So, marketing is what turns something with the potential for creating value in the something that actually creates value for the customer and for the company selling. And I know that some of you are already disputing this claim.

Value creation and value delivery

Some of you are saying surely some innovations are so great so much better than what’s already out there that people just recognize the value without any of this marketing trickery.

Occasionally it is possible for there to be an innovation that is just so great that people flock to it and it just sells itself. Perhaps you can think of some examples where this happened.

But it’s also distressingly common for groundbreaking innovations to fail the first time out to the market and then for another company to come along later mimic the innovation but market it better and create a runaway success.

The Palm that was marketed correctly

Way back in the 1980s Apple created the world’s first tablet computer. It was called the Apple Newton it was small handheld device. About the size of a really fat Kindle it had an interactive touch screen display and it was for its time by all accounts a technological marvel. It didn’t sell.

In spite of all he could do people didn’t buy it because it was marketed poorly. People didn’t recognize its value didn’t know what to do with it and couldn’t figure out how to fit it into their lives. A few years later Motorola developed a product called the Envoy, and this was even more advanced than the Newton. The same great product, the same marketing mistake.

Then in 1996 a company called Palm released PalmPilot. And, it was a success! Which makes us ask: did did they go out and make something even more advanced? Did Palm make something even more cutting edge? Or, did they have better engineers?  No. Palm started by understanding their eventual customer and the specific problems they were trying to solve for that specific person.

Understanding customers and their problems

They, the guys from Palm,  started with marketing. And, their marketing guided every decision they made along the way. How big should we make this thing? Well, how big does the customer wanted to be. How many features should we add? How many functions does the customer wanted to have? What kinds of software does the customer need?

They didn’t solve these problems in the lab and then take it out to the marketplace and try to sell.  They started by understanding their eventual customer and making all decisions accordingly. Essentially Palm did one thing: it was an electronic version of a Franklin Planner that would automatically back itself up every time it was plugged into your computer.

Before electronic personal digital assistants business was conducted in the age of the Franklin Planner.  These workbook sized leather bound monstrosities that contained all of a person’s contacts and their calendar and their to do lists.  That was it: a less advanced product that created more value for the customers through marketing.

Value should always be defined through the eyes of the customer and that is where marketing comes in and there were several more recent examples. This is why iPad was a success, not as good as a smartphone, and not a computer, but good enough to provide what customer needed: a big tactile screen for basic tasks and entertainment.