Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The most logical software purchasers, on the other hand....

‘The Best-run businesses run SAP’

Let’s heroically assume that this statement is true.

It’s a long way from this statement to the statement they’re implying, which is that ‘The best-run businesses are well-run because they run SAP’.

It is an even larger stretch from there to the statement they actually want you to believe, namely ‘If you run SAP then you too will become one of the best-run businesses’.

It is depressing, but highly probable, that people too stupid to understand these distinctions are in charge of deciding enterprise software choices for major corporations. At a minimum, the marketing folks at SAP seem to believe that the people in charge of deciding whether to buy their products are actually fools.


  1. You are missing the point. I suspect that the marketing people wouldn't be offended if idiot passersby made the connection you are making, but that isn't what this ad is selling.

    SAP is enterprise software, meant to integrate clients, vendors, regulators, supply chains and employees and to perform all their associated functions in one integrated platform. It is, metaphorically speaking, plumbing, and I would wager that a majority of Nestle employees wouldn't be able to tell you that they use SAP. You are looking at this ad as if it were an ad for software, casting yourself in the mental mold of "well, startup times are good, but the disk bloat is pretty bad, and the UI introduces numerous points of friction on the client side, and..." which is important, but if you are the CEO of a 1,000 employee company these are not the concerns at the top of your list.

    And make no mistake, these ads show up in airports, the FT, and The Economist because they are targeting executives. For these people, the most important thing is reliability, and if Nestle or the other Fortune 500 companies that run SAP ever had reliability issues with them you as an executive know that SAP would be dumped faster than the vultures could start shorting Nestle stock.

    The point is, you don't think about enterprise software unless is screws up, and what SAP wants is, when the time comes, to ask yourself if you, being plugged in to these sort of things, have ever heard of Nestle having major outages? Since the answer is no (at least, I assume it is or it wouldn't be on the ad), then obviously whatever else SAP is it is reliable even against the strains of multiple diverse Fortune 500 companies. Thus you, owner of a mere Fortune 2000 company, can sleep well at night knowing that at least this part of your corporate empire is stable and robust.

    1. Huh. That's actually a very good defence of these ads. I was assuming that the inference you were meant to draw was effectively 'Nestle is smart, just do whatever the hell they do!', rather than 'Hey, if our software were screwing up Nestle, you'd have heard about it'. The latter is actually meaningful.

      As for the ubiquity of these ads that you describe, that was the other part I found amazing. If you think about what fraction of the people in the airport would ever be in a position to actually buy the product, it's got to be smaller than almost any other advertising campaign I can think of. They're spending a ton of cash to show an ad to a million people just so that they might influence the one guy who actually will decide for a big company. It seems like there's got to be an easier way to target the tiny number of decision-makers, but what do I know?

    2. I suspect it is the same reason that mattress companies and car companies advertise all the time. Most people most of the time don't need the product, but what these highly durable goods manufacturers have to do is make sure that their brand name sticks in your mind for when the day comes that you do need the product.

      And they target executives, typically wealthy executives. Where else are they going to advertise? I have seen their ads in the Economist, the Financial Times, and large airports. I am having a hard time thinking of other places that rich people hang out that also accept ads. They end up there not because those are great locations (though they may be) but because there really aren't that many places that executives are likely to be exposed to the message. Though it may also be a sign of bloat in the SAP ad budget, though I am obviously in no place to judge that.

      For all the hype about individualized micro-targeting, there are still groups that are highly resistant to targeting. Wealthy executives are one of those groups, partly because they gravitate towards recreations that happen to be ad free, partly because they tend to work long hours during which they aren't looking at ads, and partly because the normal things they do, like watching football, don't differentiate them from normal people.