Are you trying to do marketing?

Are you trying to do marketing?
Photo by Nemes Brigitta / Unsplash

If engineering is what engineers do, is marketing what markets do?

No? Oh, right, engineers engineer, so marketers market:

market verb, transitive
: to expose for sale in a ... market

(Ellipsis mine.)

Okay, Mirriam, I don't love the redirect and I have to tell you I'm not thrilled with the results but let's just go with a(1):

market noun
: a meeting together of people for the purpose of trade by private purchase and sale and usually not by auction

At least it doesn't use market again (I'm glaring at you b(1)).

Cool, so marketing is when people called marketers expose something for sale in a meeting together of people for the purpose of trade ...

Strong feelings of being in 8th grade forced to read English literature I didn't really understand but had to plod through anyway.

I'm reading the words but I'm not getting smarter!

What Have We Done

We went virtual, places became ether, and now a whole flock of these marketer folks are doing something that we can't explain anymore.

Well, Okay ... That Was Short

Yes, I cheated, but you didn't really want me re-describing the rise and fall of AOL — did you, RCoaster47? (Sniff.)

So here we are, with billions and billions of dollars being spent and we don't know how to talk about it.

We've resort to the last defense against verbs we don't understand: we prefix do.

Yeah, we're doing a lot of marketing now. Aaron, he does marketing.

He does what now?


I love and hate theme parks for the same reason: they are run by marketers that got bored after their 10th level of black belt and needed a capitalist laboratory to experiment on parents, legally. Each time I visit, I feel like Bill Murray having saved all month for a long slow root canal through my wallet.

But there are parts I enjoy in a healthier way.

It's not real, but it's not a painting.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey(covering my bases) is a masterclass, not of pickpocketery, but of something really wonderful.

The entire ride — the end-to-end experience of approaching, entering, enjoying, and exiting the ride, reveals itself as a progressive hall of illusions, each one making the inevitable ride more enjoyable.

Hogwarts, the actual freaking Hogwarts, is in front of you, and the parts you can touch are made of stone, and the parts you can't, well, you can't because they're just so far away -- that tower has got to be 500 feet tall and any moment now a broom rider will probably flit around it!

You enter the to-scale doors, you navigate the halls just like our heroes. After 45 minutes of this, you're eventually given the chance to get on the contraption of a ride, and yes, it's fun, but you're also drenched in dopamine, so who cares how good it is.

This ride is a masterclass in funneling visitors through contexts that sell the experience.

And that, is marketing.

Marketing On a Non-Universal Budget

If marketing is the progressive immersion of a visitor into narrower contexts that sell them towards a buying moment — that moment where they suspend disbelief and ride, then the job of marketing is to construct and implement contexts that strip away disbelief and compel visitors forwards.

In the early days, all of this takes place within a founder's pitch. It's their gift to be able to take anyone standing anywhere in the theme park of life, and transport them through a mind-funnel that gets them to buy into an idea, or maybe even a product, on the spot.

As you find fit, your goal is to take that magic and stretch it into a queue that scales. To create that telescopic set of contexts that anyone can enter anywhere, anytime, and end up ready to buy.

Startups get in trouble when they attempt to stretch their funnels too soon. The stages aren't fully understood, but they do marketing anyway. Somewhere along the way, the illusion falls apart. People get lost and exit. And if they've entrusted these journeys to automation (self-service), the feedback is weak to non-existent.

To find fit, you need to stay in the lab of founder-led sales until you can map the rooms your prospects need to enter and exit based on intense observation of those early meetings.

The prerequisite for marketing is the ability to design the spaces that prospects need to pass through in order to buy in to a shared dream wholeheartedly.