Last week IBM provided a glimpse into their next innovation in email. Code-named MailNext, it is now formally named Verse. This is the next evolution of Connections Cloud, their enterprise cloud suite of software.
Now, just a week later, IBM has announced plans to make Verse available to CONSUMERS for FREE!!!
This is unprecedented by IBM. First, this is the first time IBM has targeted consumers rather than businesses. Second, the price is right to attract users to experience the new concept in messaging. Free. A brilliant strategy to finally take an aggressive action toward marketing their product by first winning over their market as individuals and then as businesses.
Long ago Microsoft did this by including Outlook with every operating system. Consumers used that interface to use POP to access their personal email accounts. Familiarity at the consumer level made it easy for businesses to be persuaded to use it along with Exchange server for an enterprise messaging system. Then Google repeated this successful recipe to build a strong consumer base before diving into the enterprise messaging marketplace.
Now IBM is going to apply the same formula. Unlike Google however, IBM is not going to turn consumers directly into profit like Google does with their advertising and scanning of email. They will be targeting Businesses to provide the revenue.
The beauty of this formula is simple. Email is the software equivalent of a Gateway drug into the collaboration software market. And IBM intends to get you addicted to theirs. In this case, those hardcore drugs are IBM’s collaboration software suite: Connections (team, B2B and B2C tools for file sharing, activities, wikis, blogs, forums, surveys, & more); Sametime Instant Messaging, video, audio, web conferencing, and Notes & Domino. And IBM is taking the same approach as the State of Washington, making their gateway drug very accessible and affordable to everyone.
I have to wonder if this isn’t at least partially driven by IBM’s new partnership with Apple who has proven how successful consumer loyalty can be. Many of us who work with the IBM technology and understand how much more powerful it is than the competitive products have long blasted IBM for shunning the consumer market. I have often thought one of their biggest mistakes was separating the application designer tools from the Lotus Notes client which took away the power for end users to apply their own energy to create the custom applications they needed. At that point in time they disarmed their greatest allies and advocates of the software. It looks like the giant has finally awoken and recognizes the power that the individual has on the choice of software in the workplace. I am anxious to see what this new evolution will do for improving our productivity in the most widely used software category in the world. How do you think this will impact the landscape of the collaboration software market? Want to see for yourself? Pre-register here.
Here is an interesting perspective on branding, marketing, and the idea of a brand elevating to mythology.
How true is his statement: “People use a Dell. They are an Apple.”
I think Seth is touching on something that could be applied to the marketing of
Lotus IBM software: “Isn’t that the dream of any marketer? To create a myth?”
As Lotus completes the long and painful process of being absorbed into IBM, could they, as Seth describes, invent a mythic brand with a story that promises to deliver an heroic outcome rather than just a product and a pile of facts. I believe it is possible. Ironically, by dropping the brand, it may elevate it to mythology. What do you think?