticket.  If you received your MBA in the ’00’s, ’90’s or dare I say ’80’s, CONGRATS!  Higher education should never be snubbed, and lately that seems to be fashionable.  That’s unfortunate, because it’s still a hell of a credential.

Having said that, I’ve seen many MBA’s come through business that I often scratch my head at in wonder what the curriculum concentrated on.  What do I see?

  • The 4 P’s of Marketing, the foundation of the discipline that has been in-complete at best for 25 years.
  • A heavier concentration on research (focus groups, surveys) and light on the income statement, balance sheet and real relationship building, communication skills that are team-focused.
  • If you received it in the earlier decades, Social Media did not even exist, which is a “game-over” argument.
The New School of Marketing

The New School of Marketing presents a world where the Geek is well positioned to rule the world, much to the displeasure of the Jock, or the Schoolyard Bully, who preyed on the Geek.

Moneyball portrayed a Geek as good as any movie.  The jock (Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt) was astute and saw the potential in a different method and embraced it.  The cut-throat reality of the sport and lack of resources demanded it.  For more on the Lessons of Moneyball….

Moneyball, geek & jock

In Moneyball, Brad Pitt, left, plays Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane. Jonah Hill plays Peter Brand, the numbers geek Beane hires to help rebuild the team.
Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures

Who’s the Geek?  Characteristics that come to my mind….

  • They count.  They Measure.  
    • Measures first, reacts later.  They count when it’s possible to count.  If it’s not possible to count, they will figure out a way.  
    • They know what they get for what they invest.  
    • They know where they are starting from and where they want to go, and how long it will take.  “X to Y by when.”
  • They have a plan on how to get there, the cause and affect factors, so if they don’t get there they know why.  Then they adjust.  There’s a number by every assumption to get from X to Y by when.
  • They may not be time obsessed, but they value life’s most precious commodity
    • They are not afraid to lay out a timeline of bring anything to a conclusion, even when most of the activity is beyond their control.  Their favorite tool is a Gantt chart.
  • They wear what’s important on their sleeves.  Their goals, timelines, their plans and results.  It’s visible.
  • They are inclusive.  They pull people in.  They lead by example.
    • They have tendencies to be a team’s GLUE.
  • They like a P&L as much as an Attitude and Usage Study.  They know the score at all times.
  • They understand that speed of change is not something that can be dealt with passively.
    • Their company won’t solve this problem for them, because they are struggling with it too, so they get off their heels themselves and figure it out.

The Geek is not just a quant jock.  They are RESULTS-oriented first and foremost.  They obsess over results first, then figure out the best method to deliver.

The point is this.

The business world has changed in ways that is simply hard to comprehend.  Marketing is a part of that world.  A generation of Marketers has flat out missed the sea change in their profession.  That’s not opinion, that’s published fact.

This isn’t just about social media adoption, although that’s a clear and measurable instance of key leaders not getting on board and staying relevant.  They not only grew up in the Old School, they never graduated from it.

Substitute social media, with collaboration, leadership, project management, analytical skills, consultative selling.  If people don’t recognize the world changing around them at light speed, they probably are not sharpening up their skills in other critical areas.

If it can happen with CMO’s at the biggest and most powerful companies in the USA, is it not fair to think it’s happening with the Marketing Assistant, Directors of Marketing, Account sales managers and directors?

Hustle is one of life’s difference makers.  It’s a choice.

Choice #1 is recognizing that if the world moves at light speed, if I don’t choose to keep up, invest in myself, it will simply pass me by.

The Geek is not just a profile for Marketing Survival.  The Geek characteristics work across the board.


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  1. Jonathan Becher says:

    Enjoyed the post and I agree with most of what you say. One nuance however: I think we need both the Art and Science of marketing. Everyone should embrace both. It’s sort of like a major and minor in college. I’ve seen too much bad creative greenlighted because it tested well.

    Here’s what I think every CEO should expect from their CMO:

    • Agree Jonathan, great insight. Love your post on CEO of expectation of the CMO, especially the “Force multiplier” across the functional silos. Another critical soft skill that extends beyond the nuts and bolts of the function, well done!

    • Tom Redd says:

      Great article and geeks have it except for the point JB mentioned – the art and science of marketing. Out of art and science we have too much science that spills across everything people do – from shopping to watching TV to analyzing what they eat. What marketing still lacks is the art of being purpose focused.

      Purpose focused art based marketing means going into segments of people’s lives – the vertical element. A good example is unique Marketing for shopping – and even more unique marketing for the sub-verticals within shopping – from cars to food.
      Yes, this is done to a degree, but the art and the creative all run together. Being in a vertical means being unique and unique takes vertically “geeky” people that know the space.

      So stop the noise. Get vertical. Get Vertically geeky and win market share

      Vertically Geeked

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