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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

CA: Good intentions but muddled marketing

Computer Associates, now to be called CA, today featured multi-page spreads in newspapers like "The New York Times" announcing the company’s new growth strategy.

But darned if I can figure out what they’re talking about, which is too bad because CEO John Swainson seems so passionate about cleaning up CA and making the company matter again to its corporate customers. I’m rooting for him to succeed, but there are a few things in marketing that he’s going to have to change to win me over – and his customers. (Newsday interviewed some of CA’s customers following John’s speech in Las Vegas, and they too are a little befuddled.)

Here’s what CA needs to do differently:

Readjust your assumptions and tap into what’s really going on with your customers. The ad headlines are “Remember when technology had the power to inspire you? Believe again.” Technology has been extremely inspiring in so many ways to so many of us. We never lost the belief. CA may have lost its inspiration along the way, which accounts for so little company innovation and growth. We don’t need to be told in ads to “believe again” in technology. What we do need, however, is to be told why we should believe again in CA and its technology and services.

Explain what you mean: Which brings me to point two. What the heck is your big new vision, Enterprise IT Management (EITM)? Your communications talk about how it “unifies and simplifies complex IT environments across the enterprise.” The press release headline says, "Unified Management of End-to-End Infrastructure Enables IT Organizationsto Overcome Complexity and Ensure Performance Of Business Services." But hello, what exactly is it? I really know technology, yet I can’t figure out what the big aha is here. More context, examples, maybe some helpful metaphors, and just plain speak would really help.

Rid yourself of the trite lines and tired talk. I’ve heard John talk and he’s engaging and direct. So why is your letter, advertising and Web site so full of empty corporate speak, which, by the by, uses phrases that date back to what other tech companies used in the 90s? Phrases like “transforming business,” “unifying and simplifying complex IT environments,” “reach a higher order of IT,” “simplify the complex,” “deliver fully against your business goals,” "align IT to reach business goals," are empty, boring, and tired.

Talk about something fresh, in your own words – not a copywriter’s: CA must have some points-of-view on enterprise technology that are contrarian, counter-intuitive, unusual, insightful, or surprising. How else can you innovate, as you say you have, if you weren't turned on by some big insights? What customer insight triggered the passion of your developers? What do you know that you can do better than any of your competitors? Talk about those ideas. In the real words of real people. In today’s business world, a new logo and name change don’t matter all that much. People want a reason to believe in you. They want fresh ideas. And they want to connect with the company and its people -- not with a new acronym.

I love the technology industry and hope that there is great thinking and innovation going on at CA. Maybe the marketing approach just needs to revamped.

When many of us see this old style marketing, with to much hoo-ha around logos and category acronyms and not enough clear explanations of what is new and valuable, we often think that there is no new strategy. Just a great shade of new lipstick that is likely to quickly fade.

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Blogger Smooch said...

I created the strategy for this brand effort. The strategy was essentially in the idea of Fusion: that CA unified people, processes and information to make companies smarter and more responsive so they can better capitalize on changes in the market place. Too bad the executions missed.

3:43 PM  

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