I have long had a pet peeve about the importance of category experience when it comes to hiring. In advertising and marketing it is very important when hiring candidates to know they have spent time working in the category. My wheelhouse, for instance, is in technology, healthcare, education and beverages. This may not be attractive to a company looking to hire someone with financial background. The logic is that the getting up-to-speed period for a newbie is longer and, perhaps, wasted time.
My view has always been that the categories in which ad and marketing people are expert, are advertising and marketing. Selling, not manufacturing. I also believe coming to the party with preconceived ideas about a category stifles learning. Candidates may possess biases that are well-founded based upon their last assignment, but not necessarily accurate from the consumer’s point of view.
Where category experience comes in most handy, is in understanding the buying language. If you are trying to sell technology to a school teacher, it’s important to know what they care about. And the language they use when talking about what they care about. If you use language in ads or marketing that is generic you are leaving cash on the table. You have a sales accent. Good endemic category language is like music to the ears of customers and prospects.
How do we balance the negative that is “experience bias” with the positive that is finely-tuned “voice and language”? Very carefully. Peace.