November 4th was a sad day for B2B marketing. On that dark Thursday, there was happiness too, since several months of hard work for the NetApp marketing team happened to culminate in an unprecedented global launch around our Future Ready IT value proposition. However, our main competitor EMC tried to disrupt our plans with some pretty old school guerilla tactics. They failed, but their attempt did help me put some thoughts together around guerilla marketing as a competitive tactic in today’s marketing mix. So a happy day for the storage and data management industry thanks to NetApp, and a sad day for IT marketing thanks to EMC.
Here’s what they did
EMC hired a couple of small trucks with big advertising billboards mounted on top of them, and had them drive around our fairly isolated business park office for a day. In addition, they sprayed their logo on our sidewalk. I guess the whole purpose was to influence the European IT journalists we were briefing inside on the new platforms and management software that were about to go to market. They never saw any of the messages EMC had put out there. I actually walked up to one of the truck drivers, while he was taking a sigaret break, and asked him about his client. He didn’t know anything – had never heard of EMC. His boss had just told him to drive around our place all day, that’s all.
So on Nov 8, I tweeted from my @keeshenniphof handle (follow the links for some pix):
» #Bangsy? No #EMC! #weakguerillatactics http://yfrog.com/513x2j
» #EMC put Dinky Toys outside our office #weakguerillatactics http://yfrog.com/18j5fj
…and received some questions on why I think these tactics no longer work in 2010.
Here’s why they failed
So here’s why I think the time is right for a re-evaluation of Guerilla Marketing. Traditionally:
1. Market leaders do not engage in guerilla marketing, because it is a challenger tactic. Once a market leader like EMC starts investing in these types of activities, the street will understand they are losing market share fast. And they are. So if you decide you want to go for it (and have accepted the fact that from a clear dominant market leading position, you are being pulled down into a two-horse race), you better find a very creative, very funny, very attractive way of getting some attention and exposure. Some trucks and spray paint on a deserted business park just don’t qualify, which is point 2:
2. You have to think big if you want to achieve anything. You are trying to have an impact on the other guy’s turf. It needs amplification. Pepsi bought all commercial space on television when Coca Cola was the main sponsor of the Super Bowl. Oracle redecorated the airport, the subway and train stations with their advertising wherever SAP was hosting a customer event. Apple made a whole series of TV commercials against Microsoft, and look where they are.
3. Try to be relevant. At the time of the press conference, EMC knew most of the news that was about to go into the global market space. Flexible IT, the Future Ready data centre, shared infrastructure, FlexPod, OnCommand Management software, One Wire technology. I mean we announced some pretty advanced technology. But the message they mounted on their trucks was not at all countering our launch messaging – on the contrary, it was quite generic: EMC offers the best storage for virtualized environments. We saw this content already at VMworld in Copenhagen, in fact this was our messaging two years ago. It’s a broad, untargeted message, aiming for awareness at best. A storage market leader working on exposure and awareness in the community of IT journalists focusing on data storage and management…? Or did they want to tell us, who are following their every move very closely, who they are? I mean, what’s the point? Why not try to be a bit more relevant to the journalists, and actually change the way they perceive EMC in today’s market?
But then things have changed a bit since the early nineties, haven’t they?
So let’s assume our windy business park was filled with relevant audiences that particular day, for some unexplainable, wondrous reason, the Schiphol-Rijk streets were packed with marketing targets on the very day the marketing manager of EMC Benelux had decided to spend some of his budget dollars on trucks, bored drivers and spray paint.
IT decision makers, NetApp customers and prospects, storage architects, managers, administrators, buyers – thousands of them, all carrying their storage wallets and ready to invest in NetApp’s magnificent new platforms and software. Hoping to find new ways to bring their virtualized infrastructures to new levels of internal cloud computing, automated services, and fully tested FlexPods. Needless to say, the IT journalists were also there, instead of inside listening to our IT infrastructure experts, channel partners and longtime happy customers. So what then?
How do you think would they like to be approached by EMC? With trucks carrying an aged, generic message? Stepping on the EMC logo that’s painted on the sidewalk. Crap, what’s that under my shoe?
The Age of Conversations
In the age of conversations, communities, and word-of-mouth communications, real people are talking to real people and together find new ways to solve problems, innovate and improve their IT infrastructures, in support of the business they support. Those people can be working for vendors, companies, consultancies, press, reselling channel partners – it doesn’t matter, you share what you know and have learned the hard way. You help each other out, and together you accelerate.
Now there is only one rule:
Invest dollars in relevant content, conversations, and relationships – not trucks, spray paint, and bored-out drivers.