by Thomas Wailgum

ERP Advertisers: Tell Us Who You Are — Not Who You’re Not

Apr 01, 2010
Enterprise Applications

You're not SAP or Oracle. I get it. But you'd better give your customers more than just that insulting message.

I’m no Bob Garfield—you know, the bearded ad-critic best known for his assessment of Super Bowl advertisements for Advertising Age magazine. Though I have watched at least 5 trillion TV commercials in my lifetime.

A couple of years ago, I offered up my own Garfield-ian take on the The 10 Best and 10 Worst IT-Related Super Bowl Commercials. It was fun to do, and I followed his three tenets of advertising principles: Garfield says that an organization’s first purpose for running a Super Bowl spot “is about selling messages and strategy and reaching the consumer.” Second, over-the-top attempts at humor just as often fall flat; there’s something to be said for subtlety and clever visuals. And third, we must admit to a soft spot for monkeys.

His third point notwithstanding, I believe those ideals can and should apply to technology vendors’ advertising and marketing campaigns today.

However, I see a disheartening trend developing in enterprise software: Vendors finding ever-more creative ways to tell their customers and potential customers who they aren’t—but not who they actually are, what they stand for or what their software can do for customers.

There’s been no shortage of creativity of late: Epicor’s “In the Key of ERP” series. Then there’s Infor’s Down with Big ERP campaign.

Now, supply chain management vendor Kinaxis has launched its Suitemate series: “The comedy series Big ERP doesn’t want you to watch!”

Like the others before it, it’s not wholly unbearable to watch. And let’s be honest here: ERP, supply chain and the rest of the business software lot is a tough “product set” to market. A little humor and satire are acceptable communication vehicles.

But what I find disconcerting is the sole message Kinaxis and the others attempt to leave with the viewer: We’re not SAP or Oracle!

Well, OK. That’s for sure!

Ironically, some of these vendors going after Big ERP are still, principally, selling traditional on-premise software. And whether you’re SAP or Epicor or Infor or Kinaxis, it’s all just a matter of scale and revenues, isn’t it? It’s basically the same type of code and licensing programs.

ERP campaigns that are based on switching from one legacy vendor to another are insulting to customers. And a missed opportunity.

For instance, Kinaxis has an appealing on-demand apps story to tell with its RapidResponse software. Instead, we get actors Kevin Pollak and Ray Wise doing their best Larry Ellison and Hasso Plattner imitations in Episode 1 of “Suitemates.”

So I implore you: Don’t simply tell us you’re not as big as SAP or Oracle, or beat us over the head with “crimes committed by Big ERP.” We know all that already.

Show us why and how your company differentiates itself from competitors big and small. Tell us how you’re solving legacy licensing, integration and maintenance-fee issues; how you’re reducing implementation risks, application bloat and total cost of ownership; or how you’re embracing more flexible and customer-friendly software delivery mechanisms.

And remember, adding a monkey to your campaigns might not be a bad idea either.

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