Why do engineers hate marketers …

Why do engineers hate marketers …


… when all we really want is to be loved?

It’s true. Most brand consultants and marketers are classic creative types — and a core need of the creative type is to be loved. Engineers, on the other hand, are trained to look for what’s wrong and validate work empirically. On the surface, engineers and creatives seem like polar opposites, destined to coexist adversarially at best. At Toolbox, our client relationships are proof positive that engineers and marketers can not only peacefully coexist, but when everything clicks—the results can be magic. 

Based on our experience, below (in no particular order) are six reasons engineers hate marketers:

1. Marketers can’t even decide what to call themselves

Guilty as charged. While engineering titles represent something real, something earned and a specific field of expertise, marketers can call themselves whatever they like: brand consultants, marketing experts, advertising agencies, corporate identity designers, commercial artists, brandgineers (I just made that one up). How can you trust someone who doesn’t even know what to call themselves? Fair enough. 

A note on the terminology I’ll use in this article: While branding and marketing are sometimes used interchangeably, there are clear and important distinctions between the two.

Marketing is a tactical push technique, while branding is a strategic pull technique. Marketing is telling your customers you’re great. Branding is your customers knowing you’re great. Marketing is a claim made. Branding is a promise delivered. Branding and marketing are not opposites or binary choices. They need to work in concert to drive business success. It’s our experience that engineers actually struggle more with marketing than they do with branding. Branding includes all aspects of product, sales, language, attitude and reputation—engineers shape the brand of their company daily. Marketing is a tougher nut to crack.

2. Engineers have succeeded without marketing

Successful marketing and success in spite of yourself can look pretty similar from the inside. Many technology companies have achieved a certain level of success in their early existence with zero concerted effort or dollars spent on brand development or marketing. We see this commonly in the B2B software, agtech and additive manufacturing spaces. Such hard-earned early success can foster a belief that marketing isn’t even a necessary evil—it’s an unnecessary evil. Engineers can take pride in the fact that they’ve succeeded without needing to put a spin on their technology or make big, bold, unsubstantiated claims.

As tech startups grow into second-stage companies, the limitations (or nonexistence) of their marketing materials start to become problematic. Rapid company growth and obligation to investors creates pressure to dedicate resources to marketing. Engineers become sales engineers. Sales engineers create marketing materials. Marketing is accepted as a necessary evil—but the relationship remains contentious.  

3. Engineers can market their product better than marketers

Engineers often approach creating marketing materials the same way they approach doing their job. It’s natural. I’m sure if I were going to try to invent a rechargeable battery, I’d approach it like a graphic designer. The battery would look great. It would make a strong emotional connection with the consumer. But it might be prone to failure, or explosion.

Similarly, technology marketing and sales materials created in-house tend to have fatal flaws. They focus on listing features rather than proclaiming benefits. There’s a ton of accurate information and scientific data, but the technology marketing materials fail to cut through the clutter, grab the viewer’s attention and give them a reason to care.  

Engineers want to talk about a 12 oz., 3/4″ cut of beef flesh cooked at 130˚for 5 minutes a side.
want to talk about the sizzle. 

4. Marketers are dumb

No one can know the product as well as the engineer. Why waste time trying to explain your technology to a marketer, only for them to get it wrong and for you to have to fix it? Just do it yourself.

The fact that engineers know the product best leads to the false assumption that no one else can market it. This premise can intimidate the marketer, preventing them from diving deep with the engineer and really getting to know the technology. 

Marketers sell the sizzle and not the steak—and that’s as it should be. However, marketers can be so focused on the sizzle that they neglect to first truly understand the steak. 

It’s the marketer’s job to distill complex technology down to concise, digestible nuggets that connect with every person in the buying chain: technologists, purchasing and the trigger pullers in the C-suite.

This can only be accomplished when the marketer works deeply with the engineer to truly understand the technology, why it’s better than the status quo and how it will improve the lives of its users.   

5. Marketers are liars

Engineers are bullshit detectors, and a lot of marketing stinks. Marketers make promises. Engineers make solutions. Engineers like to deliver exactly what they say they will, while marketers are big fans of hyperbole. Engineers won’t make unsubstantiated claims or deliver a product that’s not ready. Engineers prefer facts over feelings. Marketers need to make emotional connections and build brand love.

Engineers are the first and last line of defense in ensuring the quality and dependability of a technology brand. Recently, the Samsung Galaxy recall and the 3D printapocalypse illustrated the very real consequences of over-promising and under-delivering. The blame always goes to the engineer when something does not work, but often marketing is equally culpable.

6. Marketers have no accountability

When engineers don’t do their job, people can die. Bridges collapse. Phones spontaneously combust. When marketers don’t do their job, marketing doesn’t work—and 50% of all marketing doesn’t work. To an engineer, that’s an unacceptably high rate of failure. 

However, it’s important to remember that while engineering and marketing are both critical to the success of technology brands, they are distinctly separate fields of discipline with different performance measures. 

It can be difficult to calculate ROI on marketing. However, it’s not impossible. Marketing ROI is typically measured using a combination of hard metrics, like directly attributable sales, and soft metrics, like increasing brand awareness and influencing future sales.

Good marketers actually crave accountability. Engineers should demand it from their marketing partners. The engineer and the marketer should discuss and agree on the desired outcome of each marketing investment and identify whether soft metrics, hard metrics or a combination of the two will judge each effort.

It’s tempting for the technologist to only employ marketing tactics that can be analyzed with hard metrics. However, that approach can undermine the overall success of your brand. Your marketing mix will include some projects that can only be assessed using soft metrics — logos, web identity and print collateral, for example — and some projects that can be assessed with hard metrics — direct mail, pay-per-click campaigns and automated marketing, to name a few. 

Marketers need to be loved. Engineers need to be right. Innovative technology companies need to be both.

The best technology marketing companies understand they can’t afford for their clients to not be successful. That means truly, deeply understanding the technology, making compelling, accurate claims and ensuring technology brands can deliver as promised. Engineering and marketing share the same goal: to connect innovative technology with those whose lives it will improve.

While engineers prefer facts over feelings and marketers are all about creating the good feels, the two are not mutually exclusive—they’re symbiotic. 

Great marketers and great engineers have more in common than you’d think. Both are super-smart, incessantly curious, ask lots of great questions, love to figure stuff out, believe passionately in their work, continually prototype, crave accountability and constantly improve.

At Toolbox Creative, we’re dedicated to bridging the gap between the science of science and the art of selling it — building love connections between technology brands and the customers that love them.

About Toolbox Creative:

Toolbox Creative offers a powerful engine to grow technology brands and take on the big players in the field. We help innovative technology companies look and sound as good as they truly are, increasing brand equity, boosting media buzz and making the most of marketing dollars.