Innovate or die trying

Can the also-rans of Search challenge the leader? Will Yahoo! and New-Best-Friend Microsoft out-innovate Google, which according to today’s call enjoys 92% market share in Europe? It seems clear fewer marketing folks will be working on the problem. Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz hinted at job losses.

Already this month, two former marketing colleagues were, separately, acquired. While the valuations look good short-term, these two gobbled-up marketing executives will (if they are lucky) get a fat cheque and then start work on someone else’s vision of the future. Technically, they were out-marketed by the acquirer.

Just how hard do marketing teams work to avoid being ‘taken out’ by their current shareholders? Looking critically at the marketing of my friends’ acquired companies, both independent for nearly two decades, not hard enough. Both held dominance of very erudite niches and were known by ‘everyone in their village’. Neither made their offerings relevant and attractive to the widest possible audience.

One decision-phobic but charismatic, founder approved the best-looking White Papers that engineers could write, but no outreach (no events, customer case studies or media briefings – just lots and lots of Analyst Relations). The other ex-marketing team retained the same PR agency for over a decade and was a notorious spammer. Neither understood innovation. Repositioning these companies was a tough, ultimately unwinnable, challenge. So how easy will it be for Binghoo! to take two teams, reduce the workforce and challenge for top spot? Tough.

The culling of under-priced technology firms by acquisition, or like MS/YHOO by collaboration, is an obvious move at this time in the cycle. We should expect more acquisitions in the tech space short term. But it remains to be seen if two Davids can take on one Goliath. If Google’s, like-it-or-not, innovative marketing can really be beaten, I will bet it will be more likely by new pretenders than forced marriages.

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