Monday, December 10, 2007

Does My Marketing Suck?

I've long believed that you can tell a lot about a company's fortunes, both present and future, from their marketing campaigns. Case in point: Apple. I'm far from the first person to say that their "Get a Mac" ad campaign is brilliant - both brilliantly conceived and brilliantly executed. But I may be the first person to have recommended to their friends and family that they buy Apple shares upon seeing that campaign. Why? Not just 'cuz it's brilliant. Also because of what it says about their growth strategy - namely through increased desktop and laptop sales at the expense of Microsoft. And anyone familiar with the desktop/laptop market knows that, about a year ago when Apple launched those ads, they had less desktop share than Linux, which is really saying something. So, there was a lot of room to grow - no place but up, really. After posting the biggest gains of any computer maker in the last couple quarters, Apple is up to somewhere between 3 and 5%, depending on which analyst report you look at, and their stock is up 125% since Oct. 2006.

Is it all because of the ad campaign? No, it also has to do with the blockbuster success of the high-volume iPod and iPhone, and the brand affinity these products have engendered. The Get a Mac campaign turned this reinvigorated awareness of and affinity towards the Apple brand into Mac sales - I'll say it again - Brilliant!

Similarly, sometimes you can tell when a company is getting a little bit desperate by their campaigns. Take the following banner ad, for example, which I saw running on SourceForge recently.

I don't know if / why your monitoring software sucks, Hyperic, but I'll be happy to tell you why I think this ad does.

  1. It's WAY too frontal in at least three ways.
    1. Many sysadmins that see this ad will have had some part in selecting/implementing their current monitoring software, and so they will have some degree of personal and professional investment in it. This makes them unlikely to freely admit that it "sucks," let alone take the time to tell you why just so they can get added to some spam list. It reminds me of how a marketing professor in B-School explained why the "...for Dummies" book series was successful but the me-too "...for Complete Idiots" series flopped. People's egos can handle admitting that they're a Dummy on some subjects, his logic went, but to call oneself a Complete Idiot, that's just too harsh.
    2. In my 10+ years experience in b2b technology marketing, rarely have I seen it pay off to go around poking your competition in the eye. As much as I dislike buzzwords, coopetition is the dominant structural environment in IT, and this kind of junk marketing limits a company's opportunity to collaborate with competitors in areas where it makes sense.
    3. Most enterprise customers really don't like to see vendors bashing each other - it comes off as tres gauche.
  2. It's trying too hard to be cool, though I'll admit the magic 8 ball gimmick is clever. Still, this ad's forced effort to connect with sysadmins reminds me a little of the Splunk t-shirts from a while back that read "Taking the SH out of IT" - which were good for a cheap laugh, but ultimately were too crude to be considered professional.
  3. The voice seems off - to the casual glance, which is all most banner ads get, it looks like they're asking me to tell them why Hyperic sucks (we can start with the Miami Dolphinesque color scheme).
  4. It's too obviously self-serving. Why not just save everyone the time and trouble, Hyperic, and tell us why you think everyone else's monitoring software sucks?
  5. Lastly, and related to the previous, what this ad ultimately is telling the market is that Hyperic thinks its monitoring software is far superior to everyone else's, and that, further, the company just can't understand why the rest of the world doesn't see it the same way. Translation: the rest of the world doesn't see it the same way. Which is why this ad comes off as desperate.

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