Marketing Science

Without marketing great ideas go nowhere. Google's Larry Page recently stated:

"Virtually all economic growth (in the world) was due to technological progress. I think as a society we're not really paying attention to that," Page said. "Science has a real marketing problem. If all the growth in world is due to science and technology and no one pays attention to you, then you have a serious marketing problem."

Tim Berners-Lee, who created the WWW, wrote this in Weaving the Web:

People have sometimes asked me whether I am upset that I have not made a lot of money from the Web. In fact, I made some quite conscious decisions about which way to take my life. These I would not change - though I am making no comment on what I might do in the future. What does distress me, though, is how important a question it seems to be to some. This happens mostly in America, not Europe. What is maddening is the terrible notion that a person’s value depends on how important and financially successful they are, and that that is measured in terms of money. That suggests disrespect for the researchers across the globe developing ideas for the next leaps in science and technology. Core in my upbringing was a value system that put monetary gain well in its place, behind things like doing what I really want to do. To use net worth as a criterion by which to judge people is to set our children’s’ sights on cash rather than on things that will actually make them happy.

I have always been fascinated at the idea of bridging science with marketing because (from limited conversations I have had with various scientists) it seems that most scientists are nearly purely academic, or are populists who know little about their topic. It seems like there is not enough time for someone to do marketing and cutting edge research, or is there? And if/when you start marketing aggressively does it undermine the credibility of the scientific research?

Published: February 19, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


February 19, 2007 - 12:14pm

"Science has a real marketing problem." I don't think this is true, it seems to me that "science" if you can even make an semi-accurate blanket statement with such a general term, has gotten a lot of GREAT PR latley with the rise of the new atheists and the large amount of scientific stories and information being voted VERY high on the social media sites. It seems there is more interest for science and technology then there was at any other time in recent history,

I also think that REALLY exceptional ideas market themselves, ie you tell 2 people (or press release this is a hypothetical) and it spreads from there. Ofcourse most ideas / inventions / breakthroughs are not really that exceptional so they require a lot of marketing to be successful.

February 19, 2007 - 12:30pm

I should add to my previous comment. Even with a really exceptional idea great marketing speeds up acceptance and overall market penetration.

February 19, 2007 - 2:48pm

Regarding Tim's quote, people who judge other people based on net worth are no less superficial than people who judge people based on age or weight.

As for what Larry said, most people don't follow the stock market or the news that have no entertainment value. That's one reason some people don't enjoy watching C-SPAN 24/7. While you get access to information you'll never get on CNN, the information come unpackaged so it puts some people to sleep. As for science, where is the entertainment value in finding out that Google has people developing Artificial Intelligence?

The only reason Google's been in the news lately is because its raking in a ton of benjamins, not because people are interested in how search engines work.

February 19, 2007 - 3:07pm

I think the academic and scientific world needs to depend much less on government grants. The reason being, if the grant money wasn't readily there for them, the academics and scientists would then have to take their ventures and studies to the commercial world, which is must less forgiving about quality of investment.. be it time or money.

As far as marketing, I truly believe all of science and academia should be forced to market their ideas. There shouldn't be a separate bubble for science/academia where research can go on almost indefinitely in areas that the market is critical of. Reason being, if you have such strong passion and devotion to your topic of study, it should be very easy for you to market your ideas to the commercial world.

I have a lot of friends who lived their lives in the academic world. Most, after obtaining the highest level of education, attempted to succeed in the commercial world, where they failed miserably considering how intelligent and skillful they were. And they failed because of their inability to communicate their ideas and passions. And every single one of them fell back and took refuge by getting a job in the academic world, where they could get paid in grants, work as they see fit, without the markets influence.

February 19, 2007 - 6:49pm

The way that Google became popular was really amazing. Google has not advertised on any media so far. According to Google founders, it became popular just through the "word of mouth". If you think you will know that they are really through. You have never seen that Google advertises with the TV and radio whereas its competitors do it.

What I want to say is that "a good idea", like Google, doesn't need marketing. People will advertise for it for free: Word of mouth.

February 19, 2007 - 7:26pm

Folks in pure scientific research are rarely savvy marketers. There is a huge divide in mindset of people in these two professions. One group is primarily driven by the need to know the unknown and the other one by profit motive. Perhaps thats what makes it so.

February 19, 2007 - 7:54pm

Very nice post Aaron!

Well being an engineering student this post has left me thinking what actually i need to do to succeed in life! What I need... time, money or is there something else I am searching for...

February 19, 2007 - 9:29pm

Google has not advertised on any media so far. According to Google founders, it became popular just through the "word of mouth".

By Google's same public relations spin one could deduce that Google Checkout is an utter failure, giving away millions of dollars and using preditory pricing to try to win a few percent market share.

And Google is excelent at public relations. They don't need to buy many ads in mainstream media because they are featured in the content. You can all that word of mouth, but it is word of mouth pushed more by public relations than technology.

February 20, 2007 - 2:27am

In reply to Deke
"I think the academic and scientific world needs to depend much less on government grants."

If you removed government grants you would remove the freedom of doing science for science's sake, and important non-profit making projects would suffer badly. I suspect that you would end up with a system where research was only done if you could make money; safe science.

There is a lot of integration between academic and industrial research, and many post docs that I know have swapped from unsecure, low paid university research posts for industry.

Me? I think I may be heading in that direction, yes I love the freedom of academic research, but money is important too.

Maybe I should go into marketing ;)

February 20, 2007 - 7:53am

Scientists have a real marketing problem, no science.

Was it Larry Page who figure out Adwords or someone else? Larry did what he did best, and let someone else manage the business end of Google.

The point is -- you need to do what you do best. I can't program for crap, I'm not even going to try. Why should I spend 6 months trying to do something a programmer can do for me for $150? Just the same, scientists should not try to market, thats just not what they do.

February 20, 2007 - 6:55pm

"I think the academic and scientific world needs to depend much less on government grants."

I also disagree with this statement. No scientist can guarantee successful results of any work that has never been done - so by limiting grants for such work, you would essentially wipe out innovation.

I personally don't think science needs to be marketed any differently. Proven science evolves into a product or service, which then is marketed, but we already know we pay heavy premiums on a lot of our products here in the US. You can't start marketing prematurely or without a proven product or we will simply see those costs rolled on to the consumer.

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