Jan 17, 2018
Today, I want to share a little story about me. Since I am a marketer, I have the tendency to see everything through the lenses of a marketer. When I go to a website, I’ll immediately start evaluating the design, copy writing and Calls-to-action. When I am reading an email, I start thinking, “What is the intent of this email from the sender and does he or she achieve the objective?”
One day, I was having a casual conversation with my dentist about this. Apparently, he does the same thing. At any social gathering, he doesn’t pay attention to people’s attire or their appearance; he is fixated on their teeth. It’s funny how our jobs and professions affect how we view things outside of work.
Here is me in the beautiful valley in France, surrounded by beautiful French country, and yet I couldn’t stop being a marketer. Let me share with you my Da Vinci story.
Visiting Chateaux in the Loire Valley has always been on my bucket list. On one of my business trips to Europe this year, I made an intentional detour to Loire. Like a typical type-A traveler, I mapped out details and powered through famous Chateaux such as Chambord, Cheverny, d’Amboise Chenonceau, Villandry and Usse, all in one weekend. All right! Chateaux on steroids in 48 hours!
On the way out of Chateau d’Amboise, I was chatting with a couple of Americans who had just arrived in Loire that morning. We were exchanging tips on what to do or see in our short stays. They briefly mentioned Chateau du Clos Luce, Leonardo da Vinci’s last residence. What? Da Vinci was in Loire five hundred years ago? I got a chance to see the “Last Supper” in Milan. I was so impressed with his masterpiece. I just had to check out his place.
His last residence was more like a villa, not a chateau. It wasn’t huge. I got a chance to visit his bedroom, kitchen, study and work place. The residence had a huge garden. The museum staff built prototypes of his inventions such as a machine gun, a flying machine and an assault chariot and placed them nicely at around the garden.
I marveled over his drawings and prototypes of his inventions. Then, as a marketer, I kept wondering: if he were able to bring these machines to life and make them work, how would he market and sell his incredible inventions? How would he explain the complicated features and benefits in a way that nobles, kings and wealthy merchants could comprehend? What would his show-and-tell demo look like? What kind of visual content would he create to convey his message if he didn’t have the resources to create live demonstrations of his prototypes? If he were a savvy business person like Thomas Edison, would he build a company, hire a team and dispatch them to different kingdoms and territories to promote his inventions? Oh, wait, what if I were his Chief of Staff or VP of Sales or Chief Marketing Officer? Suddenly, I got excited!
By the way, all these thoughts were running through my mind while I was standing in his study room. Oh, I loved his study room. There was a corner for him to draw and paint, then there was an area so that he could experiment with chemicals and whatever Da Vinci liked to do, and there was an area where he could rest or have discussions with his guests - a brainstorming place. Such a nice setting!
So I’m standing there in his study thinking, “How would I promote and sell his inventions if I were his VP of sales or CMO?” Before I got started, I asked myself a hypothetical question: “Would it have been possible to successfully sell Da Vinci’s creations in his era, the early sixteenth century, even if the products were manufactured and a sales team were properly trained?” Well, humans had been selling and buying for thousands of years by then. Selling would not be the issue; the issues would be the products and the buyers. Then the next two questions came to my mind:
• Are Da Vinci’s products relevant?
Let’s think about this: During Da Vinci’s time, most of the goods in transactions were products they needed to eat, wear, live or transport. Although transactional products may also have included art, music and different forms of entertainment or even weapons, products existed to meet their daily needs. Obviously, most of Da Vinci’s creations were so advanced that they were not directly relevant to people’s personal or business essentials. So, that’s a “No”.
• Are Da Vinci’s buyers ready?
The so-called “advanced technologies” during that time were things like winches and wedges. Until Da Vinci’s death in 1512 , people still believed that the Earth was the center of the universe. Galileo Galilei didn’t publicly announce his belief that the Earth orbited around the Sun until 1632 . Acceptance of out-of-the-box thinking was low and the pool of potential customers that could afford luxuries was small. So, this was another “No”.
As much as I was excited about marketing and selling Da Vinci’s creations, I quickly analyzed the possibilities in my mind and recognized the chances of success were very low. As much as I could convey his vision and put the team together to sell the products, the products didn’t solve the buyers’ immediate challenges and the whole ecosystem wasn’t ready.
While looking at his inventions, I ran through the whole analysis in my mind for about 10 minutes. Then, I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t have been feasible to sell his products at that time. Da Vinci’s ideas were meant to remain only ideas in his era.
It might seem a little worrisome that I was still thinking about marketing while I was in the presence of Da Vinci. You think he would inspire me to invent something. But, he did not – he inspired me to do what I always do. A marketer will always be a marketer. That was my Da Vinci story. Sad, but true.
Thank you for listening, until next week.