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The Master of Guerilla Marketing Turns Microsoft’s Prank Around

CloudAve readers know I am a fan of edgy marketing.  Now it’s time to update my recently compiled inventory of software marketing pranks.  A major show like Salesforce.com’s DreamForce would not even be real without some guerilla marketing activity – except the players seemed to have traded places this year.  Guerilla Marketing is normally David’s weapon, but this year Goliath – Holy Microsoft – came down to us earthlings running around on Segways handing out MS Dynamics CRM discount coupons:

Image credit: Centernetworks

I did not get Forced

On a side-note…

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Software Marketing Pranks

I envy software marketing types.  They get to stay kids forever: pull pranks and even get paid for it.:-)

Today’s example comes courtesy of TechCrunch: PayPal competitor WePay dropped a 600lbs ice block at the entrance of the Paypal developer conference.  They got chased away and Moscone security removed the ice block.   My question: who gets the money?  Those are real dollar bills in the ice…

But don’t for a minute think it’s only at startup-land where 20-somethings rule.. the enterprise gray-hairs like pranks, too.  Below are some gems from the past.

NetSuite raining on Sage‘s parade conference:

NetSuite is quite a regular at competitor conferences, see their trucks at SAP’s annual SAPPHIRE conference:

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Your Own (Almost) Ad-Hoc HotSpot

If you’re a frequent traveler, you’re likely better off buying a MiFi or using your late-model cell-phone’s HotSpot capability than paying those outrageous hotel surcharges.  If you’re a frequent conference-goer, you’ve already learned they all fail to provide reliable connection(Web 2.0, LeWeb, Gnomedex, Microsoft PDC, Google I/O, just to name a few recent examples), so the only solution is BYOW – Bring Your Own WiFi (and the chaos it creates.)

But what if you rarely venture to un-connected areas, say a few times a year?  Paying $30-$60 a month does not look like a great value..  Now you can (almost) have your own ad-hoc service, without the monthly subscription plan – after you plunk down $149 for Virgin Mobile’s new MiFi device.  You can pay anywhere between $10 for 100MB to $60 for 5G of usage.

There’s only one problem with the plan – spot it yourself:

virgin plans

Yes, all these plans expire in an unreasonably short time.  Given the these limitations, if I were an infrequent user (less then once a month), I would probably buy the $10 plan just a few days in preparation for specific events. But let’s be real, this s*cks.  The proper solution for the ad-hoc user would be consumption-based plans with no expiry, with fill-up option.

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The Chaos of BYOW (Bring Your Own Wi-Fi)

It all started as an innocent joke:

scoble zoli wifi

Robert Scoble was sitting in the front row @ Apple’s WWDC conference while I was following the tweetstream from home.  Little did we know out joke would soon turn serious, as Steve Job’s keynote demo crashed when his shiny new iPhone 4 could not get a network connection.  Ars Technica offers detailed technical analysis of what may have happened, citing wi-fi experts who think the iPhone 4 may have a software glitch – but beyond that, they go deeply into analyzing the roots of network congestion at major gatherings.

It’s a great read, I have nothing to add on the technical side, just a little speculation on what brought this potential chaos about, and how to avoid it.

In short, we’re in a vicious circle.   The best “should-know-better” conferences have famously failed to provide sufficient wifi, including  Web 2.0, LeWeb, Gnomedex, Microsoft PDC, Google I/O… you name it.   We’re not talking about Birdwatchers’ Annual Convention or Road Builders Conferences – no, these are hi-tech events heavily attended by geeks, analysts, media, bloggers – the wifi_proliferationalways on, ever connected types, who will not tolerate being offline and will come up with their solution, as soon as the technology exist.

Thus, Bring Your Own Wifi was born – first the dedicated USB sticks with their $60 a month fees, then Mi-Fi, and now a flood of smartphones all providing their own hotspots.  Now all these BYOW devices wreak havoc and cause congestion.

Now, there are some cosmetic improvements we could all do, for example stop broadcasting our hotspot’s SSID. Not that it would reduce the behind-the-scenes congestion, but at least it would not clog the list of Wi-Fi for anyone else.  (Even this is easier said than done: some hotspots do not offer the option to shut broadcasting off, and even more sadly several devices refuse to connect to a Wi-Fi unless the SSID is listed).

We’re heading into a period of wireless chaos – it probably won’t be so bad on the road, in remote places, not even while using public transportation – but it will definitely get worse at places of expected high Mi-Fi / hotspot concentration.

We’ve come full circle. It all started by the lack of “centralized” connectivity, we all came up with our own ad-hoc solution and now we’re spoiling the game for each other.  I know I’d stop fiddling with my  EVO (or the gadget of the day) if there was rock-solid wi-fi at all conferences.  It’s time conference organizers step up to the plate.  If they don’t know how, I suggest they talk to Eric.

P.S. On a ligther note, some people already discovered the option of using the SSID for messaging. Is this the next marketing opportunity?

rwang wifi ads

Related posts:

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Has SXSW Peaked?

How do I know, when I’m not even there?  By reading what others say.  For starters, here’s Jolie O’Dell who attends this year’s conference:

Too many people, not enough tech.

…non-technical people aren’t here to learn; they’re here for self-congratulation and mutual masturbation. People I’ve never heard of are referring to themselves as Twitter celebrities and generally making me ill.

This show isn’t fun, and I won’t be coming back.

For contrast, non-attendee Danny Brown says: Why I’m Not Missing SxSW.  Dennis Howlett chimes in: The not attending SXSW grump report Yes, Dennis is a self-proclaimed curmudgeon, but he has a point, and he does not seem to be alone.

I dropped by at the Cloud Connect conference yesterday (yes, dear organizers, I sneaked in with my badge from the previous event hosted by SAP’s CEOs, as your registration closed early.)  From the full house (standing room only) at Geoffrey Moore’s session I tweeted:

So are all the workabees @ #ccevent while the party types went to #SXSW?

Chirag Mehta picked up on my teasing Geoffrey Moore:

Well, all iPhone folks are at #SXSW RT @ZoliErdos: Geoffrey Moore needs to update his speech- said look at your Blackberries LOL #ccevent

You probably get the drift by now… but here’s Jeremy Pepper spelling it out for you: I Don’t Do SXSWi

For the past few years, I keep hearing the same thing about SXSWi:

  • It’s spring break for social media
  • It’s a week long party
  • It’s one night after the other of bars and alcohol
  • It’s great networking
  • I go every year, and make my agency pay for it no matter what because it’s a great party (this said to me by a former boss when I asked what the value is there – notice nothing about actual work, though).

I rarely hear “it’s a great event for my company/agency to reach the right people for product A, B or C”. It’s always about the drinking.

… take a step back and think of this: can you justify missing Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday to your boss or client? And, well, the rest of the week is a wash also if you’re hungover.

And, as a sage executive said to me about CES: there’s going to be a bad day of reckoning for social media. Corporations are going to ask for ROI, and going to party is not ROI.

Sour grapes?  I don’t think so.  But back to the question on how I know SXSW has peaked?  Because declaring non-participant status is becoming trendy.  This would have been unthinkable last year.  So my prediction for next year: there will be even more : “why I am not going” declarations, and the year after SXSWI will be “uncool”.  The trendsetters move on to another party conference :-)

Image by Hugh MacLeod, who calls it the annual 5-day drunken orgy (which he is attending, btw….)

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If it Swims Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck, then it Probably is a Duck. The Anti-SAP Duck.

RubberDuck

Two SAP-related conferences will run literally next door to each other in Boston next week.  One, which I am attending is the SAP Influencer Summit where analysts and the media get to meet SAP execs – the other is what some of us quickly dubbed the Anti-SAP Conference.

The Sapience conference  is focused on “Alternatives for leveraging  your investment in SAP”.  Fellow Enterprise Irregulars Vinnie Mirchandani and Ray Wang will both be presenting – no surprise there. Vinnie has long earned the nickname Vinnie Maintenance (well, when he’s not Vinnie Merchantsmile_wink) for his crusade against bloated integration and maintenance costs, which “can make up 70 to 90% of TCO in an SAP shop” and Ray also has a track record of taking the customer side.  No wonder the two are now working together as Enterprise Advocates.

Are enterprise software fees outrageously high?  Probably… see my old post on how SaaS subscription can be half of only the maintenance component of traditional software’s TCO.  Do System Integrators, Consultants overcharge?  Probably … although let’s be real, they charge whatever they can get away with, i.e. whatever the market allows. Hence alternatives are good – SaaS, nimble, less expensive third party providers and even strategic client-side consultants like Vinnie and Ray who can make a decent living on advising customers on how to reduce their ERP TCO.  The market is all about competition and and market players have to take sides, no shame in that.

But then I don’t understand why Vinnie and Dennis Howlett are vehemently denying the anti-SAP nature of Sapience. I prefer to call it what it is – just take a look at the sponsor list:

It’s a who is who of SAP’s competitors – now let’s look at some of the Conference Speakers:

  • Craig Conway, PeopleSoft’s last CEO before getting swallowed by Oracle
  • Jan Baan, Founder of Baan, a “hot” SAP competitor in the 90’s
  • Paul Wahl who left SAP for Siebel, and took the creme of SAP’s leadership at the time with him

golden oldiesThey share one thing in common: all former SAP competitors but also representative of the very same “fat” business model they will no doubt speak out against.  They are joined by several former SAP Execs and current service providers.

Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite is a great competitor and one who does not miss a chance SAP’s fumbling with their own SMB SaaS offering, BYD offers him.

It’s hard to not see what the conference organizer, Helmuth Gumbel assembled here: the Anti-SAP All Star Band.  Oh, and let’s not forget how Dennis Howlett had introduced Helmuth: SAP’s feet put to the fire.

How about the timing?  If you believe it’s pure coincidence that Sapience coincides with the SAP Influencer Summit both in time and location, I have a bridge to sell you.  It’s just as “accidental” as Netsuite’s SAP for the Rest of Us Party was during SAPPHIRE 2006, right across the Convention Center.   Nothing wrong about guerilla marketing, but why be shy about it?

A conference designed to steal some thunder from SAP’s Summit, at the same time and place, sponsored and keynoted by SAP’s competitors, and it’s not “anti-SAP”?  C’mon… you know the quacks and all.smile_wink But don’t get me wrong: Sapience may very well be a healthy contribution to the SAP ecosystem – it just does not need any whitewashing.

You may also want to read the healthy debate that developed in the comments to Vinnie’s post.

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Come to Defrag

Next week I’ll be in Denver, attending Defrag, a boutique, intellectual, intense, very participatory conference.  I’m attending despite the fact that I’ve cut down on conference attendance, not because of the current economic turmoil, but largely due to burnout.  After a while they just all feel the same: empty session rooms, bored exhibitors, people just enjoying ad-hoc hallway conversations.  But there is something intriguing about Defrag: friends and smart minds I respect keep on tweeting about Defrag, and the agenda just looks exciting.

  • I’ve always enjoyed reading Paul Kedrosky, whose posts deliver the punch in just a few words – or an image.  I’ve never met him, so I’m looking forward to his keynote.
  • Howard Lindzon’s keynote, titled It’s Always a Good Time to Start a Web Business will no doubt have a very special meaning in the current economic situation.
  • I’m really, really looking forward to the next keynote, Getting Into the Flow Applications – a subject I somewhat touched upon, and likely will re-visit before heading to the conference.
  • The first breakout session will be a huge dilemma: I literally should split myself in two halves, I badly want to attend both Dis (and Re)-aggregating the Web with Disqus, Intense Debate and my6sense, but I can’t miss Re-imagining the metaphors behind collaborative tools with Atlassian, Mindtouch, Liquid Planner, One Place either.  (Update: now I really can’t miss it, as I’ll be moderating this session.)

I could go on, but I’ve just realized I’d literally have to duplicate the entire Agenda here.  Have I just discovered Defrag’s secret sauce?   Conferences are never about sessions, it’s all about the ad-hoc networking, even lobbycon-ing – yet I find myself wanting to attend most sessions, in fact two of them in most of the breakouts.  Defrag promises amazing intellectual content, and if I just follow Twitter, an extraordinary group of innovators plan to attend. From what I hear, this is the conference where the attendees participate just as much as the speakers.

Do yourself a favor, check out the Agenda, read Eric’s 10 reasons to come to Defrag and register. (Use discount code “zoli1” to receive $300 off).

Update: Microsoft’s PDC is in full force today, and guess what, the conference wi-fi is failing.  This seems to be the fate of all conferences, including ironically Web 2.0 Expo.  The only exception I’ve seen so far is the Office 2.0 Conference, which teamed up with Swisscom to build rock-solid wi-fi.  What is less known though, that they got the tip and contacts from Defrag organizer Eric Norlin.  Yes, Defrag, working with Swisscom was the first conference to provide industrial-strength, reliable wi-fi throughout the entire site, including rooms in the conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency.  So if you come to Defrag, you’ll be connected 24/7.  (OK, just 24/2: Nov 3-4thsmile_wink)

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Spot Air Trouble Easily on FlightWait

Paul Kedrosky got me hooked on FlightWait, especially as I am preparing for a trip to Boston just the day they expect snow to arrive. For now, Boston is OK, the trouble spot is clearly Chicago:

Hm… better check that conference schedule… just in case SAP moved it to San Diegosmile_sarcastic