Recently we’ve been running some above-the-line advertising, what we call our “Yep, NetApp campaign”. I hope you have seen some of it. It was developed at our Corporate headquarters, and I was wondering the other day what else had been considered, and whether or not we could have been bolder and more provocative.
Some years ago Pedigree Foods put out an advert for their mega-selling cat food brand, claiming that “8 out 10 cats prefer Whiskas”. Pretty clever really. You can’t find a cat that would argue with that. Mind you, you’d struggle to find a cat that can talk anyway – extremely rare, and it was that fact which prompted the advertising agencies to demand Pedigree withdraw it, citing the lack of data–driven evidence for the claim. Cats are not able to express a preference that is statistically reliable enough to allow the company to make such a claim versus another cat food brand. Data is the same. If we put out an ad like the one here – “7 out of 8 bits of data prefer to be stored on Netapp”, I doubt it would last long before EMC , HP et al lodged complaints and we’d have to take it down. Data cannot express a preference. It is inert. So I don’t think we could have seriously followed that path.
Recently I listened to a talk by a vicar who was comparing religion to Marmite. Obviously it’s a relatively straightforward premise – the polarization of people into two camps, Marmite-lovers and Marmite-haters as a parallel to believers and non-believers. He recommended going to their home site to have a look at just how Marmite handles the polarization into those who love it and those who hate it. Pretty interesting: extreme social networking in action. Unilever (the brand owner) are actually exploiting the whole polarization thing themselves, in fact.
If you click through the ‘I’m a Hater’ side on the home page, you will find yourself in a Facebook page dedicated to those who hate it, whilst if you click on ‘I am a Lover’ you’ll find yourself in a ‘fan’ page. Bear in mind these are the only options on this brand site. Why do they do this? Seems counter intuitive to bifurcate your audience and turn half of them into haters of your product. But of course, that isn’t actually what happens. It’s all a bit of a joke and there are 4 times as many likes for the “lovers” as there are for the “haters”. Of course the lovers are generally evangelists and passionate and very vocal about the product, more so than the haters. They can infiltrate the haters to ‘convert’ them. It seems actually that indifference is the ultimate crime, and anyway, if 50% of the population have a positive bias, that’s a massive market. At NetApp we want to drive brand preference, no question. But alienating half of our audience by promoting a dislike for our products, would be extremely weird, even if we were promoting a desire in the other half at the same time. So that wouldn’t work.
I have long admired Carlsberg’s advertisement in which they claim that their beer is ‘probably the best beer in the world’. Obviously they couldn’t come out and claim it is the best as that is subjective (and in my opinion not true), but the use of the word ‘probably’ means it is a qualitative assessment, and it can be used as a get-out clause. It is clever because it associates the world ‘best’ with ‘Carlsberg’ and the qualifier ‘probably’ does little to detract from that. Neat. So, could we use this type of approach to our own advertising. Could we say for instance, “NetApp’s FAS systems are arguably the finest in the world”? Yes I am sure we could, but it would be pretty meaningless. In fact, I would go so far as to say that our systems ARE probably the finest in the world, but it obviously subjective. Worth putting on a billboard though? No, I don’t think so.
So what did we go for? Which approach did we take? Well, none of the above. We went for rock-solid, defensible leadership statements which set us apart from our erstwhile competitors. These have included “NetApp is the #1 Storage Operating System”, “NetApp guarantees to cut our customer’s storage capacity by 50%” and “We are saving IT $25bn and counting..” by helping our customers avoid storage spend through advanced data management features.
These may not be as wild as Whiskas, as emoting as Marmite or as catchy as Carlsberg, but they are certainly more “matter-of-fact” – something CIOs and Infrastructure Managers are very thankful for.