If You Build It, They May Not Come

“Field of Dreams” is more than a classic movie, or a simple story about family and the love of baseball. You may not realize that it's also an analogy for the interaction of product and marketing.  The film is a significant example of why marketing is so valuable to an organization and why you can’t simply focus on product and hope to be a success.

Most people recall the classic line, “If you build it, they will come.”  Those words were uttered throughout the movie and spurred the central character of Ray to plow right through his corn field and build a baseball diamond.  People thought he was crazy, but he followed his dream and built a field -- and the rest was history.

Product people are sort of like Ray.  They get a feeling, or an instinct, and they will proceed with reckless abandon to build the product they see in their mind.  They build with the idea that the customers will come -- and in some cases, they do.  This can be considered the manifestation of a product-driven growth.  However, I would argue even product-driven growth needs a strong partner in marketing and can’t truly succeed without it.



In the movie, Ray instinctively knows that, even if he can’t quite put his finger on it.

Go back and watch the movie again.  Throughout the film, Ray does more than destroy his crops and argue with the bank.  He goes out on the road and pitches his idea to people.  His road trip creates buzz, whether the audience (or Roy himself) can see ithat directly or not.  It offers an intangible element that drives towards the eventual destination of his success.  He gets his message out and once it is ready, the people do come.

Ray is unique in that he is a product person, but he is also a marketer.  He is spinning the story and evangelizing to the market.  He is spreading the word and getting people excited, if not directly then simply by getting out and talking. 

If he had simply stayed home, plowed and built, would the people have still come?  I would argue a hard “no.”

Product and marketing go hand in hand.   Product can create the most beautiful experience, but marketing is there to stoke the fire and pour gas on it once it catches. 

On the other hand, marketing cannot make up for a weak product.  A good product is made better by good marketing, but good marketing cannot cover up a poor product.  It simply shines a light on it and exposes its flaws very quickly. 

Ray built a great ball field, so when people came, it lived up to expectations.  The marketing did not over-reach.

Product plus marketing work well.  Product marketers are a unique breed and can sit in between the two.  Maybe Ray was actually the movie world’s best product marketer, with a foot firmly planted in both worlds?  I don’t know, but I still love the analogy -- as well as any reason to go watch that movie again.

1 comment about "If You Build It, They May Not Come".
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  1. Erin O’Malley from OSRAM Sylvania, October 6, 2021 at 1:33 p.m.

    This hit home with me this morning.  I used that same analogy yesterday for something on our website!  Just because we put it out there on our site doesn't mean they will come.

    Thanks I truly enjoyed the read.


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