Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Brief Intro to Marketing (or: You Need RAC!)

Three and a half years ago I wrote the paper You Probably Don't Need RAC ("YPDNR I"), and that got a few people out of their comfortable chairs.

Most of the official responses from Oracle to 'YPDNR I' have been highly emotional (i.e. negative) despite the fact that I ended the paper with the words “Now prove me wrong”, and offered to correct any mistakes in my paper immediately.

I think there are two reasons for the negative reactions despite lack of any technical arguments against my paper so far.

1. RAC is something Oracle is (justly) technically proud of, and since it’s a unique technical feature it is also a unique selling feature.

2. I used the word NOT in the title.

In marketing terms, using a negative word when talking about your own product is just not done. You always put a positive spin on it:

* Forty-two Reasons for Choosing RAC
* Using RAC in Critical Environments for Better High Availability and Lower Costs

If I had used one of these (or similar) titles, yet had kept the original content, I don’t think anybody would have reacted.

In fact, I’m certain nobody had objected if I had not used NOT in the title, because I’ve seen several colleagues do exactly that: Put up a positive-sounding title of a presentation or paper, and then proceed to document that in fact most people don’t need RAC.

Why would you deliberately choose a positive-sounding title for a presentation about why people probably don’t need a certain thing? I can think of two reasons:

1. So The Big Vendor doesn’t get mad at you.
2. The paper will get more easily accepted by the paper-selection committees of the various user groups (see my previous post about prostitution).

The first reason is widespread: People are afraid of “Making The Big Vendor mad”. Well, companies don’t get mad. People inside companies get mad (or at least react as if they do).

They get mad instead of getting factual because of lack of, well, facts, but that just makes them madder. Feeling powerless is not good.

The second reason (getting papers selected) is a real problem, and certainly not just in the Oracle world. Many user groups these days suck up to The Big Vendor, imposing a ‘self-restraint’ or, to put it in plain English, self-censorship that would make Yahoo and Google (and their Chinese friends) proud.

People keep telling me it is simply because of the money involved. Perhaps. I doubt it, but let's consider it.

If you make fun of Carlsberg’s 'Probably the Best Beer in The World' campaign, you effectively question a multi-billion Kroner marketing investment. If you question RAC, you potentially hurt the Oracle sales force’s forecast for up-selling RAC and other Enterprise Edition (extra-cost) options.

On the other hand, very very few people are actually driven by money.

I say that as someone who studied Economics for a few years, is a liberal at heart, and all that.

All serious research I've seen in the last ten years or more point to the fact that people are driven by other things than financial rewards. Which is just part of the reason why micro-economic theory (the theories, often with very heavy math involved, about actions and interactions of the individual agents in the economy) can't explain anything after all these years, except when they partner up with sociologists and other socialists :-) .

Most of our community is not driven by money. A few individuals are, but you know they are, and it's just an illness they were born with or forced to adopt because of some slip in their childhood.

We shouldn't generalise based on a few exceptions.

But we all want acknowledgement and friends - to beloong to a group, etc. The threat from someone (be that a marketing guy from The Big Vendor) of losing friends or connections or membership of a group can make a lot of people blink.

Just remember: As soon as you blink in situations like that, there's no going back. You have moved a step or two down the ladder. The only thing that might save you is the fact that The Big Vendor will do his annual re-org no matter what and so perhaps move the Pressure Guy somewhere else and replace him with someone who doesn't know you blinked :-) .

I knew these ritualised, annual re-orgs were good for something!


Blogger Mark said...

A couple of very thoughtful articles, Mogens. I think many people practice this self-censorship, or say the things that other people want to hear, without really thinking about it.

As you say, it's a slipperly slope when you start to censor yourself; if you work outside of a big vendor, your duty is to your customers, not the big vendor, at the end of the day that's the way to keep your customers (and your sanity) over the long term.

Very thoughtful.

11:31 PM  
Blogger bill said...

i do think that the Oracle workd is in desprate need of independant voices. but i fear that those will not exist for long given the present environment. soon there wil be very few, if any, pleaces left where contrary voices can be heard.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Noons said...

"People keep telling me it is simply because of the money involved."

That is so right. And so wrong...

In my past experience, it's also because of the perception some folks have that if they "toe the line", the big companies will somehow "remember" them.

Unfortunately, it's just that: a perception. Big companies don't give a royal flatulent damn about anyone who is not in the high stratosphere of the boardrooms.

"Don't blink" is indeed a good recommendation!

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Thomas Presslie said...

Interesting points indeed! I attended an event yesterday with Ed Gibson (Chief Security Advisor, Microsoft UK) and Duncan Harris (Senior Director, Security Assurance, Oracle UK).

Duncan was asked why Oracle had been boasting about their database being “Unbreakable” for many years when there are numerous vulnerabilities which had been well documented along with the latest release of the Oracle Password Cracker which supports multiple cores and/or CPUs. His response was that the “Unbreakable” marketing campaign was one of their most successful campaigns and was referring to the features of RAC and high availability. Hmm...

Ed asked a few people in the audience if they were in Google's position, would they have agreed to filter the content in accordance with Chinese requests. All three gave different reasons why they would cooperate with the Chinese Government which I found very strange – they obviously weren't local ;-)

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So many problems would go away if Oracle would just stop charging for RAC -- wouldn't be popular with the manufacturers of Big Hardware but the small hardware and consultancy businesses would thrive. :D

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