How NOT to do marketing

schwartz.jpg 

Check out this blog post by Jonathan Schwartz, the CEO of Sun Microsystems.   The point of the post is to announce that Sun is changing their ticker symbol from SUNW to JAVA.  A pretty benign announcement, right?

 Wrong.

Check out the comments.  There are over 250 of them and they are almost universally negative.  Here are a few of my favorites:

What a waste of money. How do all the people you’re laying off soon feel about this? How many of their jobs could you have saved, how much security to worried families, with the money this must be costing Sun in admin fees?

marketoids are ruling sun…

pathetic. don’t you have better things to spend your time on?

This is a joke, right?

Mr. Ponytail Man, this is silly. Please bring back SUNW.  And please get back to work on better products and better value for both shareholders and customers.

Clearly this change is 100% directed at improving Sun’s image for the financial markets.  They want to get credit for inventing Java, one of today’s most pervasive and important technologies.  But it appears that the marketing team at Sun didn’t consider the reaction of the rest of Sun’s stakeholders — the hundreds of thousands of employees, customers, individual shareholders, and users of the technology.  These folks have a big say in Sun’s stock price.  And for a company as technology-driven as Sun, it’s especially important to have the techies on board before you make any change to the business.  I wonder if they even did a cursory survey to gauge reaction to this change.

In the end, this will blow over and a month from now nobody will care what Sun’s ticker symbol is.  But this is a great example of how small things can become PR disasters on the Web.  This story was ranked high on Digg for a while, and a few widely read blogs (plus my very narrowly read blog) wrote about it.  This sort of attention can magnify an insignificant issue and damage a company’s reputation.  Plus, Schwartz looks like a bozo for posting something that 99% of his readers (the folks that are most passionate about Sun) disagree with.

One of the things I love about marketing in the age of the Internet is that it’s incredibly easy to connect to customers and other stakeholders to get their opinion before you make a decision.  Whenever a question comes up at ThinkCash, we can survey thousands of customers in a matter of hours.  We do this at least once a month.  Sometimes you have to make decisions that go against the grain, but by doing the research you at least know what you’re up against.

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3 thoughts on “How NOT to do marketing

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