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Dell Ideastorm, and Obama

January 22, 2009

I have read hundreds of stories  about Dell and Ideastorm  and I have  reached the conclusion that it’s very hard to tell without knowing more about Dell’s objective  whether this initiative is a success or not.

Let’s start with some numbers:

First from Google: I ran a few queries on Google Search for “Ideastorm + Linux” ( 24100 results) , “Ideastorm+Ubuntu” ( 24300), “Ideastorm+vista” (8300) , Ideastorm+xp” (5000), “Ideastorm+Windows” ( 22800)

Second from Google Set (I love Google):  Try Ideastorm in Google Set , first keyword suggested is Linux, Second is Dell.

Third from Ideastorm itself:

Ideastorm categorizes ideas based on topics:  the Linux topic has 58 pages, the Operating System topic (which is where all OS discussions are covered) is 43 pages long.

The first pages of the later are mainly talking about Ubuntu, Requirement for Dell to be OS agnostic, Open source or negative comments  on Microsoft.

The net is that Ideastorm is the  place where the Linux/Ubuntu community talks to Dell.

If this was the objective: great, if Dell’s goal was to reach out the mass market (9x+%) of people using PCs with Microsoft operating systems,  they missed it.

What should marketers learn from this:

1) Communities are not all equal. The Motrin moms, the Linux fans, the Geeks are highly efficient and organized communities.  Brands have to factor this in and  build strategies on how to deal with lobbies and silent majorities.

2) Strategy should come first: Brands have to understand communities in their target domain/ markets and establish goals and strategy for each and every of them. Some they might listen to , some they might nurture and engage , some they might build, some they may ignore.

The best way to do that is top-down.  (more to come on this topic).

3) Listening should come very close to first: Do you expect people coming to your place and telling you the truth ? Come on.

Go listen to where people openly discuss, get unbiased feedback and then decide what to do.

4) There is room for Brand managed communities. This does not prevent you to listen to what people say when they are out of your control.

5) The Ideastorm approach calls for a “direct democracy” model which has shown its limits, in particular compared to a “representative democracy” model that prevails in most modern countries.  That may be what “influencers” should be used for ? Representative of communities that organize conversations locally and make it possible for ideas to emerge.

A similar “approach/solution” is used by the Obama administration (Citizen’s briefing book). Here is a discussion about it and a link to its top page

Excellent Idea, wrong implementation. Very few would agree that “Marijuana legalisation” is #1 issue in the US nowadays.

Should  we take Ideastorm with the same level of caution ?


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