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Volume 17, Number 23 -- June 10, 2008

NGS and Munson Good for Laughs

Published: June 10, 2008

by Dan Burger

You gotta laugh. Well, not everyone does, because what's funny to me may not be funny to you, and that's what makes the use of humor in advertising a bit of a gamble. Still when humor is done right, success beyond that of an uninspiring marketing message is a safe bet.

Last year New Generation Software (NGS) faced a major new competitive factor. It was going head-to-head with IBM, its business partner and its rival in the business intelligence segment of the System i market. Marketing resources, not the least of which is strictly budgetary, made IBM the 800-pound gorilla in this contest. Bill Langston, the director of marketing at NGS, sized up the formidable situation and decided it called for a good laugh.

If you haven't seen the NGS videos, now is as good time as any. There are two of them. The first one is about six minutes long and called "The Elevator". The second is titled "The Menu Has Changed". It's a little more than nine minutes in length. The videos are available from NGS' Web site, as well as on YouTube.

Both of the videos were written and directed by Randall Munson, a well-known speaker at COMMON and other AS/400, iSeries, System i, and now Power Systems conferences and local user group meetings. Munson's a funny guy and a good communicator. Together with Langston, they've come up with a very clever and amusing way to compete with IBM.

Both videos take a pie-in-the-face approach to dealing with IBM while dramatizing the frustrations of a customer getting the run-around from a customer service department, a tangled web of pricing nonsense, and a list of non-existent upgrade options that are funny only because you don't own the product they apply to. If this sounds a little bit like working with Big Blue, the resemblance is intentional.

"We had to do something within our budget that would get visibility, and that was unique enough that people would stop and pay attention," Langston says. "We thought it was better to get attention through humor than using other approaches. The idea of doing this through a video on YouTube seemed like a great attention-getting approach."

When IBM pre-announced DB2 Web Query in 2007, it began a heavy marketing effort six months before the product arrived. IBM marketing is a powerful force and New Generation Software isn't the first or only ISV that has felt steamrolled. Langston credits IBM for the job it did building enthusiasm behind DB2 Web Query and getting customers to attend product presentations.

"It pretty much killed the market for people like us during that time," Langston says. "Once DB2 Web Query was released and people were able to do actual comparisons to options like our NGS-IQ, we were hoping there would be a break. But we also knew if we didn't do something, there would be no break."

Langston believes that after seeing the videos, people who are serious about replacing Query/400 will have questions about IBM's product and they will know that NGS-IQ is a competitive product with certain advantages. He says Munson and the whacky videos are the way to start the conversation and educate people in a humorous way so that NGS-IQ becomes a known alternative to DB2 Web Query.

"The strategy is to raise questions about things that IBM wasn't saying about their offering. We hope the video makes people stop for a minute and ask questions," he says. "We think System i customers will consider all the options rather than just follow the path that IBM has decided makes sense. These are smart people. They are going to do their research."

There's a great deal of humor in these videos (Langston says there will be a third and possibly a fourth video in this series), but you can't miss the relevance of what is being said and that makes this strategy work. Whether you are looking to replace Query/400 or not, you'll likely find these shenanigans worth a look.


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