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What’s in Your Marketing DNA?

On February 28, 1953, Cambridge University researchers James Watson and Francis Crick presented to the scientific community their cardboard model of the double-helix. It marked the first three-dimensional expression of a secret – the secret of life. Watson and Crick articulated an insight and discovery that revolutionized the understanding of molecular biology. They introduced the concept of the Central Dogma which set the stage for the life sciences industry we now serve.

Fast forward. In 1978, while making a sales call with my boss on Dr. Cesar Milstein at his Cambridge University laboratory in the UK, he led us to the lab down the hall where Watson and Crick worked. Later, Dr. Milstein walked us through a fundamental explanation of his work on fusing cells into hybridomas; these would form tiny factories which manufactured antibodies. The industry would call them monoclonal antibodies.

Years later, I’ve come to value even more my encounter with Dr. Milstein who, in 1984, shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine with Niels Kaj Jerne and Georges J. F. Köhler. While their team worked in relative obscurity, the outcome of their research turbocharged a revolution in genetic engineering that continues to generate exponential progress in drug discovery and development. My contribution was nothing; I simply helped calibrate one of his cell culture incubators. It was sort of like putting air in the footballs.

But our support of his work, and the work of countless others laboring as bench techs, post-doc researchers or primary investigators, has always brought me back to a comforting but awesome reality: What we do in product innovation, development, manufacturing and marketing has value. What we do matters to the world.

As marketers, we work hard to shape messages designed to educate people who have waded far deeper into biological weeds than those of us with economics degrees. Our job in marketing is to help our clients deliver solutions. The joy of serving the life science market – and those who, in turn, serve life scientists – is that we are a substrate upon which the real creators do their work. These are the anonymous imagineers and molecular biologists such as Watson, Crick and Milstein who must rely on dependable, repeatable performance from a conglomeration of sheet metal, controllers and flashing lights. After all, if we can't sell it, what does it matter?

As Crick set forth, his Central Dogma drives an imagination engine. In his case, it was the thread that ties together DNA, RNA and proteins. While they wired the building, Milstein and his team turned on the power.

In our case, our Central Dogma is the thread that connects our understanding of technology, a sense of why it’s important, what it means to the research at hand, and the effort it takes to place it into context. Our job is to make sure customers are informed and educated. Our responsibility is to not leave them guessing about what to buy based on an offer of a free toaster or dinner after the exhibits close. Those days are over.

Our Central Dogma of marketing is as basic as the nucleic acid sequence in DNA, transcribed into RNA and articulated in the form of proteins. After all, with Watson and Crick illuminating a life code so nearly perfect, and seeing how it worked for Dr. Milstein, should we not follow nature and copy the sequence as well?

Here it is: Understand. Establish context. Articulate value. Educate.

We think it’s a good sell.

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