Thursday, March 20, 2014

Some thoughts on door handles.

About 20 years ago when I was working on the Mercedes-Benz business, I became fascinated by door handles.

Most, I noticed were flaps. To open the door you used just two or three fingers and lifted a thin metal flap.

On all Mercedes vehicles, there was, instead, a bar that you had to grip and pull out.

Both methods seems like good ways of opening doors, but I wondered about the difference in style.

I asked a marketing person and then another and of course they had no idea. Finally, they connected me with a Mercedes engineer. He explained it all to me.

If there were a crash, he said, a two or three finger flap doesn't give you much pulling power. However a grip gives you much more.

What I learned from this episode beside a bit about door handles, is that marketing people don't usually know very much about the product they're responsible for selling. At Mercedes, for instance, the smartest people are engineers, not marketers. At banks, the smartest people are usually financiers, not marketers. Same goes for technology companies.

All that said, I've always believed that most clients don't understand the product they're selling or the market they're selling into. Therefore, it's the agency's job to really get under the hood.

Today, instead, agencies don't take on that responsibility. They are busy inventing products, or financing start-ups, or entering fake ads into award shows.

That's well and good, but is it the business you're in?

Sorry if this is old-fashioned.

I happen to think you should master the job you're paid to do before you go off and do something else.

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