Why don’t tech companies get marketing?

Yelp and Twitter are in trouble, and columnist Rob Enderle says it’s because they fundamentally lack an understanding of how marketing works. Even Apple, once a marketing leader, seems to be faltering.

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So, for Yelp, a brand recovery effort has to be implemented that may require rebranding the company if it is found that it (as I suspect) now has negative brand equity. It may be easier to start over than to try to convince people that a brand they don’t trust is trustworthy. But if users and businesses don’t see Yelp as beneficial, the company is dead and it just doesn’t know it yet.

Twitter has more than just a marketing problem

Twitter has a very different problem and marketing is only part of it. Short format doesn’t lend itself to ads. Now Twitter is a powerful service that is increasingly used as a reference in full-blown ad-based news organizations, which currently don’t appear to do much to fund the effort. A funded exclusive with a major news agency could go a long way towards eliminating the firm’s revenue problem. But they also need to attract more users and engage those that are on the service, which has also been damaged by bad behavior forcing many high-profile celebrities to abandon it.

It is also more common to see a story on how Twitter has destroyed someone’s life and career than a story about how Twitter made someone else famous. Changing that simple perception so that Twitter appeared to again be a vehicle for status and fame would go a long way towards improving the luster and perceived value of this property. Combined with a tighter financial relationship with a major news/entertainment organization you’d have the foundation for a far more powerful firm.

Twitter’s new CEO does seem to recognize marketing is at the core of his problem, but odds are he’ll still do a poor job of selecting a new CMO. (If you don’t really understand a problem it is almost impossible to properly select the expert to solve it). In this case, they specifically need someone who understands the connection between Twitter and status, suggesting a skill set more closely aligned to politics/news than technology. However, the right person must have enough tech in his or her background to communicate effectively with Twitter at large.    

The importance of marketing

It fascinates me how nearly every decade marketing has a period where it seems to become a lost art only to be revised as dominant firms fall off to younger challengers that get marketing. It looks to me like we are again in a period where the folks running companies lack any real understanding of marketing, suggesting that we are looking at a changing of the guard.

Seeing the huge example Apple set, it amazes me this is happening, even at Apple. Both the name and execution of the Apple Watch shows more of an engineering than a marketing focus, which suggests even Apple is losing its marketing edge. It just seems to be an avoidable mistake this time.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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