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.