The Secret to Rich Media Success: Put Marketing First

Let me turn you on to a fantastic secret. There is a place few New Yorkers know about, let alone the masses of holiday trekkers that descend on my hometown every year. It’s a place for solitude, a place of luxury, and a place of elegance, and it’s located right within the central hub of the world: Grand Central Station. It’s called the Campbell Apartment because it was once a lavish apartment built within Grand Central. It’s a little tricky to find, but once you’re inside you find yourself in quiet, luxurious surroundings, sipping a single malt scotch within feet of the swirling hubbub, yet feeling miles away. Sometimes rich media seems that way to me: like a tiny hidden oasis surrounded by mindless hustle.

OK… enough waxing poetic. This article is a quick one with some odds and ends, since I’m headed out to California and still have to pack.

There’s been a lot of blood spilt these last few weeks as a number of rich media companies (along with everyone else) laid off staff. I found it hysterical when sites like reported on the onslaught. But after seeing FuckedCompany mangle not only staff layoff numbers, but also complete business strategies as it whistled past the graveyard (causing unnecessary pain in the process), I’ve decided to mention only the companies that went public with the info: in this case, only one — ThingWorld, which this week announced the layoff of 70 percent of its staff. To tell the truth, I hadn’t heard much from ThingWorld for the last year and a half when it underwent a somewhat publicized change in company strategy.

Unicast, on the other hand, released an interesting report from NetRatings this week showing that SUPERSTITIALs have a 63 percent at-home reach and a 79 percent at-work reach on the top sites that run Unicast’s technology. This makes the SUPERSTITIAL. one of the most ubiquitous rich media technology platforms out there.

So, tell me, what’s the difference between a company like Unicast and a company like ThingWorld, besides the fact that one is reporting good news and one is reporting bad news? Although I know Allie Shaw of Unicast would kill me for saying this, there is not much difference between what these two companies have to offer. After all, both provide a branding solution in a rich media format. They both support Flash and other technologies in their offerings.

I think what really sets these two companies apart is not technology, but marketing. This factor is particularly important in these crazy times because when budget crunch time looms its ugly head, technology companies are very tempted to lay off their marketing and sales staffs first. There is an unrealistic assumption that some lone freelance PR person can do the job of an entire marketing and sales department.

Take ThingWorld, for instance. Here’s a company that doesn’t even list anyone from marketing on its management team. And it shows. As one of the main guys who covers rich media, I would’ve thought that sometime during the last couple of years I would have received a press kit from the ThingWorld folks. Think again. I have yet to see ThingWorld’s presence at any of the major trade shows, and I’ve never had a meeting or phone conversation with anyone from the company. But to give credit where credit is due, its PR person has made a few attempts to put me in touch with the CEO, who was available to meet with me only if I went to Boston. And the single press release I did receive from the company was the one in which it announced its layoffs!

I state all this not to fault or pick on ThingWorld: we’re all incredibly busy. Who the heck am I anyway? But Unicast, Enliven, and other companies that put marketing first would never market like that. I have a small library filled with literature from these companies and have developed slight hearing loss in one ear from listening to their presentations. The bottom line: Marketing counts — bigtime. And you can see it in the success stories of those companies that do it right and notice its absence in those that fall by the wayside.

Until next week, keep it rich!

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