Re: real marketing or just catchy slogans?


Sorry for the long reply. Feel free to ignore - we seem to be in agreement.

> Gnome is not like Firefox. End users can see an ad for Firefox, decide
> that it's cool, download it, install it, and go. But end users can't
> download and install "Gnome". The closest they can come is to download
> and install a Linux distribution that is *based on* Gnome,

They can at least _try_ it easily, with a Live CD. A large amount of
anecdotal evidence suggests that this has been an incredibly successful
route to Linux/GNOME adoption for new Ubuntu users.

VMPlayer images could be even better.

> which (even
> ignoring the huge difference in scale between a web browser and a
> distro) is a totally different thing. How would we tell users to install
> GNOME if we had a New York Times ad? Would we pick a preferred distro?
> Or let anyone who wanted to contribute money to the ad be able to put in
> a plug for their distro (even if that distro was really hard to install
> and was likely to end up driving users away)?
> We can't sell ourselves directly to end users. We need to sell ourselves
> to Linux distros, and get them to sell *themselves* to end users. We're
> not like Firefox, we're like Intel! [Cue "Intel Inside" chimes]

I think we mention Firefox not because we are the same kind of product,
but because we'd like our team to have their energy and effectiveness. Our
marketing strategy would most likely be quite different.

At the same time, there is indeed much talk of Intel's brand as something
to imitate - to create awareness in users's minds so that the middlemen
(PC manufacturers, distros, etc) must offer that brand as part of their
products. Hopefully that creates some common brand across the products,
positive brand assocications, and more "sales" for all.

I'm not confident that we can make this work (though I want to try),
because distros are currently removing almost all mention of the GNOME
project from their GNOME-based products, apart from the About dialogs here
and there. But we haven't really started to create a brand that they might
want to use. Maybe it's not too late.

> The vast
> majority of our "customers" don't "buy" our product directly, they're
> getting it as an integral part of someone else's product. Even if they
> do understand that this other product contains our product, they aren't
> going to be able to explain exactly what our part does for the combined
> product, where our part of the product ends and the other vendor's part
> begins, or how the possible alternatives to our product would make
> things different for them. At best, they'll be able to say "well, this
> one has 2.8 and that other one has 2.6, so I'll get this one because it
> has a bigger number!"

Maybe marketing professionals understand why, but Intel seems to
successfully market their brand in connection with multimedia,
communication, creativity, etc, though that blurs distinctions. I don't
think users care. They want a good computer and don't care about the
technical details. As long as GNOME means <positive brand association to
be chosen> then they'll be happy to have a GNOME computer.

It's up to the distros to distinguish themselves, just as they already do
despite the fact that they all have Linux (a strong brand without clear

> Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean we want to market ourselves the
> same way Intel does. Intel definitely markets itself to end users, but
> that's just part of its strategy to sell chips to PC manufacturers, who
> are its real customers. By convincing end users that PCs with Intel
> chips are better/faster/more-likely-to-get-them-laid than PCs with AMD
> chips, they keep the demand for Intel-based PCs high, which keeps the
> manufacturers buying lots of chips, which keeps Intel in business.
> We could apply the same technique: convince end users that GNOME is
> better for them, so that they will preferentially install distros that
> use GNOME, so that distros (our real customers) will use GNOME as their
> preferred desktop. But there's a problem. (Sri, you might want to stop
> reading here :-). Intel only markets itself to end users because its
> products *aren't* any better than its competitors'. If their chips were
> unambiguously better than AMDs, then the PC manufacturers wouldn't need
> to be convinced to stay with Intel, it would just be the obvious choice.
> The same principle should hold for GNOME. If we are actually better than
> our competitors, than all we have to do is make sure that the distros
> realize this (by marketing ourselves *to the distros*), and we win. And
> if we *aren't* better than our competitors, then we're working against
> users' interests if we try to convince them otherwise.

Having a good product is obviously a huge part of marketing that product,
but isn't the market littered with good products that failed because they
weren't marketed correctly? I don't think we have a lot to lose by doing

> (And what are we going to convince end users of anyway?

Recently I've (amateurly, probably wrongly) concluded that we need to
create a simple positive brand association, not convince people of little
details such as this program is better than this program, or that GNOME
starts here and stops there. It's why we hate the Intel/Coke/Cigarettes
marketing, but it's probably why the Intel marketing is successful.

> "Use GNOME! It
> has Epiphany! [Unless you're using Red Hat, SUSE, or Ubuntu. Or anything
> else.] It doesn't have an office suite!" GNOME isn't a whole story unto
> itself. "Desktop Linux" is the story, but that's not a story we can tell
> on our own.)

At some point, we might want to stop being so deferential, and accept that
we are winning. We are the only viable Linux Desktop, simply because of
usability. I know that's not a politically wise position for us as an
organisation, but it's my opinion.

Murray Cumming
murrayc murrayc com

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