Brands, Parody and Competitive Advantage

I had the pleasure of being interviewed, along with Mitchell Baker, by Tim O’Reilly at his Web2.0 conference last week. Notwithstanding my disagreement with Tim over the dynamics of the software industry (which boils down to his belief that open source matters more than free software, my assertion that the opposite is true – watch the first few minutes of the interview (still searching for a link), you’ll see the sparring start), it was a good dialog. One of these days, Tim, you and I should sit down in front of a podcast and hash it out.

What we didn’t spend a lot of time talking about, given that the focus seemed to be more on source code than free software, is the value of brands. Brands, and reputation, are everything in a community. (And that’s not to dismiss the value of advertising, which some are quick to do, just to point out that brands are more like billboards you can’t buy, they run in people’s heads.)

Brands are only increasing in value on the ‘net – when price is no longer a differentiator (as most services will trend to free), only three things are going to be relevant. Brands, communities and convenience.

To kick off that focus, I figured I’d share with you a video parody we did of the brand surrounding “good enough” computing. A concept that seems to be losing its sheen, helped along by $70/barrel oil, high real estate prices and a few other realities.

Dell seems to be the company whose customers face most of those realities – at least that’s what we consistently hear. So we’re sending an open letter to their customers tomorrow, first showing up in the Financial Times. Which really highlights Dell’s focus and brand around selling things cheaply; and Sun’s focus on innovation – backed up with data for handy comparison. It’s great to once again have the best servers in the market.

Interestingly, the New York Times refused to run the ad*. Reminding me once again, the best thing about the internet is it doesn’t have an editorial policy.

So here’s the ad/open letter. Click the image for the .pdf version. And of course, feel free to print and distribute freely 🙂


* my opinion, it was the mouse type…


Filed under General

2 responses to “Brands, Parody and Competitive Advantage

  1. [Trackback] Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems is very happy to send out open letters. Let it be to a open source developer or the latest salvo , an Open letter to Dell customers. Sun and Jonathan plan to run this Open Letter Ad in newspapers. Jonathan says, T…

  2. [Trackback] The Ad is meant to turn heads, grab attention, and it achieves it to an extent. When I see an “Open letter” I will read at least the first few lines. But where is the attention sustainer?

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