How great marketers humanize technology

February 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Google’s Super Bowl commercial received great reviews from laymen and professionals.  Why do so many people appreciate this ad? What can it teach us about marketing technology? What are other examples of the same approach?

The ad works because it’s not about the technology (features, platforms, etc.) It’s about something far more innate – the human experience. Google’s commercial works because it tells a story that connects to one of our most fundamental emotions – love. At the same time, unlike many other ads, it places the product in the middle of the story in a pivotal role. Bravo.

Google demonstrated how technology marketing doesn’t need to be just about the tech. Great marketers tell a story that resonates with their audience. They carefully weave the technology into the story, but the story is ultimately about the audience, their goals, their problems, and their ability to prevail (with the help of the product, of course).

There is another example, although a fictitious one, of a a technology humanized to resonate with our emotional side. In this short clip from Mad Men, Don Draper, one of the leading characters, humanizes a pitch of a new technology (that today has become obsolete) through nostalgia. Ironic isn’t it? Pitching new technology by looking back?  Take a look. We need to see more of this in the real world.

Categories: marketing, Technology Tags: ,

How to sell chocolate and not to sell cars

May 29, 2008 Leave a comment

I experienced an impressive approach to selling chocolate last weekend while visiting San Francisco. A small mall in Berkeley is home to several stores offering food. One of the stores sold chocolate, but the approach was unlike anything I had ever seen the before. The store was very small with a counter, some shelf space displaying expensive chocolates, a plasma screen on the wall showing some foreign movie and a friendly and energetic vendor behind the stand.

What made the whole thing unique is that the vendor turned chocolate shopping into an interactive and fun experience. He would invite people to try various chocolates and guess their contents as he cut up little sample pieces in  front of his audience. The vendor cracked jokes and told stories about the chocolate, where it came from, etc. When Rebecca and I arrived, there were 2 couples sitting in front of the counter and actively participating in the tasting. As far as I could tell in the brief period of time that we were there – everyone, including us, who sat down in front of the counter walked away buying something.

For some reason this experience stands out in contrast to the last time I was at the car dealership to have some maintenance work performed on my car. As I waited in the show room, one of the sales guys approached me and asked me if he could help me. To be polite and to be left alone, I promptly and politely informed him that I was waiting for my car to be finished up by the service. The sales guy inquired what type of car I had. I answered “2004 WRX”. He informed me that he had a 2006 WRX and asked me about the mileage on my car. I could see where he was going with this and informed him that I was happy with my car and had no plans to buy another until Subaru offers a Hybrid model. At that point he left me alone.

Where did the sales guy go wrong? I think the primary problem is that he approached the situation from the perspective of what he wanted (instead of what I wanted). What he wanted was to sell me another car; and that was clear as day. He didn’t even take the time to figure out whether I liked my car or what types of cars I liked. Instead he jumped right into “sales” mode. This pushy approach is a sure way to turn off a potential customer.


1. Engaging customers in a non-threatening way can drive new sales.

2. Placing your needs above the needs of your customers is a sure way to turn away customers and prospects.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

5Cs of Paper

May 29, 2008 Leave a comment

5Cs of Paper

Many financial institutions today continue to rely on paper for conducting business: communications, contracts, disclosures, underwriting documentation are printed, mailed, copied, and moved around manually. This introduces a number of problems. Recently I began using a framework to explain the problem with paper. As you know marketers love frameworks using Cs and Ps. While these frameworks have limitations, they serve a purpose – providing a shortcut to remembering important components to keep in mind.

Introducing the 5Cs of paper based business processes.

  1. Cost. Without a doubt processes conducted on paper cost more at most/all points in the lifecycle.
  2. Cycle time. Shipping paper takes longer than using secure electronic delivery or eSignatures to get that contract signed online. Errors that are more common on paper due to lack of automatic validation (paper can’t tell you that you missed a required signature or a form field) further compound the cycle time problem as paper documents may go back and forth several times.
  3. Control (and visibility). When a paper package leaves your organization, you no longer have control over it (i.e. you can’t pull it back, easily replace it or know when the recipient opened and viewed its contents). This lack of control also applies to multi-step workslows such as underwriting. Workload balancing across geographically distributed teams is simply not effective when paper has to be shipped around.
  4. Compliance. We see a lot of confidential documents sitting in piles on desks or faxes left on a fax machine because the intended recipient doesn’t know that the fax has arrived. These documents may contain confidential and private information (i.e. social security number and medical records). There is always a risk than an unintended individual may gain access to information contain within.
  5. Customer experience. Let’s face it, we have all been “spoiled” by the convenience of services like Amazon and other leaders in web-based business. We expect immediate gratification (I want to download my iTunes, now.) and more options (overnight or 2 day delivery). The problem with paper is that it just can’t keep up with Internet speed and convenience. As a result some sad mortgage broker somewhere exclaims “Lost another one to Ditech!”. 
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Comments on Zoli’s “3 Half-Truth’s about SaaS”

May 29, 2008 Leave a comment

Zoli Erdos is a software industry veteran with a great blog. I recently discovered a post where he talks about 3 common half-truths about SaaS (Software as a Service). Over the past 2.5 years I’ve been working as a Director of Product Marketing for a SaaS company and following the developments and the hype surrounding SaaS. In this post, I’d like to comment on what Zoli post and share what I’ve observed.


The 3 half-truths:

“1 – SaaS is simpler, easier to implement than On-premise software (see update at the bottom)

2 – SaaS is for the SMB market

3 – SaaS is bought, not sold, it’s the end of Enterprise Sales”

Let’s take this one at a time:

1. SaaS is simpler, easier to implement than On-Premise software

In general, that is true. Assuming zero or minimal customization SaaS implementations do take less time and are easier to implement as they don’t require the deployment of new infrastructure by the client.

This faster implementation translates into faster ROI for the client. (Ben Kepes who responds to Zoli’s post has a nice diagram here) Sometimes SaaS is coupled with a licensing model that eliminates the upfront licensing fee and instead ties fees to the client’s benefits/usage (i.e. transaction model). Such model further aligns the benefits and costs. This is interesting because costs/benefits are typically heavily misaligned in the traditional on-premise model, where in a typical scenario a client pays six to seven figures upfront for the licensing fee and then waits for months or years before seeing a return.

Note: As Zoli points out in his post – implementation is not just about the technical implementation, but it is also about the business process &  change management training, etc. With SaaS implementations business process/change management aspects are relatively similar to traditional on-premise implementations. Yet, the overall project risk is still lower due to significantly lower technical risk.

2. SaaS is for the SMB market

I think this largely depends on what type of SaaS solution we are talking about. Even within “enterprise software” – there are many different types. Some enterprise software is deployed at departmental or business unit level (accounting) and some is accessed more broadly (i.e., email, intranet). It’s true that SaaS has seen most widespread adoption initially within the SMB market which has fewer resources to available to deploy software. Yet, I constantly run into reports of SaaS being used in the Fortune 500. I also expect that adoption of SaaS will continue to grow among the large enterprises for several reasons:

1. Lower technical implementation risk (discussed above)

2. Attractive economics – lower start up costs are even more attractive given the current economic client

3. Self-fulfilling prophecy – all of this hype around SaaS is getting a lot of attention and resulting in more organizations considering this option (again recall seeing this in recent report, but don’t remember where)

Industry specific SaaS solutions are common among large enterprises. The company where I work serves financial institutions (mortgage lenders, banks, insurance). We serve many of the largest financial firms out there and our solution is delivered via the SaaS model. This has been going on since the late ’90s (before the term SaaS became popular). 

3 – SaaS is bought, not sold, it’s the end of Enterprise Sales

This is not completely accurate. I think whether SaaS is bought or sold depends on a couple of variables:

A. Complexity of the problem and the solution. Complexity includes:

  • the business process impact
  • legal uncertainties/perceptions
  • integration complexity with the client’s existing systems
  • relative novelty of the technology solution itself

B. Vendor’s go to market model.

Some vendors don’t have a sales force and they often struggle penetrating large enterprise accounts. These vendors often do better with smaller accounts that require less face-to-face.

Other vendors build a sales force to bring their solution to market. This becomes more important as complexity of the solution increases.

What I haven’t see much of yet – is the use of channel partners as the predominant sales channel. Although Google has announced a partnership with one of the big systems integrators last year, I don’t think that they currently have a large number of joint implementations in their bag. This will likely change – as we’ll see more software transition to the SaaS model, there will be a greater need for systems integrators to pull all the pieces together. When this happens, we can expect to hear more of the same negative press we have heard with on-premise software: time and budget overruns, failed implementations, etc. Complexity is inevitable and SaaS is not immune.

Categories: Technology Tags: ,

1st Post

May 19, 2008 Leave a comment

I’ve considered starting a blog for a while now. It’s time to give it a shot.

I have to warn any potential readers out there (I don’t expect many) that I have a lot of interests and this blog will likely include posts on various topics. In business ability to focus and dominate a particular segment makes a lot of sense, but I’m not starting this blog to make money.

Instead I’m simply intending to capture and hopefully share some perspectives and patterns which I find interesting. 

Categories: Uncategorized

Hello world!

May 17, 2008 Leave a comment

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Categories: Uncategorized