Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hi Benjamin,

I find your post to be very interesting reading, because I am a Free software user and I also teach marketing. Please allow me to comment, from the perspective of one who tries to teach people how to be marketers, rather than one who actually does marketing.

Marketing is a societal process … attempting to move the consumers toward the products or services offered.

That quote is complete bullshit. It is a definition of the "Selling concept", which is what the "Marketing Concept" is entirely against. This is one example of why Wikipedia should not be used as a source of authority on contentious issues. Try Citizendium's take on this issue instead.

I hate marketing. With a passion. The sentence above shows the 2 biggest problems I have with it. One is the word consumer, which often means “too stupid to make its own decisions”. The other is the fact that it doesn’t talk about the quality of the offer, but only about “moving towards”.

The first sentence above might be expected to enrage me. In fact, I couldn't agree more with you if, in fact, "marketing" is what it says in the Wikipedia quote and article above. But it's not. At least, not the way we teach it at my place. And the "official" definition of Marketing, if there could be such a thing, is also at variance with the Wikipedia definition. It's from the AMA (American Marketing Association), and the latest version can be found here.

Turns out, the people we trust have no clue either. That bug report is Debian wondering which Flash player to ship in the default install. Apparently the most important thing in deciding about it is wether Flash starts paused (changing that is a one-line diff) or the amount of people that have submitted code. Stuff like feature completeness or code quality don’t seem to be that important. Why should they be, those are hard questions, answering them is way easier than looking at statistics or the big play button in your browser. Another hard thing for people is realizing that one doesn’t have a clue and asking the developers of the respective projects for their opinion. It still baffles me that people don’t ask.

Here's where we disagree. From a Marketing point of view, the opinions of the people who create the software don't matter. All that matters is the wants and needs of the consumers.

Apparently in these cases marketing is very easy. Since the people don’t even have a clue what the right questions to ask are, marketers are free to make up their own questions to ask about the project and provide the answers.

Then those people don't deserver to be called "Marketers". If they don't source their answers from consumers, they are not doing marketing.

So you have one project that overpromises and another one that underpromises. Now if you browse discussions about Flash players on various mailing lists or forums, you’ll notice that Gnash is known way better. People are very more aware of an application that claims to almost support Flash than an application that claims it might not even work. On the other hand, the perception of Gnash is more negative. Gnash does not deliver its promises. Swfdec on the other hand promises nothing, so it’s likely it’ll be better than people expect, which makes them happy. Now, the question is: What’s the better approach?

This is common wisdom in marketing circles: under-promise and over-deliver is a mantra we learn early on.

Until then, it’ll probably remain nothing but an interesting thesis project for someone studying marketing.

Probably not. We've known this for decades. It's just that some people don't pay attention in class ... :-)