Emotional brand building for enterprise software

The attentive visitor of via fCh has seen how much fun the Q&A section of LinkedIn can be. A while back I posted the question Emotional brand building for enterprise software?

Here's a little background on the above question: During my formal days in enterprise software I used to say that if advertising sold servers then we should have hired some actress/model to sell them like shampoo. At that time, this was rather my reaction to those folks in marcom who had the budgets and seemed to have spent most (their) resources on some template or color scheme.

Not only when associated with consumer products rather than enterprise IT infrastructures, brands have an emotional component.

Even if short lived, the MS Office paper clip animated character was aimed to assist while driving emotions--alas, negative. In the enterprise space, we have an end-user component of most software, but it is seldom that the users themselves make the buy-decisions. Such decisions, in case they are still made in our time, belong to people who are several levels away from that end-user component.

Now, a few additional angles for the action & thinking types:
  1. Do the IT infrastructure-providers themselves "put" enough emotion into their products? To begin with, think of the penguin associated with open source (OS) projects! I know, one may object that mere emotion is what fuels a great deal of the OS movement.
  2. Can a regular organization support concepts like "movement," or "emotion as fuel"?
  3. Even if the organization were to foster emotionally driven working environments, will that turn into emotionally charged products?
And, for those who cannot make it to LinkedIn Q&A, here's my choice for the best answer:
There is an old saying that goes something like this: "no one was ever fired for selecting IBM."

In a prior line of work, I represented a company with about 5% market share. We competed with a company that held 50% market share.

We often competed head-to-head for business and the decision was always made by a purchasing group.

Whether we were the better choice or not in any given situation, my company ALWAYS had to battle the perception that the other company was the safe choice.

To use a boxing analogy, we always had to win by knockout; if the fight went the distance, the scorecards always favored the reigning champ.

Fear may not be the angle you are looking to exploit, but it is a very powerful emotion.

Looking at the converse, I remember an old Mac commercial about a corporation measuring employee productivity on Macs versus PCs and the character says: "But that is not fair, people LIKE the Mac."

If a provider was able to co-opt the position of achieving high levels of adoption amongst users, I imagine that emotion would be very powerful for an an enterprise solution.
NOTA BENE: The author of the above answer comes from sales. Obviously, the answer turns the initial idea/concept behind my question upside-down, while still being correct--Yes, negative emotion can be the default emotion in the brand tactics/strategy? of IT infrastructure vendors.

The Media They Are A-Changin'

Despite looking like Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the Wall Street Journal was resisted by some high-mindedness of the Bancrofts' preoccupation with editorial integrity at WSJ, green-light for the deal has come as Murdoch agreed to pay an extra $40M in fees for the Family's i-bankers and attorneys. I'm sure we'll learn more about this inter-family affair so let's think for a while what this may mean for the print media landscape.

Background: The US print media alone are a $15B/year business whose overwhelming reliance on advertising has been under attack from:
  • the internet as an alternative source for news and commentary;
  • the internet as support for a better advertising model;
  • the alienation of their readers.
Despite trying consolidation and other "financially-rational" business tools, there was little, if not worse, that the print media could do about the above three developments. In the newspaper business, the last two standing had been The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, until the Bancrofts gave in; Now it's just NYTimes--still resisting Morgan Stanley calls for reorganization and such.

The Murdoch Factor: Rupert Murdoch could be described as the ultimate newspaper man--in addition to being one of the sharpest businessmen in media and media-men in business. Built patiently over decades, by sometimes ignoring the calls from the financial community, his media empire is best positioned to capitalize, on a global scale, on the synergies at the convergence of all media--the internet, satellite, print, etc. Murdoch may well shape the next media business model for he's got the most pieces of this puzzle. In a sense, media will likely become more democratic--easier to access, lower price, wider distribution.

Likely Re-actions: WSJ.com was among the select few internet media properties still charging for access. In case Murdoch decides to make money at the convergence of media and lowers to price, expect FREE online versions of your favorite publications. Foreign Affairs, Atlantic Monthly, NYRB, or Harper's will likely be a cost-free click away from you. Consequently, at least part of the $15Bn will be re-routed via the internet. Online publications will be wide-open to readers-input, through blogs and other MySpace emulating mechanisms. An early taste of the audience-generated opinion and commentary one only has to enter the newly added blog section of NYTimes. The audience generated content at NYTimes tops most contributions of The Times' own staff's through richness of perspectives and intelligence. The online versions of the newspapers will take a life on their own, becoming the loci for extended and virtual town-halls. Unlike their print versions, the content will be rich and continuously re-freshed. You think some about the rest and let us know by way of COMMENTS.

For a view into the failed mechanics of news-media, take a look at Goodbye to Newspapers?

A victory of usability and one clear victor
The cell-phone consumer

Suffice it to say that iPhone is what you could at most have dreamed about, yet as soon as you see it you may well say: This is it! Any more appreciative talk about iPhone, the product, is akin to belaboring the obvious. Analyzing iPhone, the experience, can yield useful insights. Defining the iPhone experience at the intersection of the iPhone product and AT&T' Edge service is the first step. And here's where the problems start for the iPhone experience.

Indeed, AT&T Edge is so inadequate that one is left wondering why Steve Jobs is betting the (early) commercial success of iPhone on a sub-par communications network. For one, Jobs knew better iPod, the product, had to be complemented by iTunes in order to make a successful iPod experience. And, to top it all, AT&T and iPhone are in a long term exclusive relationship. At this time, for all we know, AT&T is working hard to update its network to 3G and has the lion share of the cell-phone market in the US.

This situation begs the question of the nature of the deal behind such marriage. Financially speaking, at least until AT&T gets to 3G, it could be a zero-sum game: Whatever Apple misses due to exclusivity, AT&T pays back in one way way or the other. And, as if to keep a 1/2 ace in its sleeve, iPhone has Wi-Fi connectivity.

Moreover, to protect its own iPod franchise, the storage capacity of the iPhone is rather limited and no extension slot, for memory or applications, is provided. This is despite Apple's calling the iPhone the best iPod to date.

What are the other players in the market going to do?

Nokia is probably the best positioned to counter Apple's iPhone. If MYLO is any indication, Sony/Ericsson will most likely keep overreacting with some feature-laden product. Samsung still has to overcome technology hurdles to play in the premium segment. Motorola and Palm will take at least a temporary hit until they can turn on real innovations. RIM is probably protected until the market figures out whether or not iPhone is a contender in corporate email.

The discussion for wireless carriers goes in two directions. For US-based carriers, the best hope is to roll-out products mimicking iPhone before AT&T upgrades its network. The non US-based carriers will most likely enter some sort of mating dance contest to win Apple over--the market leaders will be the probable winners.

Regardless the strategies each player will implement, there is already a clear winner, the consumer.

For those readers who are still to get their hands onto an iPhone, I suggest watching the following two clips as a good approximation for the better half of the experience:

Next on MySpace or else

It so happens that I became more accustomed with MySpace on behalf of a special type of client, a rap musician from West Hollywood. From afar, MySpace is one of the early success stories of Web 2.0, a place where user generated content and communities are thriving.

In theory this a marriage made in heaven: A virtual place to loiter is provided to those whose most resource is time. On the supply side, Mr. Murdoch makes most money, on advertising, while paying for technology. For the aspiring artist, with little DIY technology skills, MySpace seems like the shortest path to the audience. However, the MySpace audience is fickle and very hard to monetize on. In a sense, MySpace replaces the studios in that it provides a launching pad for many artists, yet it is only in theory that the successful artist stands to make some money. MySpace expenditures are mostly about the technology while marketing costs are very low--so it's the only one that can scale.

Consequently, artists may do better if they leverage MySpace-type of websites as mere portals into online properties they actually own and manage. For its part, MySpace can still make the extra steps and offer more to the aspiring artists, not only in terms of revenue sharing, but also in terms of providing support for a sustainable business model for artists. For example, as far as features of such technology support, MySpace can provide analytics, traffic management, payment systems, etc.

For practical details on enhancing either side of the virtual community equation, contact fCh.

An IPO, A New Model

Last week we saw the IPO of MetroPCS Communications Inc. (PCS). This is a provider of unlimited wireless communication service for a flat rate with no signed contract. Its target demographics consist of budget- and value-conscious customers. Customers pre-pay between $35 and $50 monthly for unlimited levels of service. For $50/month, one gets unlimited talk, instant messaging, and internet access--Sprint-Nextel is running a test whereby one gets unlimited access to all services for $150/month. MetroPCS deploys and operates an all-digital network based on third-generation infrastructure and handsets. This is a new model for the US markets, yet quite common in Europe.

Likely effects of the growth of the MetroPCS model are: the erosion of the traditional wireless operators power and margins, the commoditization of the space, followed (hopefully) by improved quality of signal, and a-la-carte service and product offerings. The handset manufactures able to sell cheap and reliable phones are also likely winners. It is also interesting to learn the extent to which MetroPCS' evolution will mirror that of AOL's.

Was YouTube Worth It?

NYTimes DealBook has an interesting feature on the merits of the $1.6Bn YouTube deal Google made: Was YouTube Worth It?. Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, recently said about the deal:“If you can build a sustainable eyeball business, you can always find clever ways to monetize it." Make sure to follow the previous link for some very insightful comments from the NYTimes readers.

Here's my answer:

By paying that much, with its own highly priced stock, for YouTube, Google also made sure neither Yahoo nor MicroSoft would get it.

The challenge is still with Google, and those folks who kept buying GOOG above $450 a share, to turn YouTube into a money making machine.

I tend to agree with Eric Schmidt on this one, it's more important to have the traffic and then you can monetize on it. Among the challenges one can think about the copyright issues (in case they keep coming up the whole YouTube model has to change), and the many alternative sites.

At the end of the day, the winner will be the company(/ies) that can assemble the best video-infrastructure (storage, access, publication, scalability, reliability, etc.) the fastest. The current limits will also have to be relaxed--i.e. size of the video-clip and so on. Then, attach a community, like Flickr and Amazon, and you have a money machine.

For some earlier thoughts on this, check this up: Long Tale


About two years ago, when I started to publish Hattrick, I had an entry about my take on the blogosphere--what makes it work and how from an individual perspective. That piece is available here: Blogs are free enterprise capitalist expressions of communication.

Meanwhile, Mini-Microsoft came along and, with it, the blogosphere took another turn. Corporate communications changed by bringing together constituencies kept separate until then--employees, investors, customers, etc. Here you can access some of my contributions to this turn.

Now, it's time a company set its website as a BLOG. The company, arvetica, in its own words, help[s] companies design and implement innovative projects, and seems to be about business and creativity, just like CREIRE.

I wonder what the next stage of the blogosphere will be.