Working out the depositioning strategy used by specific vendors is normally complex. Do they actively look to emphasise their positives over their competitors? Do they look to highlight their competitors’ perceived negative attributes? Do they infer who the competition is? Do they actively name the competitors, or the class of competitor?
Reverse-engineering this information usually involves a great deal of inference and subtle interpretation of the way certain features are spun and certain advantages are claimed. In some cases I even conclude that the vendor has no specific competitive marketing strategy and that no direct depositioning of the competition occurs. So it was with some mutual professional respect that I started to review Oracle’s marketing for their ESB product as part of our latest REPAMA Segment Analysis Study (SAS) into the ESB market segment (IBM, Oracle, Software AG, Progress, TIBCO, Microsoft). I realised that Oracle had already done my job for me.
An ex-Oracle marketing VP that I used to work with once told me that Larry Ellison’s DNA runs right through Oracle’s marketing organisation. That is – kill the market leader until Oracle is the market leader then kill #2. Expanding upon this tactic looks like this:
- Claim to be #1 and find some measure by which market leadership can legitimately be claimed
- Identify the nearest competitor
- Identify the largest delta in functionality (i.e. the greatest gap between the competitor’s weakness and Oracle’s strength)
- Tell the world why this factor is so important
- Tell the world why Oracle is better than the competitor in this regard
- Acquire competitor if the world won’t listen
- Repeat ad nauseam until Oracle legitimately is the market leading product
As regular readers or anyone who as looked at the REPAMA Guide will know, amongst 25+ other marketing elements Lustratus monitors vendors’ depositioning strategies as well as the likely (self-perceived) primary competitor or alternative. As mentioned above I usually have to work hard to find this information, but take a look at some of the text extracts below that are directly lifted from the Oracle marketing literature.
“Unlike other ESBs…”
“Unlike other vendors that require multiple products to ascertain the health of services…”
“Unlike other vendors’ disjointed SOA and business process management (BPM) products…”
And look at the competitive statements that follow the “Unlike” element of the positioning statement…
“[Oracle] has unparalleled quality of services (QoS) with optimum performance, scalability, reliability and management and a unique combination of integration capabilities, embedded management and integrated governance”
“[Oracle] offers integrated service governance and management capabilities across multiple SOA domains to enable consistent QoS, control and visibility, ensuring reuse across the enterprise wide service network”
“Oracle Service Bus delivers built-in capabilities for service virtualization, Web service security (WS-Security), and enforcement of policies around throttling and service pooling to meet the reliability, availability, scalability, and performance requirements and avoid overloading the back-end services for the real-world enterprise-class applications”
“Oracle Service Bus provides built-in monitoring capabilities, including comprehensive dashboards displaying service-level agreement (SLA) alerts, operational metrics, and message pipelines for the business services it hosts.”
“Oracle Service Bus delivers service-oriented BPM by using optimized connectivity for seamless integration with Oracle SOA Suite and Oracle BPM Suite.”
“[Oracle] is the first solution to combine integration, messaging, operational service management, and security-enforcement capabilities”
“[Oracle offers] code free configuration-based service integration”
So full marks to Oracle for both sharpening that marketing knife and for also understanding who to stick it into. This is a company that truly understands guerrilla product marketing.
That said they’ve got a little bit of an acquisition to swallow at the moment and whilst they are digesting that, they could be fairly easy prey for savvy vendors. Once digested however, early results suggest they’ll be executing a text book competitive marketing strategy. And whilst it’s not my role to comment in detail on the product or functional strategy (that’s the job of my colleagues Steve Craggs and Ronan Bradley), from a pure marketing perspective I’d say ESB market beware.