Ignore The Basics

Zac and Russel. I’ll probably photoshop Todd in later.


I was at an event on Wednesday night where Russel Howcroft from GPYR, although perhaps more commonly known from The Gruen Transfer, spoke.

Talking to a bunch of students about to graduate and looking for jobs, he made one particular point that I thought was quite interesting. Now I’m paraphrasing here but a small part of his speech went something like this…

“Sometimes you need to forget the basics. Ignore what ever it was you were taught in first year marketing at university, specifically the definition about what marketing actually is. This definition completely ignores the concept of “Build it and they will come” and overlooks the idea of making art for the sake of it”.
I’m still thinking about this one. I realise it isn’t always applicable and I wonder how ROI fits in with all of this but worth thinking about, no?
  • Daniel Oyston
    Posted at September 11, 2009 9:00am, 11 September Reply

    Of course the def of marketing completely ignores the concept of "Build it and they will come. The definition helps you avoid failure. I am guessing many a closed down business worked along the lines of “build it and they will come”

    I think in certain situations Russell has a point. But if you forget the basic marketing stuff (solution to a problem or need) and go with the “build it and they will come” approach then you will always find it more difficult and will have failures that might/probably could be avoided.

    However, there is something very invigorating about pursuing an idea because you just know deep down it is a good one and will work. The resources available are also a considering factor. At times you will need to just go with it and see what happens because you don’t have the time, people or money to conduct detailed market research.

    There is worth in considering Russell’s comments though. However, it is about balance.

  • Lachy
    Posted at September 11, 2009 12:42pm, 11 September Reply

    Google's whole business model is "build it now, monetize it later".

    That said, that is probably more the hero of great Marketing (Seth Godin style. Because virtually everything Google does is solution-oriented) and more the anti-thesis of the accounts/finance department.

    Still, I feel there's a strong parallel between what Russel has said and what Google do.

    Totally agree with Daniel that ultimately, you need balance and respect for the individual circumstances of your organisation.

    The best bit of advice I got in my first job out of uni was "uni teaches you how to learn. but in the real world, most of your time is spent simply getting the job done". A wonderfully ambiguous reality check.

  • Jason Tsitsopoulos
    Posted at September 11, 2009 2:49pm, 11 September Reply

    I agree with all the comments above… Specially that last line of uni teaches you how to learn and real life is about getting the job done… This is what I hear (as I am in uni myself). But I do think that, when good businesses start out, I don't think they are in it for the money. I think it is more for fun and for passion that it may have evolved out of a hobby, people liked it and then the thought of making money comes in. Build it and they will come. I know that is what I would like to do



  • Stephen
    Posted at September 11, 2009 8:29pm, 11 September Reply

    Yep – build it and they will come, in the millions but it's got to be good (and then work out how to make a quid….I think it's called Twitter!)

  • Wags
    Posted at September 12, 2009 3:01am, 12 September Reply

    Russel's comments remind me of one of Steve Jobs' famous lines:

    "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."

    If Steve can throw out the textbooks and succeed, then we'll let Russel do it, too!

  • Anonymous
    Posted at September 13, 2009 6:14pm, 13 September Reply

    Build it and they will come makes us all dumber – just for listening to it. The marketing question is HOW to build it and they will come. Or what do we build?


    Russle howcroft is probably a reasonable manager of an advertising agency – and he's entertaining like a Poodle – but that's it.

  • Kate Kendall
    Posted at September 13, 2009 10:52pm, 13 September Reply

    I wonder what Russel studied at uni?

  • Simon Oboler
    Posted at September 16, 2009 7:54pm, 16 September Reply

    @Kate – He did Marketing at Monash, not sure at what point he was there, but I am pretty positive that was his Undergrad degree.

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