Why Gimmick Marketing?

Posted on 06/29/09 5 Comments

I remember when I was first introduced to Linux, circa 1993.    There was no Linux marketing.   Linux was simply a great operating system and I could use it as a mail server, a file server, a name server, a web server, a database platform, a development platform, a sniffer, a firewall, and more.   I introduced Linux to Air Combat Command (ACC) in the USAF around the same time (first as a mail server).   Linux, of course, has exploded since then.  No gimmicks.  Nothing but great code and a very robust community.

A year or so earlier, while working on the Internet backbone at SprintLink I was introduced to Mosaic and HTTP by a consultant to the National Science Foundation (NSF).   We thought HTTP and Mosaic was interesting. There was no gimmick marketing.   Slowly folks, everywhere, found it useful to share information using HTTP and there is no need to repeat the success story here today.  Good technologies do not need gimmicks or gimmick marketing.

I recently enjoyed some email back-and-forth with a Japanese colleague who mentioned that the Japanese have a special word or phrase for this; and the Japanese often wonder why many (western) companies rely on gimmicks to market their software.    One gimmick has not even taken root before another gimmick appears by the same company, he lamented.     In fact, when you think about it, much of what we read from software companies, and their marketing announcements, are simply gimmick after gimmick, searching for a market.

Is this gimmick marketing really necessary?   Do marketeers really think the public does not recognize gimmicks?

Everywhere around us there are gimmicks.  For example, when Aleri recently bought Coral8, Streambase announced their gimmicky “amnesty program” for Coral8 customers.    When Amazon Web Services (AWS), cloud computing and software-as-a-service became more popular than “service oriented architecture” TIBCO announced the Silver gimmick for their application integration platform.    Then recently, as Twitter  received more press (I blogged about Twitter and event processing around a year ago, as you may recall), Streambase announces their Twitter gimmick.

So many companies seems to be looking for yet-another-gimmick (YAG) to sell their (soft)wares. Yagga, yagga, yagga :-)

When you think about it, none of the great technologies that we use today required any gimmicks.   We did not need gimmicks to adopt and socially accept email, the Internet, the web, word processors, SQL, Google, eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn, PERL, PHP, MySQL, Apache,  blogs, forums, and so forth and so on.

Why do people think we need gimmicks?

All of us simply want software that solves a real problem without all the gimmicks.   Email, TCP/IP, FTP, the Internet, the WWW, Excel, Word, SQL, MySQL, Google, Yahoo, Word Press, the cell phone (the iPhone!) we use them everyday without the need for gimmick marketing.  We use them because they work and we tell our friends and family and they use it too, and we adapt and adopt.  Good technology does not need a gimmick.

My Japanese colleague mentioned that the Japanese are really at a loss for the reason why so many (US) companies feel the need to use gimmicks to market and sell their products, especially when many  of the products (like TIBCO’s application integration platform) are so excellent.   One gimmick, two gimmicks; oh, here comes Yet Another Gimmick.

When will they ever learn?   Good software sells without gimmicks, and in fact, using gimmicks lowers the quality and the expectations of the user.   We could all learn a few things from the Japanese.  I know I do, almost everyday.

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5 Comments

  1. Peter Lin says:
    Monday, June 29, 2009 at 10:39pm

    I found streambase twitter announcement funny. Any financial analyst willing to trust twitter information is in for a world of hurt. To me, the twitter thing screams of gimmick. There may be some “novel” things a person might do for a website, but I personally wouldn’t trust twitter information.

  2. Tim Bass says:
    Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 2:21am

    Hi Peter,

    Hope all is well.

    Streambase is a bit unique on gimmicks. For example, a number of year ago, without any major software player (Microsoft, Oracle, BEA (now Oracle), TIBCO, IBM, etc) in the low-latency stream processing space (yet), Streambase aggressively marketed and pushed their StreamSQL “standard.”

    This, of course, made no sense. How can a small startup drive a “standard” in a market where the major players have not even entered the playing field?

    I am not sure if that would be considered “a gimmick” or just plain folly. However, to me, it seemed gimmicky, because people who understand the market know that a small privately funded, single product family (for the most part), niche player cannot set the future standard in a market where the “big boys” make the rules and niche players follow.

    Cheers.

  3. Tom says:
    Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 5:06pm

    Parsing keywords in real-time isn’t useful at all except to show popularity trends, of which there are already plenty (http://mashable.com/2009/04/04/twitter-trends/). Any trader looking at Twitter in conjunction with anything else that streambase is analyzing to make trade decisions should lose his license. Gimmicks Are Yucky.

  4. Andy Menzies says:
    Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 5:14pm

    Mr Bass, greetings to you Sir. I note you use the iphone as an example of technology that sells without gimmicks?

    Q. When was the last time you used the iphone as a spirit level whilst building your ie (Japanese for ‘house’)?

    Seriously, markets are driven on rumour (buy) & fact (sell) – why on earth would one not consider Twitter as a valuable source of rumour?

    Get with the beat Bass……. :-)

  5. Tim Bass says:
    Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 6:15pm

    Hi Andy,

    Oh! You make me laugh so much. Sorry old bean.

    We all understand that the market can be driven by rumors. None of us are nearly as stupid as you might think. Your reply, in a sense, demonstrates the essense of gimmick thinking at Streambase.

    First of all, there is no one, not even Google, not event the National Security Agency (NSA) with the intelligence in the processing, to create trading strategies based on processing unstructured text from untrusted sources on the Internet. You are marketing a gimmick.

    In other words, there are many companies (and organizations) with huge bankrolls, infrastucture, IT and engineering that make Streambase look like a nat on the side of Mount Fuji. These companies don’t make gimmicky claims they can process rumors, as you just have posted (thats for the post, btw).

    You have replied (for Streambase), and in doing so, demonstrate the nature of gimmick thinking.

    Streambase cannot process rumors from Twitter and create trading strategies that are reliable. You don’t have the technology, the expertise or the capital to do it. You are just trying to get people to believe that you do but you don’t. It is a gimmick.

    You make me laugh with your closing “get with the beat Bass”…. as if not believing in your nonsense gimmick marketing, understanding the limits of query-based rule processing, knowing the challenge of processing unstructured text, and the fact that companies much smarter and better capitalized than Streambase do not process text based rumors from untrusted sources to create trading strategies. Maybe Bernard Madoff told his clients that is how he makes money for them?

    You, get with the beat Menzies, and learn a little bit about the actual technologies and challenges behind what you are trying to sell. Processing rumors via Twitter using a query-based rule processor for electronic trading. It is a gimmick!

    You make me laugh. I needed a good laugh, it is good for health, thanks! I hope the private firms that fund Streambase do not trade that way (of course they do not) otherwise, they will not have any money to fund you in the growing years.

    How about that gimmicky Streambase amnesty program, heh? What’s next?

    “Announcement: Streambase has a new plugin that can read your email and determine when you should stop cheating on your wife!”

    Or maybe this one:

    “Announcement: Streambase has processing intelligence that no other company in the world has, no matter how great or big. We have the “Holy Grail Stream Processing Engine. You can buy it, plug it in, process Twitter rumors, and never have to work another day in your life!”

    Yours, Tim

    PS, RE: iPhone, it is great product, Apple has great marketing. They don’t rely on gimmicks. They rely on quality. Everyone I know with an iPhone loves it.