Marketing 201: Publicity.

High-tech companies do not engage in a lot of publicity stunts. We don’t tend to see large, public acts of corporate creativity, and that’s surprising when you consider the fierce market-share battles in this industry coupled with the deep pockets of many of the combatants.

You would think vendors would be anxious to make a statement, to use sponsorships and publicity stunts to stay top-of-mind. In light of that, below we offer a few ideas, and we invite the vendor community to use them. No royalties will be requested.

The Microsoft Jazz Festival

Toronto came very close to losing this summer’s edition of the popular Downtown Jazz Festival when du Maurier yanked the majority of its funding commitment. Tobacco companies will soon not be permitted to sponsor events, and the cigarette giant decided to get a head start by backing out now. For a while it looked like du Maurier had killed the festival.

Fortunately, du Maurier opted to renew most of its commitment and all’s well, but this situation presents a great opportunity for Microsoft to step in, save the Toronto show and maybe even sponsor a nation-wide jazz series. A huge measure of public goodwill would certainly flow from such sponsorship.

The Red Hat Invitational

Linux is already cool and well liked – what it needs now is a safe, conservative, business-oriented image. The place to get that is the golf course.

Red Hat should sponsor a major golf tournament. Not to be outdone, Caldera would immediately launch the Caldera Classic, and CEOs Bob Young and Ransom Love could swagger around the links, each trying to appear more stable and useful than the other.

IBM’s Lilith Fair

IBM has created a reputation for itself as a promoter of women in IT through a series of workshops for young women and by working to balance the gender scales within its own workforce.

These excellent efforts would only be strengthened if IBM sponsored the next Lilith Fair, the traveling concert series that showcases female musicians. Big Blue gets instant cool by tying itself to such names as Sarah McLachlan, Lisa Loeb, Jewel and Suzanne Vega, and it is again seen to be promoting talented women.

NCR In-Store Specials

NCR was once National Cash Register, and the company is still known for retail technology. What better was to underline that strength than through the sponsorship of on-going in-store specials?

NCR could partner with Zellers, for example. Zellers would select an item to put on sale each Saturday, and NCR would bankroll the discount and get the public recognition for it. “Attention Zellers shoppers. Until 2:00 today, all Proctor-Silex toasters are half off. This sale brought to you by your friends at NCR.”

The CA All Nude Day

Okay, this one is a long-shot, but a great story from this year’s CA World in New Orleans illustrates the impact of this idea.

Last month, a group of journalists attending Computer Associates’ annual user conference met up with a naked man strolling along near one of the show venues. He was smoking a cigarette and seemed unconcerned that he was contravening the “casual business attire” guideline that accompanies most such conferences.

The story spread quickly that this naked guy – a “nude gent” – was a CA-sponsored reference to its neugent technology. Sadly, CA did not hire this naturalist, but think of the exposure such company-sponsored nudity would bring. Perhaps CA could designate one day in which its male employees come to work starkers. Nude gents all over the place.

It would be a great publicity stunt.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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