How Marketing Infects all Media Sources

Executive Summary

  • G2Crowd as a Puppet for Software Vendors
  • Profit Maximization and Media and the Best Possible Outcomes?
  • What is the Best Way to Maximize Shareholder Value in Media
  • How Profit Maximization in Media Leads to the Propagation of Bad Information

Introduction

In a recent article where we critiqued the quality of reviews on the G2Crowd site, we discussed the problem with IT media entities that are industry-funded. In this article, we will elaborate on a subject related to marketing influence on media entities, which is at the heart of the G2Crowd story.

G2Crowd as a Puppet for Software Vendors

G2Crowd was always designed to be nothing more than a puppet for software vendors. All of their funding comes from software vendors, and G2Crowd discloses none of this to readers. G2Crowd’s only objective is to make money. People think that is just great. But is it great? And great for whom?

A comment was made that G2Crowd’s application reviews have been “gamed” as the following quotations attest.

“Any unmoderated peer review site, from TripAdvisor upwards, will inevitably be gamed by those who gain by doing so.”

But this implies that G2Crowd does not want to publish low quality and false reviews. That would imply that the G2Crowd reviews are “gamed.” But G2Crowd does want low-quality reviews if they are positive. G2Crowd could easily eliminate obviously fake reviews, but they choose not to.

So their ratings are not very difficult to game if they don’t moderate the comments. Therefore this would be like saying that one “gamed” a car wash by driving their car through the car wash and ending up with a clean car. That is not gaming a car wash, that is the design of a car wash. G2Crowd wants the highest possible ratings without seeming fake, as this is what their funders (the software vendors) want.

Profit Maximization and Media and the Best Possible Outcomes?

A major problem is a concept that profit maximization leads to good outcomes. It is amazing how often this is proposed and is accepted as an assumption, even though the negative outcomes from this are obvious.

Look at this outcome from media profit maximization. A company like G2Crowd employs virtually no content creators and no moderators. But it pulls in millions every year from vendors that use G2Crowd as a marketing automation frontend. This model ends up with a tiny elite with enormous income, meanwhile, its readers are left reading a large number of reviews written by consultants whose primary motivation is to increase the popularity of software in which they specialize. So big money for a tiny few, and false information for the many. 

What is the Best Way to Maximize Shareholder Value in Media?

That is easy. By selling your media output to the highest corporate bidder. This is the same way you maximize shareholder value in financial advisement but selling out the interests of your customer. The customer here is the reader. Therefore, one must necessarily accept that if the goal is profit maximization in media, then one must be comfortable with literally all published information being engineered to this end. This will mean thinking of how much money the publication can make, and changing the messaging in order to maximize that profit.

This means emphasizing profits over everything else, including first and foremost truth. For example, people prefer hopeful information over the unhopeful. Therefore, to maximize profits, it will mean providing hopeful information, even when that is not the correct conclusion based on the evidence. Hollywood knows all about this, changing the ending of even movies based on historical events to be more positive and helpful. Romantic movies stop once the couple has fallen in love, typically culminating in a final wedding scene. This is because a movie about actual marriage would send the suicide rate skyrocketing. And after all, you should leave the movie theater feeling good about the money you just spent. What better way than with a happy ending, who cares what happened in reality?

Truth is the first casualty of profit maximization.

How Profit Maximization in Media Leads to the Propagation of Bad Information

When it comes to providing information, it leads to giving false information. False information has a very high ROI. Truthful information has a very low ROI. Of all the research entities in enterprise software, Brightwork Research & Analysis, when accounting for normal measurements of popularity, has the worst income statement. But I think we provide the most honest information. Literally, we cannot find another site in the area that writes exactly what we think is true, regardless of not only financial implications but also without considering whether the readership will even like or find the published information offensive.

If we were to have even a single corporate sponsor, the honesty of what we cover would be greatly diminished. And we get offers all the time. Marketing departments seek out information sources to corrupt them. It starts with compliments and just a few articles emphasizing “getting the word out,” and then enlarge as more and more control seeps into the relationship. You begin to depend on the income and then they have you.

Conclusion

Marketing seeks to ruin all information sources, turning them into advertising machines and pushing as much false information through them as they can. Mail normally was for sending things that the recipient wanted. However, that was unacceptable to marketing departments, hence the creation of junk mail. Email was designed for things that people wanted to receive, but marketing automation and spam infiltrated inboxes with messages that were unwanted. LinkedIn developed the ability to share messages; my feed is now filled with mostly promotional information and shares brimming with false information, designed to drive income for the sharer.

Websites were originally designed to share truthful information, but now corporate websites are chocked filled with false information, and online media entities have been infiltrated by marketing money which substantially alters and censors their content. At one point the only thing that used to run before movies in movie theaters were movie trailers. Now advertisements very frequently run before the movie, a movie that you paid to go and see.

Marketing seeks and often does end up substantially controlling every medium.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shareholder_value

https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2017/04/27/harvard-business-review-the-pernicious-nonsense-of-maximizing-shareholder-value/#39a9835271f0

https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2014/09/19/the-economist-blue-chips-are-addicted-to-corporate-cocaine/#6b7f15d7264f

How to Understand Sun Tzu on Enterprise Software Marketing

What This Article Covers

  • Who was Sun Tzu?
  • Deciphering the Marketing Code
  • A Modern Incarnation of Sun Tzu’s Wisdom for Enterprise Software

Background on Enterprise Software Marketing Strategy

Most people are familiar with Sun Tzu the ancient Chinese general and philosopher who wrote the classic “Art of War.” Some memorable quotations have come from this book such as the following:

If you enemy is superior, evade him. If angry, irritate him. If equally matched, fight, and if not, split and re-evaluate.

However, after years of evaluating, in many cases misleading, marketing literature from software vendors I think some rules of thumb apply to how enterprise software vendors position their product that seems eerily similar to the way Sun Tzu presented his knowledge. It appears that Sun Tzu has influenced quite a few enterprise vendor marketing and product management departments and has greatly influenced marketing strategy at many vendors. Sun Tzu’s philosophies are based on a combination of common sense, military experience, and deception.

Deciphering the Marketing Code

With many vendors, it becomes necessary to learn the code to get around their marketing strategy to get to real information. I describe this in my article where I attempted to find an effective SaaS MDM solution, which you can read at this link. Interestingly the marketing strategy of many of the largest software vendors is to confuse the client actively, and this itself is evidence that there may not be much or much usable to the solution they are presenting.

Another consistent marketing strategy of enterprise software vendors is to present areas that they don’t have a product in or have a very new and untested product as if it is much more substantial that it is. When I read the literature for products like SAP PLM, SAP MDM, or WinShuttle and compare it against the actual software, it’s like the literature does not even describe the product, but is describing some other product that the company wishes that it has been smart enough to develop.

A Modern Incarnation of Sun Tzu’s Wisdom for Enterprise Software

  1. If your application is uncompetitive, discuss the integrative aspects of the application.
  2. If your software has a poor user interface, do not let the user community see it before obtaining the software contract. Also, restrict the number of screenshots of your application on your website.
  3. If your application has little practical use, infuse presentations with big words and big concepts. (good examples of this would be use of the terms “data governance” and “taxonomy” to cover up poor MDM solutions)
  4. Turn your weakness into a strength by discussing things in the future you never intend to do (this relates to SAP’s discussion of their plans for SOA and SaaS – something that would reduce the power of their ability to lock in clients to their solutions)
  5. When a previous message and product has failed to gain tracking introduce a reboot of the product. Pay off the necessary analysts to write uncritical articles on you that won’t hold the lack of performance in the software area against you.
  6. If you are large, but uncompetitive in an area, partner with a smaller company commingle the separate solutions to confuse customers from understanding that most of the functionality is coming from your software partner. After you have co-opted the space, and taken some of your partner’s intellectual properly, end the partnership and introduce a competing product.

Conclusion

There is a great deal of sophisticated strategy being employed at some vendors, and I would not be surprised if Sun Tzu is a popular book in the marketing departments of the large enterprise software vendors.

Accessing Honest Information on SAP

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References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Tzu