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Oracle, SAP, and Half-truths/Lies in News Releases

October 20, 2006

I enjoyed this article too much not to comment on it. Evan Schuman, of eWeek fame, has a (not so) little retail technology blog called StorefrontBacktalk. In a recent compilation enewsletter, he linked back to an entry he wrote earlier called Oracle’s Accuracy Woes.

If you are looking for some background tidbits on the battle between Oracle and SAP, you’ll enjoy the article (although it’s from earlier this year).

What I enjoyed is how he so humorously exposed the truth about the types of news releases that fly from the corporate world (he says I.T., but it’s the same all over).

As any IT manager knows, news releases are self-serving documents whose entire raison d’être is to present a one-sided argument why the issuing vendor is a great place to give lots of money. Half-truths and misleading comments are not only popular in news releases, they’re damn near mandatory.

I laughed out loud. It is too true.

And then, as I thought about it, I just got plain sad.

In my work, that is one of the most frustrating things I have to deal with: Companies come to us and want us to take something trivial and make it news.

[warning: sarcasm starts here]
I’m sorry, but if you want some publicity, how about doing something meaningful or newsworthy? Create a decent product that really IS different. That really meets some unmet need. That truly offers some value.

How about if you actually DID develop a breakthrough? While I can create the appearance of a breakthrough for you, it will literally make me sick to do it. (NOTE: to be fair, some companies do actually have breakthroughs that are worth telling the world about.)

A Wall Street Journal from September 27, 2006, Some ‘Breakthroughs’ Deserve That Title–But Definitely Not All by Lee Gomes discussed this problem. Gomes wrote

But to what extent are we experiencing “breakthrough inflation,” in which the work an engineer would consider simply a good day in the lab becomes, in the hands of the PR department, an advance worhty of being shouted about from the rooftops?

That article, btw, dissects an Intel release as the basis for the discussion. Gomes also pointed out that 8,600 releases with the word “breakthrough” in the headline have been pushed out in the last couple years. Wow – must be a lot of innovation happening out there!

I’ll close with a funny example of this not-so-funny truth from Evan’s article:

Some years back, I remember a DEC manager who told reporters that a particular new OS hook they had created already had “a number of ISVs committed to using it.” When nothing turned up and the feature was abandoned, the manager conceded that no one had ever opted to support it. Asked about his news conference claim, the manager sheepishly smiled and said, “Zero’s a number.”

Once again, I wonder why I’m in marketing. . .

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Funny Ads Don’t Always Work? (r u kidding?)

October 16, 2006

I love MarketingSherpa. And this short blog entry called Research Data on Ads People Love vs Ads That Work is interesting.

Anne Holland’s point is that funny doesn’t always lead to effective (increased purchases) in advertising. She backs that up with some research results and then finishes with

No one’s gut — neither your creative team’s nor end consumers’
— can tell you which ads will really work. Only testing can.

Which, pretty much sums up my entire marketing philosophy.

And that is fine. Except she could have said this as well:

Ads aren’t typically used as sales tools as much as to create awareness.

People will only buy what they feel meets their needs. What meets their (perceived) requirements. However, if the research on emotions is at all accurate, humor could play a role in creating a positive attitude about brands. An attitude that consumers will then try to rationalize with other “facts.”

I guess I agree that testing is the only way to know – but it seems that so few companies are interested in testing these days. Even when i showed a large b2b prospect how they could almost positively improve revenues with multivariable testing, they balked at the effort (and costs – which would all be recouped).

So then what? Well, it’s true. You are guessing a bit on what will be successful. However, I am not as ready to dismiss the “entertainment” factor from advertising. I think it’s a part of what makes YouTube, myspace, and the like so successful.

Should you test? Yes. Should you dismiss humor – no.

Unless you’re a big stick in the mud anyway. In that case, you never had any humor to dismiss.

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The best story wins

October 5, 2006

I’m gearing up to write a story. It’s going to be a really interesting story. And challenging. It’s about a group of people. They have this expertise that noone else has. They understand things that others don’t. They know how to help.

But nobody knows that they know how to help. They, themselves, cannot all agree on how to tell the story. But I see how.

I’m going to write a story about how they can help.

Isn’t that what every company in the b2b space needs? A story about how they can help?

A story that explains, “Hey! We understand you and your needs! We’ve listened to you. We’ve studied you and how you want to do business. And, we’ve got solutions to meet those needs.”

It’s really quite simple. Meet needs.

Your story should explain how you do that. Why your approach to meeting their needs is unique. Why they should partner with you to solve their business problems.

I should say, it sounds simple. Sometimes making it simple is the hardest thing.

Do you have a story? Does it flow? Do the various chapters fit together? Does the chapter you are currently writing fit into the plot of those you’ve already written?

If not, it may be worth thinking about.

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Is Mean Popular in the Blogesphere?

September 29, 2006

I actually feel a little bad about ripping on Target yesterday. I know that they have to defend themselves in court – I just find the whole thing a little insane. The principles behind it all.

Why do I feel bad then?

Well, I try to teach my kids to use positive words, say things that “build others up,” and then I turn around and rip into a large corporation. It’s hypocritical. (Even if my kids aren’t reading my blog – it still matters to me.)

And my page reads go way up.

People like attitude, people like to see conflict.

It seems people like mean – or at least disagreement. Maybe it’s just debate?

Well, either way, I could have probably made my case with a little more tact.

My wife tells me I have none. And, often, she’s right.

But at least I notice it now.

Baby steps.

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Gartner offers quick wisdom on approaching the SMB, SME (whatever you call small to mid-size enterprises)

September 29, 2006

eWeek connected me with a nice read Understanding the SMB Opportunity by Tiffani Bova from Gartner.

She offered a nice summary of the market and some good advice.

SMB Market Summary

  • There are 80 million SMBs worldwide.
  • SMBs are spending an estimated $400 billion this year.
  • IT spending by SMBs will outpace that of larger enterprises through 2007.
  • SMB IT spending is growing at a 7 percent rate this year.

Her Advice

SMB decision makers are notoriously difficult to persuade. That means solution providers must do their homework and convey their relevance in terms this market can understand before they can even come close to achieving success.

Give the article a read. She offers some nice bullet points that clearly lay out a general approach.

There are plenty of assumptions you may have right now that are simply wrong. One assumption she busts is

. . .their processes in many cases aren’t any less complex than those of larger enterprises.

Read the article to find out more.

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Target’s Second Attempt at Looking Really Stupid to the World

September 28, 2006

Wow. First Target (large American retailer) banned The Salvation Army from it’s storefronts at Christmas time and now this – Target is fighting a legal battle to discriminate against consumers with visual disabilities. Brilliant.

Check out Evan Schuman’s full story in eWeek, On Handicapped Access, Target Fights the Wrong Fight for the Wrong Reason.

Basically, here’s the story:

The lawsuit essentially argues that Target’s online operation violated the American with Disabilities Act because it is not designed to be easily accessible to blind users.

Target’s defense has been that the ADA does not explicitly talk about Web sites, so, Target reasons, it’s not covered.

This has got to be one of the most insane arguments any large corporation could publically make. Evan rips them apart in this article and rightly so.

(BTW, for those of you who don’t know, it’s not an impossible task to make your site usable to people with disabilities. Guidelines and methods to do this have been around for years.)

Unbelievable. Nice move Target. Any other groups you’d care to alienate today?

Target is quickly becoming a case study in what not to do.

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Generation Y, Generation X, Baby Boomers – Age Groups

September 28, 2006

I’m just going to post this as a quick bit of information. Some of you looking at segmentation might find it useful.

A Wall Street Journal article from Sept 27 called Pitching 401(k)s To Genration Y Is a Tough Sell by Jennifer Levitz broke down the groups as follows:

  • Gen Y (18-27 years old)
  • Gen X (27-43)
  • Baby Boomer (44-61)
  • Silent Gen (above 61)

I’d never heard of that last one. Maybe you hadn’t either?