Last Updated Jun 15, 2007 10:22 AM EDT
RULE #4: (aka "Rage Against The Machine")
If there were an award for the most boring product in the world, it would have to go to what's generally known as "corporate infrastructure" -- networks, connections, servers, and various other types of computer plumbing. When trying to sell this deadly dull stuff, computer firms generally resort to talking about "empowerment" or some other sort of generic biz-blab, but there was one television commercial on the subject that really set itself apart. The erstwhile computer giant DEC showed people - all tall, thin, and dressed in business suits -- moving like robots through a series of gigantic cogs. The idea was that DEC's infrastructure products would make your company into a well-run machine. However, the net effect was to make the viewer think that DEC's products would transform you into a cog in a giant machine. The scenes, shot in muted brown tones, were strangely reminiscent of the "oppressed worker" scene in Fritz Lang's silent film classic "Metropolis," so much so that it was difficult to believe that the director didn't have that work in mind. That leads us to Really Useful Marketing Rule #4: Unless you're being ironic, do not base your high tech marketing on Metropolis, Blade Runner, 1984, Colossus The Forbin Project, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Total Recall, Farenheit 451, The Brain from Planet Arous, THX 1138, or Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
RULE #5: (aka "All Fired Up and Nowhere to Go")
A few years ago, the late night TV host David Letterman announced, as a joke, that he needed $3000 from a sponsor in order to pay the cost of setting a stunt man on fire. A Cupertino-based distributor of Apple computers, playing along with the joke, faxed a commitment of $6000 for two shows. Letterman duly staged the stunt and, as a result, the distributor's company name was flashed on the screen as the "man on fire" careened around the television studio. While this may have been amusing from a comedy standpoint, it wasn't perhaps entirely prudent from a corporate image standpoint, considering that at the time, Apple laptops were being recalled because their batteries were overheating and bursting into flames. And so to Really Useful Marketing Rule #5: If your product has a tendency to burst into flames, do not pay even small amounts of money to associate your brand name with scenes of people being immolated, however humorous.
RULE #6: (aka "Geronimo!")
The Japanese electronics giant Hitachi was losing money hand over fist a few years ago - forcing some analysts to question whether they had a long-term future in the computer business. At the time, the company was trying to break into the U.S. PC market, but it was tough to get visibility in a crowded field of players. So to generate some publicity, the company's U.S. PC division decided it would be a good idea to have the company's executives jump out of airplanes. They were wearing parachutes, of course, and were supposed to use their laptops while plummeting towards the ground. Now, there are two things wrong with this idea. First, the image was not a particularly reassuring one, especially to buyers who were concerned about Hitachi's ability to support their PCs during a business downturn. Second, while skydivers may think skydiving is fun, everybody else in the planet thinks that you'd have to be out of your freakin' mind to jump out of a plane, especially if you're working on a spreadsheet at the time. So here's Really Useful Marketing Rule #6: If your company is having financial troubles, do not launch a marketing campaign based on skydiving, bungie jumping, extreme skiing, cave-diving. bull-riding, street-luging or any other sport that has the potential to end in a big red splat.