I really have tried to keep out of this "Lotus Marketing Sucks" flu that is going around. Really, I did. Only a few replies on Ed's blog and Stuart McIntyre has done the best job to date in simplifying the overall issue.

To me even the "hay days" of Super.Human.Software that some lament as the high point of Lotus marketing confused me just as much as Gil's yellow boxing gloves did last year. I didn't/don't get any of them. I don't think I'm supposed to get them. I'm pretty sure I'm not the ideal IBM client. I don't have $100,000's to drop on blades, SANs or power systems. Recall the "M" in IBM? Machines. right? It is taking a while for IBM to also realize they are a software company. They are an aircraft carrier and take a while to maneuver. Most IBM Business Partners are more like jet-skis; small, agile, fast. Give them a break once in a while. They (IBM) have after all helped, albeit indirectly, to buy your house, that car and/or put the kids through college.

So fast forward to last week. IBM takes out a full page ad in the WSJ. If I had the money I'd do that too. And it is a step in the right direction. It is advertising after all. And get this, it wasn't to the "converted" either. A mainstream publication no less. Yet the peanut gallery that is the yellow-verse howled from the roofs. "Too many words!", "Too many hyphens!". It is the WSJ; that is why their readers buy it....lots of words - with - lots - of - hyphens. It also wasn't specifically Lotus, not even a mention. Small steps people.

Others in the "sphere of fear" derided IBM for the non-use of TV advertising. Because that worked so well for the car industry, the banks and the 401(k) providers? It has worked for Apple, but, and prepare the shocker here folks, IBM isn't Apple. Not in any way, shape, or form. The only commonality between the two is technology. That is like comparing the marketing, advertising and sales techniques of an alcohol beverage company to that of a breakfast cereal manufacturer.  At some level they have some intersection, but they are not the same and are treated totally different. Would Miller advertise on Nickelodeon? Would Corn Flakes use Playboy as a medium? Now that is something to howl at.

Good news though, I know what I don't know. I don't play in a company that has 300,000 employees. I don't have $800,000 to spend on the channel. I didn't do marketing, advertising or sales at college (in fact I did a software engineering degree). But I do know that people only purchase products they know about. No one ever buys a product they have never heard of. Ever. Hopefully the WSJ ad is the first salvo to get this message out. It didn't mention any products. Small steps people. Hopefully IBM have some people with smarties tracking this to see if it is working and that the targeted audience is getting the message. I may not get it, but maybe I'm not the intended target. And that's OK because I know what I don't know.

In the past 18 months or so I've seen a marked improvement internally to Lotus. People are starting to ask the right questions to the right people. Let them get on with it for a while and stop forcing IBM and Lotus to have to do a full court PR exercise to keep the Yellow Submarine happy. Crap, even 300 bloggers on PlanetLotus can't agree what IBM should do. Imagine 300,000 IBMers sticking their oar in.

If you don't like the IBM message, make your own. We're a small BP, yet we've sold 400% more software in 2009 than in 2008. Stop trying to micro-manage IBM, come up with your own plays, switch off the TV and get out there and evangelize to someone other than a fellow Yellow Submariner.  If you don't, you could all end up at the bottom of the sea. It may well be the Yellow Sea, but being at the bottom of it does no one any good.
Darren Duke   |   May 11 2009 06:14:00 AM   |    lotus    |  
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Comments (9)

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1 - Nathan T. Freeman    http://nathan.lotus911.com    05/11/2009 7:45:34 AM

"Gil's yellow boxing gloves did last year"


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2 - Brian Allison    http://blog.brially.com    05/11/2009 8:00:22 AM

If you don't get the advert then it doesn't work. If it doesn't show a product it doesn't work.

Ford does not say we sell cars come buy one. It says here's the focus look how good it is.

Yes IBM is not Apple but what apple has proven is one good mass media campaign and everyone knows your product even if they intend to buy it or not. Buzz leads to sales.

Why do you think Microsoft blast the mass media. Sorry I've seen to many false dawns on IBM marketing.

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3 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    05/11/2009 12:56:01 PM

@1, that should have been two different campaigns not one. My fault. What I meant was I never understood the yellow boxing gloves, nor Gil and his server room antics of the past 1-3 years. I do understand hot latinas eating burgers though.

@2, obviously I disagree. Take Cialis, they show a woman and a man in a tub overlooking the ocean holding hands (in two seperate tubs no less). No product, nor outcome. Yet the message still gets across. This, by the way, is advertising, not necessarily marketing. I think differentiating the two is a must if any conversation about spend is involved.

Now, I still stand by my initial comment "No one ever buys a product they have never heard of. Ever", but just because IBM/Lotus have a history of false starts doesn't mean they don't get it. Nor does it preclude them from getting it right in the future, or hopefully the present either. Maybe they do, but I'm sure most jet ski jockeys given the aircraft carrier most would most likely scurry back to the jet ski in short order. Me included. I know what I don't know.

To your last point, MS (and indeed Apple) have a handful of products so it is somewhat easier for them to allocate the resources to the areas you wish to target. IBM has a few more products than that (for good or bad). God knows how many active SKUs IBM have. It maybe an issue that IBM is too big to mount an effective campaign (in bank terms, too big to succeed), or more lightly it is a tad overwhelming to compare the Lotus portfolio with their MS equivilents. Still either way, you look at your target, you figure out what your target reads, listens to and/or watches and then you go after your target with campaigns likely to make them stop and think. Hopefully the WSJ is the first of such a campaign. Small steps.

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4 - Nathan T. Freeman    http://nathan.lotus911.com    05/11/2009 1:03:59 PM

"No one ever buys a product they have never heard of. Ever"

Darren, do you have kids? If they're older than 5, I bet you've bought a product you've never heard of.

"Daddy, I want a Bratz doll. Buy me a Bratz doll!"

At any rate, Bob Picciano disagrees with you: { http://www.lotus911.com/nathan/escape.nsf/d6plinks/NTFN-7RVR5W }

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5 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    05/11/2009 1:20:13 PM

@4, Nathan, *you* may never have heard of it, but obviously a 5 year old has. Either from friends, school, TV, whatever. The fact remains someone or something convinced the child that "it" is required or is cool or is "abc" (fill in your abc for any product you care about).

I'd like a little clarificaiton on why you think Bob disagrees with me, maybe a quote from the transcription would help clarify my myopia. I do however see you agree with me in comment number 7. StarOffice, OpenOffice and Symphony are all good MS Office alternatives, but without knowing about them whose going to use them? (side note, each of the above office alternatives each have pros and cons, and I'm not trying to debate that here).

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6 - Nathan T. Freeman    http://nathan.lotus911.com    05/11/2009 1:33:46 PM

Right. *YOU* bought it, though YOU haven't heard of it. Your kid has heard of it, but so what? Clearly someone bought a product they'd never heard of, so your assertion is false.

You could change it to "No one ever buys a product that no one's ever heard of." I'm not sure that's a useful statement, but you could make it.

As for Bob's statements, there's this "I knew about the Smart Work Op-Ad we were taking out in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, but it's also not the same area, or publication, or community or sustainability or volume that we need to continue to roll." How would the Op-Ad cause someone to have heard of a product? Is there a product mentioned in it?

Or you could listen to the MP3 file that's linked to at the end of the post.

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7 - Brian Allison    http://blog.brially.com    05/11/2009 1:56:36 PM

#6 Your correct that we have all bought things we've never heard of. I do it from time to time and waste money now and then.

The point is how many people make a major purchase of something they have never heard of. The products we are talking about are major purchases for any organisation as the costs scale with size.

yes we have all had that one money rich client that's just gone through the IBM catalogue and bough one of everything with no clue what we are going to do with it (Usually Government).

However, there are loads of companies out there with software they never use due to a decision maker having to have it because they heard the buzz. They usually also have no clue what it does.

Sharepoint was an example of this.

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8 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    05/11/2009 2:56:58 PM

@6, Lets change it slightly to "a person cannot purchase something until they know it exists". The purchaser knew it existed when they purchased it, toy or otherewise. (yes, yes, you could argue a purchase order clerk doesn't know but this is starting to get ridiculous and on the verge of pedantic). You may not care (you may not be the mythical being known as the decision maker), but you knew on some level what it was for (in this case to keep a child happy....or a government, or maybe some meaningful business case).

At some point in the purchase life cycle you were sold to or marketed to or advertised to, as were all of the others involved in said decision. If that is not that case, then feel free to leave your credit card number here and I will make sure to purchase a whole host of stuff you never knew existed ;)

Again, the point is that IBM are starting to do things we've never seen before. Let us all give them some rope before we hang them out to dry. Let them fully role out the programs that have been alluded to over the past few weeks. Let IBM not have to worry about the blogger, almost gold fish like attention span and our absolute delight at using IBM, and Lotus in particular, as our web-stats building pinata. We then all delight in frenzyed devisiveness for someone that has even the smallest of input that differs from the "cool kids". In school this was called bullying. On occassion community mentality can be the same thing as gang mentaility.

I have no doubt that Lotus have additional avenues to market other than, or in addition to, the WSJ, but as Bruce Elgort mentioned on twitter, "IBM marketing are dammed it they do, dammed if the don't". It is about time we applauded this change of attitiude, direction and leadership. I for one do. I just hope that IBM/Lotus are not yet finished with this exercise. Experience, after all, is the summation of your mistakes.

That fact that Bob P even sees there are other avenues is a momentus step here. It is however sailing in dangerous waters and liable to torpedoed by the Yellow Submarine before it leaves port.

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9 - Nathan T. Freeman    http://nathan.lotus911.com    05/11/2009 3:09:10 PM

"our absolute delight at using IBM, and Lotus in particular, as our web-stats building pinata."

Darren Duke 200 Sometimes I just have to bite - and no doubt will start a flame war


Nathan T Freeman 86 Bob Picciano on IBM Lotus Smarter Work (Interview)

So the meta-criticism gets more than twice the click-throughs of the message straight from the source. :-)

Methinks its more the readers than the writers that are the cause here.