Absolutely right, Mark. But you're wrong. But you're right.
I think Mark could ask a better question. In my experience as a software developer and a marketer, I have realized that quality deliverables are necessary. But I have also noticed that marketing does much more than get people to buy. Marketing exerts a profound influence on the nature of people's interaction with your deliverables.
Of course, the college has to have the programs, faculty, and other infrastructure in place to back up the marketing. But when seen long-term, a college is people. Because they choose the members of the community, the admissions/marketing team of my college are some of the most long-term powerful people in the entire institution.
Marketing defines the consumer. But the effect of marketing doesn't stop there. Because it guides expectations, it also frames the consumer experience. Since the engineers listen to consumer requests and complaints, and since marketing selects and influences consumers, marketing also has a profound effect on the engineers. In turn, the engineers' work must influence the marketers. All good organizations need a strong feedback loop of this sort as well as outliers who broaden perspectives and keep the organization from spiraling inward, out of control.
I have written this from a marketing perspective. A reciprocal, engineer-centric description could also be written.
I have not mentioned designers. This is intentional. Mark's dichotomy of engineers and marketers is pretty standard. But it's not the only way to slice the job descriptions. Good designers are both the engineer and the marketer. They are interested in building things that work well, but they are also aware of the human factors. They create the systems and frame the experience at the same time.
This should be obvious.
In my mind, Mark is a very good example of this sort of person. In fact, his ideas led me down this path myself. His own Tekka manifesto includes this sentiment:
Optional digressions for nitpickers and geeks:
(clearly, the differences and similarities in the job descriptions are not so tidy. But job descriptions are never tidy. They're round holes we try to fit onto things which may not have pegs. I reiterate: if you define the consumers and frame the experience, you are bound to have a profound impact on the users, the engineers, and the future of your organizations. Long live the marketers. May they be honest. May they listen to the engineers. Long live the engineers. May they build good things, but which also are usefully beautiful. Long live the designers. May they continue to confuse us by not fitting into any categories we devise.) (note: I have not read Seth Godin, to whom Mark is responding, mostly because I can't find a transcript of his talk at Google)
Addendum: I just watched part of Seth's talk. I can see why Mark would respond the way he did. Now, Mark must have missed the part where Seth contrasted MinuteMaid and Google and noted that Google's primary necessity is having good technology. But Seth is wrong about the web. He talks about cat food and juice and computer hardware. He doesn't seem to understand the world of web services. Loyalty is fickle, and information spreads rapidly. If there is a really well-engineered, useful product, people will find it in less time than it took Seth to finish his speech. Online, it's just as easy to give someone the product as it is to tell them about it. This is an important distinction.
Furthermore, Godin totally misses his own point: marketing on the web is about users picking things that work for them, not about companies teaching users what they ought to buy. The most depressing part of this is that Seth's slide about marketing as teaching comes right after his slide about personalization. Sigh.