Andy Cunningham Shares Silicon Valley Marketing Insights with Software Management Students-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Andy Cunningham Shares Silicon Valley Marketing Insights with Software Management Students

Andy Cunningham at CMU-SV, July 2013
Andy Cunningham at CMU-SV, July 2013

In the high tech world, big ideas can come from anywhere, and plenty of companies have started in classrooms — and students at Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus (CMU-SV) may already be working on the next big thing.

To help prepare them for what lies ahead, CMU-SV invited Silicon Valley marketing expert Andy Cunningham to address graduate students in the Software Management program as part of Sheryl Root's Agile Marketing class.

Cunningham is a founder of Series C and recently served as president and CEO of Bite Communications. She's launched more than just new products, she's been responsible for introducing entire new categories of business in Silicon Valley, from desktop publishing and digital imaging to microprocessors and very light jets.

After working on the launch of the original Macintosh computer for Apple Inc in the 1980s, she and her public relations agency, Cunningham Communications, worked extensively with Steve Jobs at NeXT and Pixar. Cunningham's expertise in marketing, branding and PR for high-tech products and companies has made her a much-sought advisor.

Root, also an expert in high-tech marketing and an associate professor in CMU-SV's Software Management program, said it's very important to bring industry perspective to the academic curriculum.

"These guest lectures reflect the real-world emphasis at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley, and our approach to educating managers who can contribute to the success of teams and companies," Root said. "Andy Cunningham is a great speaker and she really knows how to connect engineers and marketers to make a real impact."

Cunningham's presentation, "How to Position Your Company for Success," shared the "secret sauce" she's developed to find compelling placement for products in the market. She starts by carefully defining a company's positioning — a fact-based exercise, beginning with differentiation and strategy — as well as the brand, the emotional expression of that positioning.

This leads to the message architecture — "what you do, and why it matters" as she put it. The company's vision, mission, key messages, value propositions and even taglines should express everything in the business, she says.

Cunningham also discussed her perspective on the "DNA" of different companies, which in her experience is ultimately centered on customers, on products, or on concepts. The DNA develops naturally, usually following the tone set by the founders, and shapes "how each company sees the world, how it measures success, segments company organizations, makes decisions and sets marketing," she said.

When it comes to marketing, the high-tech environment isn't like traditional product- or service-based companies. In Silicon Valley especially, Cunningham explained, engineers rule, and the relationship between product teams and marketing teams can be "oil and water."

That's an important insight for the future managers and start-up founders in the class, who will need to communicate between teams and consider how to resolve differences between them.

CMU-SV Devapriya Natarajan, SM '13, said Cunningham provided a useful "framework" for navigating the steps of marketing and branding, no matter the product or industry. Classmate MJ Lee, SM '13, agreed. "It was a checklist of startup marketing, from a person with decades of experience," he said.

Following her discussion, Cunningham took questions from students, who were eager to hear more about her experiences with launching successful (and less successful) projects and her take on today's Internet companies and environment.

Cunningham was also founder of CXO Communication as well as ZERO1: the Art and Technology Network. She is on the boards of the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), The Aspen Institute and ZERO1.