Does Lotus really know? And does it matter?

by Volker Weber

Lotus Connections just became IBM Connections. Sametime may be next. Portal has always been WebSphere. Lotus as a brand has been toned down even at Lotusphere. And business cards now read "IBM Collaboration Solutions".

It appears this "Lotus Knows" campaign was a huge waste of money. Carefully avoiding to show the product, it pushed a brand, that is now going invisible.

Comments

If the Lotus brand disappeared, would anyone care? Would anyone notice? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsUJ86bIMN8

Bob Balaban, 2011-04-28 00:12

Ouch. That's a nasty video.

I am not questioning if anybody cares. I am asking if this campaign was a huge waste of money.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-28 00:22

Don't think it matters. Actually the Lotus dept. has been WPLC for a while, before it became ICS. What matters is that IBM continues to invest in the solutions,not the Brand name. Even MS got rid of the Groove brand. It's IBM that competes with MS, not Lotus.
In my honest opinion,IBM have a stronger name than Lotus in the Enterprise world.

Tommy Oustad, 2011-04-28 00:38

"Without deviation from the norm, 'progress' is not possible" [Frank Zappa]

Tommy Oustad, 2011-04-28 00:40

@Tommy - Also from Frank Zappa: "Watch out where the huskies go, don't you eat that yellow snow!"
:-)

Bob Balaban, 2011-04-28 01:21

@vowe, no it wasn't a waste of money; I am certain that there are metrics that show that it was a success. Plus, there was the goodwill it brought to the faithful - "Look, they're advertising/marketing Lotus!" (in the US and few other countries*)

And even if it was a "huge waste of money," so what? The cost was probably a rounding error for IBM.

* - more countries coming soon

Gregg Eldred, 2011-04-28 03:45

@vowe - drop in the bucket compared with Doesn't Workplace

Bob Balaban, 2011-04-28 03:58

For all we know, the LK campaign is what caused IBM to realize that the Lotus name had been tarnished irreparebly. There is definite value in that knowledge.

The Lotus quarter-by-quarter revenue decline has also slowed. Q1 2011 actually had some growth. I'm guessing the LK campaign had at least a little to do with that.

Erik Brooks, 2011-04-28 06:16

Do I smell Stockholm syndrome? "The largest marketing campaign in ten years did/didn't work?"

Volker Weber, 2011-04-28 08:13

Its hardly a surprise. Brand death was openly discussed at iLug 2010 where it was stated that the next fat client would NOT be called 'Lotus Notes'.

The upside to this is that whatever the new product would be called would have to be - *gasp* - marketed. Given the recent run of broken promises however, I'm not holding my breath.

This is why I believe that the Lotus Management dodged the ball at Lotusphere by denying that the brand was being discarded. It would have been a perfect opportunity to explain to the faithful that things were going to change, and turn it into something positive.

Instead we have this slow drip of change coming out of Cambridge that does nothing but scare the large customers (Ernst and Young, anyone?).

Textbook really. A Textbook example on how NOT to run a brand.

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2011-04-28 09:24

I assure you, I have no problem selling IBM software here in Seattle. There is no twitch or blank stare like I get in response to Lotus. But why should they invest in marketing all the sub-brands separately when they can use the power of a single, ubiquitous IBM brand?

Now what would be nice is if they actually started marketing products, not just brands.

David (The Notes Guy in Seattle) Hablewitz , 2011-04-28 09:26

The Lotus name is damaged because of 1-2-3 and Notes. If you change the name to IBM you will probably get rid of 1-2-3 but IBM Notes will share the same problems the Lotus brand had with Notes.
Customers don't leave Lotus because the brand is damaged but because they see little future in its products (or they don't agree with its future).
Almost everything that is in Notes today is either half-baked or on hold. As a development platform you have to live without a roadmap for many years.
This won't work even if IBM is the stronger brand (although IBM will still make lots of money).
Lotus Knows was a waste of money but so was Workplace, db2nsf or Symphony.
Changing the name will not solve any problem I have today and IBM probably won't win new customers with it either. Maybe Vulcan can change this but if IBM wants to get rid of all the old stuff then maybe fixing Workplace would have been a much better plan.

Henning Heinz, 2011-04-28 09:46

@Henning - I was REALLY waiting for almost two years now for someone from the yellow bubble coming 'round the corner telling me IBM/Lotus should have stuck to their guns with workplace. This community is really nuts. You ditch the 8.x client, ditch XPages in development and ditch the server improvements like OSGi - it's all worth nothing, right ?! No investment ? No development ? Where have you been ?

And yes - renaming products and brands does not help in selling or promoting the products. It has been proven lately by the Sametime and Quickr renaming craze a few years ago.

So was Lotus Knows wasted money ? I think so, yes. We saw some of it here in germany mainly at CeBIT one year ago - but it never went far here either. Maybe the marketing guys already knew what was going to come ;-).

Heiko Voigt, 2011-04-28 10:00

Oh, yes. 'IBM dont market product'. About that:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wildbillbuchan/5663441445/sizes/l/in/set-72157626472514705/

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2011-04-28 10:54

Well Heiko,
the customer defines what it's all worth not me. So maybe this question is better being asked to someone at Daimler or Deutsche Bank. Notes 8 came out in 2007, 8.5 in 2008 so IBM's plan is on the table. So far the market for Lotus is not growing.
Now I am aware that we won't agree on this issue but I do think that we all want successful IBM Collaboration products. And for this to happen I consider dropping the Lotus name won't change much. Most of IBM's revenue for Lotus Notes and Domino are coming through the installed base. Customers you already have. Now if we talk about winning new customers my personal opinion is that it does not matter if it is called Lotus Notes or IBM Collaboration something.
The only advantage I see is that with IBM dropping Lotus they don't have to announce figures in their quarterly reports anymore. They can hide it in one of the other brands.

Henning Heinz, 2011-04-28 11:47

I think it was a waste of money. They should have used that money instead to create a better product. IBM has been delivering a product of substandard quality since R8.0. Sure the new features are excellent, but they have to work properly before you can use them in an enterprise environment. I think whether it is called IBM SomethingOrOther or Lotus WhatEver makes no difference except to people who shouldn't be making any type of decisions anyway.

Martijn Mulder, 2011-04-28 12:29

My 2c is that any marketing by IBM whatsoever about Lotus was to be welcomed. Pointless? Maybe. Invisible in Europe? Mostly.

I always remember Steve Jobs many years ago taking a stand on marketing and Microsoft in Apple. Trying to stop people thinking that the only way for Apple to win would be for Microsoft to lose. Showing the product. Good design.

IMHO the most underrated tool at IBM's disposal is/was notesiscool.com . I don't like the domain name, but the concept is excellent.

And for those that don't know, and IBM guy did this (Darren Adams). In his own time. At his own cost.

Paul Mooney, 2011-04-28 13:10

I really feel for Darren and the rest of the UK team, trying to actually get IBM UK to understand one of the products in their portfolio, and get news out to the customers.

Gotta be a tough job, spending the majority of your time fighting your own company.

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2011-04-28 13:34

@Henning - we agree on more than you think ! Besides, from my knowledge, these customers you mentioned are not moving only because they lack confidence in the products' future. There are a lot more reasons for that, not for all of them are official statements available.
Lotus isn't growing that's definitely true. Your point that customers vote for what is seen to have a future is fair.
I also agree with you that dropping the Lotus brand name doesn't change much. On the other hand, hiding the technology in other products worked for WebSphere and DB2 - maybe that's why they try it now with Lotus ?

Heiko Voigt, 2011-04-28 16:12

Lotus Knows always sounded too similar to the Nike Bo Knows commericals... not very original. Even the I AM campaign was overshadowed by the Molson I AM Canadian beer commercials here in Canada.

It doesn't matter what IBM calls Lotus and/or Notes in the coming years... making an easy to use, mostly bug free application will be the only way they win existing and new customers alike.

Build a great product... all other conditions are secondary!

Thomas Leriche, 2011-04-28 20:04

@Thomas: I have to disagree with Build a great product... all other conditions are secondary! Without marketing, a great product will languish on the sidelines, to die a slow, painful death. A great product would be nice to have, but if no one knows about it . . .

But even then, do you really need a great product, especially if you are marketing an idea (I'm thinking of "Smarter Planet," which makes no mention of any product)?

Gregg Eldred, 2011-04-28 20:40

@Gregg: I agree with Thomas. You have to keep the customers you have and that can only be achieved by a quality product.

Losing existing customers is the worst marketing....

Martijn Mulder, 2011-04-28 21:32

IBM just recently decided to invest $8 billion in repurchasing IBM stocks. They ended Q1 with $13.2 billion of cash on hand. IBM would have enough money and resources to do whatever they want with any of their products. If you think that the product quality is not good enough then lack of money probably is not the reason.
Just remembers me what Volker wrote last year:
Steve Mills knows exactly what he is doing. Make your plans accordingly.

Henning Heinz, 2011-04-28 21:53

if you buy back stock, EPS (earnings per shares) goes up. Senior management gets bigger bonuses. If you "resource action" people, cost goes down, profit goes up. Senior management gets bigger bonuses. If you move jobs from the first world to the second and third, cost goes down, profit goes up. Senior management gets bigger bonuses.

I'm sure you get the drift.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-28 21:57

@Volker - how sustainable is that model though?

Paul Mooney, 2011-04-29 13:09

Hm, I just bought back all my stock and I'm waiting for the bonus. In the meantime, ramen noodles.

Rob Novak, 2011-04-30 00:55

And when IBM buys back its own stock, the price of that stock in the market goes up. And the stock holdings and options by the executives who decided to spend the company's money buying back the stock become much more valuable. For the executives. Who made the decision.

Synergy? Business? Social Business?

Bob Balaban, 2011-04-30 04:21

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vowe.net is a personal website published by Volker Weber a.k.a. vowe. I am an author, consultant and systems architect based in Darmstadt, Germany.

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