Does Google face a difficult internal challenge as it addresses the enterprise computing market with products?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthPerhaps the biggest obstacle to Google for work improving its success in the enterprise computing market is Google’s approach to marketing communications. Where are the blogs? Is there an easy-to-find repository full of the kind of promotional information enterprise tech consumers have demonstrated an interest in digesting? How do Google’s communications efforts compare to its peers?

The answer to each of the three questions posed above is, unfortunately, not promising:

Where are the blogs?

Unless/until one lands on the Google for work “home page”, Google for Work, it is not likely readers will be able to locate the “for work” blog. The blog is mentioned in a vertical column located on the right of the very bottom of the home page under a curious title, “Keep in Touch”.

A search of blogger (which is now a component of Google, itself) did not produce any “Google” blogs with the content enterprise IT management traditionally has been shown to consume.

Is there a familiar spot on the web where business management can visit to read the latest news on Google’s products for enterprise computing?

If one assumes the Google Work (or is it “for work”?) page to be the online repository for any/all information about enterprise computing products offered by Google, disappointment will likely follow. “Google for Work” maintains a Twitter page, @googleforwork. A quick review of the tweets on the page revealed a lot of content located on Google + pages. All of these entries should be linked to the “Google for Work” home page. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. The Twitter page is a better bet. Though even a search of the Twitter page will not reveal all of the content published on topics related to the Google for work offers.

How does Google’s MARCOM for “Google for Work” compare?

I spend quite a bit of time working with marketing communications material published by Microsoft, arguably, Google’s most formidable challenger in the enterprise computing market. Blogs are a prominent feature of Microsoft’s core web sites:

“Blogs” are accessible via a click on a link prominently displayed on the Office home page. The link, admittedly, is located towards the bottom of the page as is the case with the blog link on the Google for work site.

On the MSDN web site, blogs are accessible via a click on the “Community” tab on the horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page, and then a click on the “Blog” hot link exposed to the site visitor.

Oracle maintains an even more extensive set of blogs than Microsoft and, once again, collects the blog content within a “Community” link. IBM does, as well, though the IBM content is not centralized.

Google should re-architect its marketing communications effort for the “Google for work” product line if it is to succeed. Some thought should also go into choosing a better brand name for the product.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Microsoft looks at the inevitability of big data

Jason Zander, a Corporate Vice President at Microsoft opened his segment of the Keynote presentation for Microsoft’s Tech Ed Europe 2014 with a compelling argument for the inevitability of big data. Zander presented some numbers indicating the global population of smart devices has now surpassed the entire human global population. The number of apps supporting these devices, and their users has also grown in geometric proportion. The result is truly big data — an enormous amount of information about each/every touchpoint for devices, users, and even data itself as they interact.

Zander’s rhetorical argument is yet one more articulation of one of the core planks of Microsoft’s 2014 communications brand — productivity. To sum up this theme, readers are asked to simply consider the impact of the “hundreds and hundreds of petabytes of data we already have” on the notion of what this writer refers to as the “dawn” of “information opacity” aka the Samuel Coleridge phenomenon (“Water, water everywhere, but nary a drop to drink”).

Zander points to cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure as a leading example of it, as the only method of powering all of the data produced by the global interaction of users and smart devices. It’s worth noting his mention of telemetry. There will be more to be said about this category of data, and its relation to the concept of an Internet of Things (IoT) throughout the remainder of the conference.

The presentation then shifts to another core plank of Microsoft’s 2014 communications brand — the slogan, first articulated by its CEO, Satya Nadella, and now re-articulated by each and every other spokesperson (including Zander) “Mobile First, Cloud First”. Zander echoes Nadella’s recent comments on the slogan, and pulls in the scalability plank of the market message. Mobile First, he stresses for his audience, requires ISVs like Microsoft to envision consumers in motion, implementing different devices, at different times, with the objective of accomplishing the same tasks or activities. The only way to satisfy this need for a uniform computing experience is to deliver the same quality across any/all device form factors. Nothing less will do.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Simpler Branding May Drive Higher Levels of User Adoption for Microsoft’s Office 365 Business Productivity Cloud SaaS

For most business users, Microsoft’s Office suite is a familiar set of computer tools. But some of this familiarity is associated with a hybrid “feature rich” and “hard to use” brand. Simplifying this branding, by turning down the “hard to use” component may help Microsoft’s efforts to persuade more of its business customers to migrate to its Office 365 cloud, SaaS offer.

Tom Petrocelli touches on some of this problem in an article posted to CMS Wire on August 7, 2014. In The Barriers to Working like a Network in Office 365. Petrocelli focuses, specifically, on the collaboration features of Office 365, which makes sense given his reference to “work like a network”, which is a concept Jared Spataro (Microsoft’s General Manager of Enterprise Social) presented in a post to the Office Blog back on March 3, 2014.

This writer has first hand experience with the Office 365 conundrum resulting from a combination of “two many features” and “too many ways to get it down”. It took weeks for him to figure out OneDrive for Business, and how it interacts with SharePoint Online (another component of the Office 365 suite).

The aversion instilled from this confusion was further exacerbated by what he could only assume to be a poorly coordinated offer, by Microsoft, for its Office 365 business customers: each subscriber to Office 365 for business would receive 1 TB of cloud storage for its OneDrive for Business service, but only 25 GBs of storage for SharePoint Online. This made little sense as, on the surface (no pun intended), SharePoint Online appears to have all of the components required to provide business consumers with a fast and accurate method of finding just the content they need, should they opt to use enterprise search. In contrast, OneDrive for Business did not appear to have the same capabilities. The fog only cleared when he discovered OneDrive for Business is actually a SharePoint Online Document Library, with some added features.

Petrocelli’s article, and the personal example, above, both talk about too many ways to get things done when business consumers need to collaborate. But this post purports to talk about too many components of a product branding message. Where’s the connection? The connection can be found in the market messaging Microsoft is presently creating and articulating around its efforts in the enterprise search market. In this writer’s opinion, there are too many components to this message, which, ultimately will likely only confuse business consumers.

If Microsoft can renovate its product branding strategy around some simpler themes, the process of persuading business consumers to migrate to Office 365 can only get easier. The related costs may be less, as well, helping the profitability of the product.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved


Does It Make Sense for Google to Continue to Pursue a Brand on the Societal Edge?

On Monday, November 25, 2013, The online New York Times published an article by Andrew Pollack titled F.D.A. Demands a Halt to a DNA Test Kit’s Marketing. The DNA Test Kit of interest is manufactured and marketed by 23andme, a business operating with the financial backing of Google.

Opting to invest in a product like this one, from 23andme, which is positioned at the edge of the range of products sanctioned by the U.S., as a society, is, to put it kindly, a questionable decision by management. Google is a publicly traded business and, therefore, has a responsibility to its shareholders, one would think, to provide notice to them of any intention to proceed on an investment like backing 23andme, before proceeding on it.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first example of risky product marketing decisions on Google’s part. Google Glass is another. Once again, mainstream media picked up on a recent case where a woman received a speeding ticket, in California, along with another ticket for wearing Google Glass.

One needs to ask if product marketing at Google is aware of how they are branding the business by pursuing these types of products, and, once again, if it’s in the best interest of Google shareholders to proceed in this direction.

From the looks of the initial advertising campaign for the Moto X smart phone (which hasn’t fared too well with the public), it would seem product marketing is aware of the “edgy” brand Google is magnetizing, and may want to keep it that way. The initial campaign, as I wrote about earlier in this blog, was memorable for the models it included who all sported a lot of tattoos.

I’m wondering if Google is interpreting all of this “edginess” as a correct way to pursue the kind of “business as a rebel”, which Steve Jobs used with great success. If they do see a Jobs connection, they should, perhaps, follow his lead and do a better job of very carefully selecting ad agencies and PR firms to spread the word.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


A Contrarian’s View of Microsoft’s Announced Plan to Acquire the Mobile Handset Business from Nokia

We all awoke yesterday, Tuesday, September 3, 2013 to the news Microsoft® plans on acquiring the mobile handset business from Nokia. Nokia, in turn, announced its acceptance of Microsoft’s offer. We think this $7 billion planned acquisition will provide Microsoft with a unique opportunity to redesign its brand for small, smart, mobile devices. Further, we see a lot of positive opportunity for Microsoft to improve its sales performance in this market, with little additional risk.

Most of the bad news is already baked into the Nokia product line. The portion of the global market using Nokia handsets built on the Windows Phone O/S (the Lumia product line) is purported to be under 5%. The Windows Phone O/S has been frequently criticized, with a common complaint being a comparative lack of third party applications for the platform. Microsoft’s failures to win market share in these markets has also been widely publicized. Finally, the size and shape of the Lumia smart phone has been described as uncomfortably large and clumsy, in part as the result of the irregular shape of the phone necessitated by the placement of its camera lens in a “bump” on the back.

On the other hand, we use Lumia 925s everyday and need to note our strong satisfaction with the simplicity of the operating system, the lack of clutter to the user interface, and the very high quality of the camera lens and even the software shipped with the smartphone to enhance the quality of the usual picture taken with a cellphone. So Microsoft can benefit substantially by crafting marketing communications capable of informing the public about these important points.

If the product marketing team can capitalize on Microsoft’s position as an underdog in this market, then they should be able to steal some of the “noble rebel” title from Apple, which is, after all, “the empire” in this market.

But Microsoft’s marketing communications and public relations teams have stumbled, in the past. We aren’t ready to place a bet on whether they will successfully exploit this opportunity or not.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


On Steve Ballmer’s “Transforming Our Company” Memo as a Public Relations Document

Much has been written about the “One” Press Release published by Microsoft® on Thursday, July 11, 2013. But we think the accompanying memo, “Transforming Our Company” is an equally important piece of public relations collateral for markets to digest.

The memo is written for internal publication, but a link to it is provided in the press release as posted to Microsoft’s public website. So the Public Relations team at Microsoft clearly planned this piece of content to be read by the general public.

This piece reinforces cornerstones of Microsoft’s product brands, and paints them with a picture of a company intensely focused on transformation. Simply consider the following statement, which we have excerpted from the memo: “We will strive for a single experience for everything in a person’s life that matters. One experience, one company, one set of learnings, one set of apps, and one personal library of entertainment, photos and information everywhere. One store for everything.” This statement provides little indication of a transformed Microsoft. Since the mid 1980s Microsoft has espoused the importance of personal computing. Further, Microsoft has always embraced a scalable architecture for its software products. The design principles of Windows 8 for PCs, Windows 8 for smartphones, and Windows 8 for tablets are clearly rooted in a commitment to a consistent, cross platform user experience.

But what is new about the statement we’ve quoted and the rest of the memo is a tone of urgency, The memo is written very much in the style of a “declaration”, meaning a position statement formalizing a new direction for the company, which includes scant opportunity, if any at all, to turn back.

Early stage technology businesses can benefit from a close study of this type of public relations content. In the two stock trading days since the press release and memo were published, the value of Microsoft shares outstanding has increased by more than 5%. Not bad for a couple of pieces of public relations collateral.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


What Impact Will Microsoft’s ‘One’ Reorganization Have on Brands?

Steve Ballmer’s “One” press release and memo of Thursday, July 11, 2013 is entirely focused on the realignment of business units within Microsoft®. But we think this reorganization will have a substantial impact on market perception of important Microsoft products, including SharePoint®.

One of our clients offers sets of video training content for SharePoint 2007, 2010 and 2013. We have been working with this client for nearly 2 years, so we can speak with some authority on how we see the “One” reorganization impacting the product brand. When customers purchase Office 365 they are also purchasing SharePoint Online. Therefore, the growth in the Office 365 customer base reflects a changed market perception for the product.

We think on premises SharePoint was usually implemented by IT organizations to provide businesses with a Microsoft friendly version of an Intranet. The enterprise edition components of the product were added, in our opinion, more to encourage user adoption for the SharePoint computing platform, than anything else.

But with SharePoint Online the product has been completely recast into a different role. The web over Ethernet piece of the usual implementation is now handled by the Internet, itself. There is no need to use SharePoint Online in its old role as a familiar platform for IT to roll out and support for end users clamoring for web pages and Ethernet data communications.

As a component of Office 365, SharePoint Online is positioned as a solution to market needs for a collaboration platform. Yammer, once a competitor to SharePoint, and now a separate product line within the same business unit, can be implemented for its new feeds as a replacement for the out of the box news feeds feature of SharePoint Online.

Recasting sprawling on premises SharePoint into the tight form-fitting constraints of Office 365 merely as a collaboration solution doesn’t look to us to be the final chapter in this story. The initial reactions from partners and some highly visible commentators on the product bear out our view. This is certainly an unfolding story, so stay tuned.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


When Commodities are Cloaked in High Tech, Buyers Can Fail to Recognize True Innovation

Advanced manufacturing techniques help competitors in commodity markets lower their cost of production. Creative product marketing teams can portray these techniques as true innovation, and thereby cloak the real mainstream nature of products from buyers. When this happens, competitors with truly leading edge products lose market share and fade into the background, invisible to buyers.

We think this scenario is playing out on three fronts to the disadvantage of Microsoft®. The three fronts are:

  1. the Small, Smart, Mobile Device (SSMD) market for tablet computers
  2. the SSMD market for smart phones
  3. and the desktop computing market for Operating System Software

Microsoft is clearly the technology leader in all three of these markets. No one else has come to market with a scalable operating system that provides the core of Windows 8, for desktop computing, the Windows Phone 8 OS for the Windows Phone and the Surface tablet. Apple has not made an attempt to implement touchscreen technology for its laptop or desktop computers, nor has Google’s Android division for the Chromebooks.

But, we argue, the market perceives Microsoft as the technology laggard in these markets. Whether it’s a matter of someone on a television show extolling the iPad, or someone else, online, exaggerating the penetration of cloud and/or SaaS vendors into the enterprise computing market, the same message reverberates. Microsoft fails to communicate the true market-leading nature of their new operating systems and products.

We think a shift in focus, away from “me too” messaging to “why follow me” would certainly help Microsoft’s marketing communications efforts. Consider how their efforts in market 3), above, would fare should they highlight how anyone with Carpal stress syndrome would welcome touchscreens on the desktop. Examples of manufacturing businesses with noisy shop floors and a lack of desk space would likely make the same impression on buyers.

If you need to tune up your brand, and understand the importance of successful marketing communications to your efforts, please contact us. We’d welcome an opportunity to hear about your products and your needs.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Sloppy Marketing Communications is a Tell Tale Sign of Markets Approaching a Peak

On Monday, May 6, 2013, the “Heard on the Street” column in The Wall Street Journal included a short piece authored by Rolfe Winkler, LinkedIn’s Real Value: Knowing All About People in All the Right Places. The article, in our opinion, is notable for a number of reasons, including

  • misuse of common industry terms
  • lopsided attention to one side of the vendor customer relationship
  • a lack of attention to the importance of complex sales strategies to productive campaigns with larger businesses

We think it is instructive to take a post to discuss each of these points. Marketing Communications (MARCOM) needs to be as precise as possible. Where industry specific terms must be used, we think they should be used sparingly and strictly consistent with marketplace usage. While Mr. Winkler’s piece is an article, and not MARCOM collateral, it exhibits errors we’ve also noted in pure MARCOM promotional collateral efforts for “cloud” “SaaS” products and services.

Misuse of Common Industry Terms
Mr. Winkler writes: “LinkedIn Corp’s main product, driving 57% of first-quarter sales, is enterprises software . . . ” LinkedIn is a Software as a Service (SaaS) business, operating in the “cloud”. The service uses a common client, the web browser. In contrast, enterprise software is commonly understood to be software installed on premises, served locally, and usually with a proprietary client. So LinkedIn doesn’t market any enterprise software, at least as we understand it. On the other hand, they have a lucrative base of customers in enterprise business (meaning Fortune 1000), who opt to subscribe to the service directly, without using contingent search firms in the middle. This is Mr. Winkler’s point, we think.

Lopsided Attention to One Side of the Vendor Customer Relationship
If LinkedIn were actually as baldly avaricious as Mr. Winkler’s article would lead one to expect, then how would one explain the popularity of the service? LinkedIn subscribers get a lot out of the service. So they keep using it and convince colleagues to sign up. LinkedIn is not only about selling access to a method of ” . . . Knowing All About People in All the Right Places”.

Lack of Attention to the Importance of Complex Sales Strategies to Productive Campaigns with Larger Businesses
The days are past when “Joe address book” could produce the stellar sales results with Fortune 1000 businesses. Mr. Winkler’s conjecture “Imagine if, before making a call, a salesperson knew a colleague went to high school with a lead and could provide an introduction” is pure smoke in the age of Alinean’s “Frugalnomics” and the necessity of drip lead generation systems (Marketo, Eloqua and their ilk).

We think MARCOM teams for Cloud and SaaS ISVs will do well to avoid these mistakes. If your business can use some guidance on MARCOM style and theme, please let us know. We’d be enthused to learn more about what you’re after.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Good Guys Don’t Always Look the Part — Concluding Our Review of ‘Facebook Leans In’ by Kurt Eichenwald

This is our final post on Kurt Eichenwald’s article on Facebook, Facebook Leans In.

But what’s potentially more damaging to Facebook about Mr. Eichenwald’s article is the very digital nature of the editorial content, which amounts to a set of ones and zeros. Facebook is all good. Mark Zuckerberg is the most polite guy, etc. The analysts just don’t get it, etc.

Neither the subject of the article, nor publisher benefits from this type of one-sided prose. If the PR team at Facebook had an opportunity to review the draft of the article prior to publishing, they should have asked for a more critical view, if for nothing else, then to ensure the prose would depict a credible business.

Certainly PR campaigns benefit, to some meaningful extent, when independent authors (Mr. Eichenwald) decide to write about them, and a prominent publication (Vanity Fair) decides to publish this type of article. But the fine line, especially for larger businesses (Facebook is now, comparatively, a very large business), must be used to demarcate “helpful” from “damaging”. This “line” has a lot to do with the plausibility of the content. Facebook would have benefited more from a balanced treatment of the gap between wall street analysis and management’s objectives, with some meaningful description of the mistakes the company has made, not only in its message, but how it’s opted to deliver the message to the market.

But, in our opinion, this type of hyperbole is typical of other articles on technology topics we’ve read by Mr. Eichenwald as published in Vanity Fair. In August, 2012 he wrote another lopsided piece, this time highly critical of Microsoft®: Microsoft’s Lost Decade. As we now enter the ninth month since this article was published, the resurgence in Microsoft’s share price is comforting to us and indicative of how the marketplace appears to have shrugged off Mr. Eichenwald’s unbalanced view of the business.

Bottom line: early stage ISVs will do well to pick their PR opportunities carefully, ever attentive to their brand and marketing communications objectives.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved