Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tweeted by Well Meaning EMC People

The problem with expressing oneself in 140 characters or less is that it doesn't provide an opportunity for clarity. This is why Twitter can be frustrating at times. Folks can't quite get your message. Not because there is something wrong with them but because of the limitations of the media. You have to learn how to operate within the restrictions of the form and still get across what you mean. It's like Haiku. You have to learn how to do it and I'm still learning.

So it was when I commented on the announcements for EMC's newest Symmetrix V-Max. I received a number of replies to my Tweets that defended the new architecture. Looking back, I'm sure that I was not clear nor that we could have a meaningful dialog about the technical aspects of V-Max. It was my bad for trying to make this type of point in the Twitter medium.

See, my problem wasn't with V-Max at all but the way it was announced. I complained about the video of the EMC executives, I complained about the web site description, I complained about the datasheet, and I complained about the blogs that pretty much reiterated what was on the other three. Here's why.

They said almost nothing of value.

I get that the V-Max architecture is somehow great for virtual server environments. The name alone told me that (good name by the way – huzzah to product management). So what? Lots of folks claim that. How does it do that? Even if you could tell me how (which is what most of the EMCers want to do), it still doesn't tell me why I should care. I'm left to ponder the Why.

That is, in nutshell, the core problem. All products and marketing have to pass the “Who Cares?” test. What serious problem do I have that this solves? What is so compelling about this product that I need to run out and buy it? Given my ever shrinking budget and staff, why does this doo hickey deserve a precious slice of my time and money? I don't get that from the EMC marketing.

The other thing marketing has to do is grab my attention so you want to listen to the “Who cares” message. This is not a gentle tap on the shoulder but a grabbing by the ears and shaking kind of thing. It doesn't have to be cute or loud or include music by nearly dead old rock stars. It has to be compelling. Even if you want to turn away, somehow you can't. Like an accident on the highway.

The product marketing for the launch of V-Max fails in this capacity. It is the same old formula. Have the executives get up there and make grand but vague statements followed up by bland and vague marketing literature. This doesn't even work for Steve Jobs anymore and he is as close to a rock star as this industry has. The EMC video, for example, almost looks like a parody of a computer commercial. The white background with the executive talking head is too much like a Mac vs. PC commercial but without the Mac. Actually, if they had made a parody, like the Microsoft parody of the Volkswagen commercial some time back, it would have been much more effective.

Check out the data sheet. It is a nine page white paper full of more hyperbole than this blog. Other than the claim to be able to scale to petabytes (an old claim that everyone makes) and that it supports a variety of disk types (like everyone), it's hard to pick out anything concrete from the first few pages.

I am sure that none of this matters to the EMC faithful. Current customers will bypass all this and get the message direct from their sales rep. EMC sales reps do a great job of connecting technology and features to real world problems. Potential customers on the other hand will see little here that makes them pick up the phone and call EMC. They will say to themselves “So what?” not “Holy storage problems Batman, we need one of those for the Batcave computer!”

So, before all the technical folks tweet me to death, it's not about the technology, it's about the marketing. It's tired. I know you don't want to hear that, especially when your best customers are going out of business, but you need to hear it. You can choose to chalk it up to one cranky, uninformed, blogger. On the other hand, you can see it as a wake up call to find better ways to market your products in tough times. Hopefully to find new customers to replace the ones that have evaporated in the recession.

Start with “The new V-Max will allow you to cut costs and operate with reduced staff by....” You can finish off that line. Then I will care.

No comments: