Why programmers shouldn’t be marketers

Just finished watching Ichiro break the single season hit record on TV. I’m a Seattle Mariner fan from way back when, and a big Ichiro fan. Most likely some of the students from my class in Tokyo this summer were watching it too. The announcer said it was on lots of channels there. This summer I realized they got a lot of live/taped Mariner games on TV in Tokyo along with many Japanese baseball league games by watching TV in my hotel. Congratulations to Ichiro! But it reminded me of my world’s worst marketing idea.

It was 2002, I think, middle of the post-year-2000 high tech bust and we were trying to find ways to increase class attendence. At the time, we had many “high-profile” instructors (MSDN called them “rock star speakers” this year).

I’d just seen Ichiro bobble-head doll night, where folks lined up around the block to get into the ballgame because they were giving away this collectable. The Ichiro bobble-head doll given away for free that night supposedly sold for hundreds of dollars on EBay the very next day. They should even be worth more now.

My idea was to give away bobble-heads of all the DM instructors with a very limited number of the “high-profile” ones. One doll/student at each class. After watching folks line up for collectables, I figured that this actually might help sell classes. Sort of like the attendees you see wandering around PDC with armloads of SWAG. I once worked with someone that joined IEEE at a conference just to get the free coffee cup. Since there would be less copies of the “high-profile” ones, they’d have to come back again and again. I was so enamored with the idea that I even found a place on the internet where they could make them (personal collectables) up.

My cohorts didn’t think so highly of the idea when I posted it to our internal mailing list. A few of them couldn’t stop laughing over the outragousness (or ridiculelessness) of it, most just ignored me. But my favorite comment was from Craig Andera, an amazingly bright guy and very witty; for some reason not that high-profile. He wrote to me “I can just see my students unwrapping their collectable and saying “damn, I got another Andera, I got 5 of these. Anyone want to trade?” Cracked me up.

Beginning and end of my career as a marketer. And why programmers (at least most of us) shouldn’t be marketers.

2 thoughts on “Why programmers shouldn’t be marketers

  1. We thought about bobble-heads for the "software legends" people. Considering the cardboard cutouts made us a laughing stock anyway we didn’t think people could take us any less seriously. If they won’t go for bobble-heads why not try them on bendy-movable type dolls?

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