The sight of an EMC-branded taxi last weekend while on vacation in London reminded me of a recent series of events that are just too good not to relate. There are clearly greater forces at work in this industry – not to mention Machiavellian marketing minds – than I usually imagine!
So, the first part of this saga was my trip to EMC World in Las Vegas in late May. As usual I printed my boarding pass before I headed to the airport (I’m still not comfortable with those bar-code readers for your smart phone at security….they seem very fickle). I can’t say I usually spend much time reading the ads on the boarding pass – in fact usually I “print without offers”- but this time my eye was drawn to the quarter-page ad that simply announced “Oracle Beats EMC”. Of course it’s hard for the eye to miss any Oracle ad as its choice of font-size is always simple – 10 to 20X the size of whatever else is near! Being a bit simple I just assumed it was a coincidence that I got that ad….but of course, once I turned up at the event, I found that I was one of many. Now that’s target marketing – rather brilliant eh!?
Anyhow, the flight itself was sadly devoid of storage vendor advertising (although there’s a certain attraction to “This overhead bin brought to you by HP” perhaps? Or “All your storage flies free with Dell”?), but on arrival at Vegas airport there were the usual vendor banners hanging from the columns…..only, no, wait, these banners were for NetApp, not EMC?!? OMG! I heard (and it’s probably apocryphal, but it’s too good to not be true, so here’s hoping….) that the NetApp banners were supposed to be down early on Sunday, but that the job got overlooked or forgotten or….well you know… either way, it didn’t happen. Once again, whatever the truth, how brilliant was this? Maybe parking its banners in the airport was NetApp’s way of getting back at EMC for parking its Mini (remember last year’s stunts?) outside the NetApp offices. Maybe this is a whole new approach to vendor discourse?
But – back to the story – it turns out that EMC had inside knowledge and was about to get its own back as it had sponsored and branded the poles that marked taxi stopping places. What do I mean by ‘inside knowledge?' Well, EMC knew how many people were turning up for its event and that the lines would therefore probably be interminable and move at an inexorably slow pace (right on all counts), allowing you plenty of time to admire its signage! And then you also stood a more-than-fighting chance of climbing into an EMC branded taxi too! I fully expected Roman chariot or James Bond style wheel knives to take out the rogue Oracle taxis! Maybe next year…
And so to the final stages in this intoxicating drama…just a couple of weeks or so before EMC World commenced, I was asked to appear on EMC-TV at the event in order to discuss its 39 new announcements. This became eerily strange when the room I was given was on the 39th floor, and my bill at the café that evening was $39.39!! I was half way through mentally composing my [no doubt magnificent] blog based on the famous John Buchan 39 Steps novel. It would’ve been great, except that I never wrote it, because in the opening keynote of EMC World I discovered that the 39 product announcements had actually become 42! Now, 42 may mean that EMC beat its own previous announcement record, but it messed up my blog!! The cheek.
I thought little more of all this until I was attending IBM’s Edge event a couple of weeks later. The main gala dinner had the usual round tables seating 10 or 12 people….and a whole bunch of them to boot. Table numbers were allocated and noted on the reverse of one’s name badge – of course you’ve already guessed that I was at table # 39!! Such coincidence is rare but compelling; one might be excused for saying things like the planets must have been aligned; but then I’d have to share with you the fact that on the evening I was en route to the EMC event there was indeed a solar eclipse…..