Friday, July 11, 2008

Gullible marketing

I used to think that marketing had to do with adjectives: better, shinier, fat-free. I now think marketing has to do with nouns and gullibility - let me explain.

Gullible marketing is based on the premise that customers believe everything that they hear. You assume that a customer cannot distinguish one company's hype (shiny toaster) from another's (fat-free toaster).

In gullible marketing, you cannot win be asserting that you do things better than your competitors. You can only win by talking about different things than any of your competitors.

This brings us to the buzzword-filled world of Web 2.0. It is almost impossible to differentiate one RIA, Ajax, Saas-enabled development tool from another. In the gullible marketing world, Backbase, Nexaweb, Jackbe, Appcelerator and WaveMaker all look the same (if we all merged, we could call ourselves Back-nexa-jack-app-wave).

Gullible marketing would say that no customer can distinguish between our buzzword-laden pitches without a great deal of effort. Thus any time they hear similar-sounding claims from two vendors they get a sort of used-car salesman feeling that leaves them confused and dejected.
Vendor 1: Bright and shiny Ajax, RIA, Web 2.0 tools!
Vendor 2: Brighter, shinier and velvet stippled RIA, Enterprise Web 2.0 tools!!
Customer: sigh…I guess I'll wait to see what Microsoft gives me
Once customers are confused, they are likely to do nothing at all, just wait for the market develop to a point where there is a clear market leader. As a vendor, then, the trick is to say something unique to customers that they aren't hearing from anyone else and hence aren't confused about.
  1. Avoid adjective-driven differentiation. In the tech world, the adjectives faster, better and cheaper have been overused to the point of meaningless
  2. Stake out a unique nouns. Focus your messaging on something that nobody else is saying. For example, WaveMaker is the only browser-based web development tool that you can ship as a part of your application - which is a handy thing for ISVs.
  3. Start with small nouns. The implicit market size of the noun you stake out should be roughly equivalent to the size and momentum of your company. If you are a small company, try to own a little noun first. For example, shipping a browser-based customization tool with your application is going to only appeal to ISV's trying to web-enable their products, a relatively small segment of the web development space.
Another way of explaining gullible marketing is that customers believe none of what they hear from vendors, but that would be too depressing for me as a vendor to contemplate, so I prefer to think of them as gullible instead.


Anonymous said...

If I hear the words, "Provide, offers, deploys, surpasses, exceeds, interfaces, aggregates, accelerates. etc.", I am going to puke.

If I hear one of my clients that I write technical marcom for say the words, "Pain Points" again, I will kill them and probably have to go to jail. I would rather work less and tell the truth than take every job.

Christopher Keene said...

I think a big part of the problem with tech marketing is that it is mostly just a thin veneer on traditional package goods marketing, where hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on tastes better/less filling machinations.

When the products really are the same, maybe adjective tweaking is the best you can ever do. Tech products truly are different, if only because the industry is moving so rapidly. So adjective-based marketing is a fundamentally bad approach.

@SavioRodrigues said...

Chris, nice post....I've seen customers get so confused with marketing that they defer to their "software vendor of choice" for "the answer".

Christopher Keene said...

That of course is why the big vendors win so many new markets - the little guys confuse the customers so much with content-free buzzwords that customers turn to their trusted vendors for a (self-serving) translation into plain English.

Anonymous said...

I've worked in technology for over 15 years. I still go to websites everyday that after reading the home page and summary "About Us", I have little to no idea what the company does or why I should care - much less why I would ever contemplate giving them money. I now disqualify companies out of hand when I have this experience.