12.02.2006

What, Me Manipulate You?

In my latest article in CPU Magazine I wrote about the Halo Effect and how when put to good use - it can be highly effective -- but when abused it can be an absolute disaster.

Sometime in early 2005 Voodoo started to change the way we interacted with our suppliers, our customers, and the media. I also started a blog in order to reveal some of our greatest challenges and assert our thoughts to an ever-growing public audience.

For years enthusiast companies have been used by the much larger hardware manufacturers to help sell their product into the mainstream. …ask anyone in the channel and they’ll tell you its absolutely true.

This is how it works: The big guys come up with a new piece of hardware – they work with the enthusiasts to get the hardware in system reviews immediately because they know damn well that wins equate to a profound halo-effect. The enthusiasts bite immediately and do whatever it takes to put out a review machine at any cost, risks aside. The review comes out, and hopefully it’s a good one, leading to the larger mainstream saying “Wow! If XY Enthusiast Company uses this hardware in their machine and they won this review then that must mean that ZZ Hardware Company is the best!”

It makes sense, after all the Halo effect is incredibly powerful guerrilla marketing. We are also big believers in “Halo Effect” as long is it’s constructive.

The problem isn’t in the concept, it’s in the execution; it requires manipulation and sometimes deception to the highest degree: Manipulation of the media by trying to justify certain launch dates, and manipulation of the enthusiast company to ensure that they get the reviews out just in time. The biggest loser in this is the customer who usually ends up waiting months to get a system because the hardware that was promised to us end up being “over allocated” – and everyone has to wait forever to get them. Now granted, sometimes delays are unavoidable, and we make it clear to our customers that certain hardware may cause delays in their order.

Since Voodoo was acquired by HP we are getting calls from almost everyone under the sun, including a company who has had years of trouble trying to launch ONE product. Finally they have an accessory which they are trying to get us to buy and they can’t even supply a sample (we’re talking about a $200 on a bad day accessory.) They claimed that they needed us to commit to order quantity because they “cannot keep them in stock”. It looked to me like all they wanted was a press release showing that we had “partnered” with them to make it to their next financing. Needless to say I “filed” that email where it belongs.

Sometime last year we were approached by a new hardware vendor who was interested in having Voodoo “launch” their new technology to the gaming market. Our incentive: Voodoo would be one of a handful of companies listed on their website. After review of the hardware, we realized that it was too premature to launch so we humbly declined their offer. Others jumped on board, and really in the end they ended up selling hardware to their customers that wasn’t fully baked.

Another tale of trouble was when a team of executives told us about a new upcoming platform that we should really consider selling to gamers. We got the full Powerpoint presentation, we were wined and dined, and the next day they asked if we would be interested in launching it. The funny thing was we didn’t get to see the product. They wanted us to start taking pre-orders on it without even seeing it! Are you kidding me? That’s like an 11 on the “ludicrous requests scale” of 1-10. It’s unfortunate but that’s almost the level of insanity that we reached in the industry, thankfully no one took the bait.

So who are the guilty ones? Almost everyone is guilty of some form of paper launching at one point or another. I’m hoping we can do whatever it takes to change the way the industry does business. I believe it stems from unhealthy cut-throat competition. That said, we will not launch something unless we know it’s fully baked – and we hate paper launches. Quite frankly we aren’t puppets, and we will strive to do what’s best for our customers.

If you haven't picked up your subscription of CPU Magazine yet, I suggest you do. It's a great publication.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

We all know what you're talking about:) Good to see you not being puppets for Heat x Heat = Worse than Kentsfield.

Nick Clark said...

PhysX by any chance?????

Just kidding! Just goes to show that there is always someone willing to try to muscle the perceived 'little guy' yet they obviously failed to recognise that even though Voodoo do not have massive market share (except in the luxury pc field), you do have massive market leadership - two completely different things.

The route to mass-market is often via the small market...

Sounds like you made a good decision Mr. S!

Sean said...

As a regular enthusiast who sifts through dozens of reviews and an extremely short list of online retailers in order to find the best bang for the buck when i build a PC, i have to say i really enjoy your writings. They give an insight to a side of the computing industry with which i'm not familiar and are also generally entertaining to boot. Keep up the good work, i appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Not PhysX. Could you kindly enlighten your dear readers Rahul? :)

My bet is that it is Phantom Enterainment with the "Phantom Lapboard". I've not seen any more vaporware than the Phantom Lapboard.

Anonymous said...

including a company who has had years of trouble trying to launch ONE product

please tell me that was the phantom lapboard.

Nuno Cordeiro said...

Of course... I'd put 10-1 stakes on Phantom for the first product. As for the second, there are a few candidates, but PhysX is one of them (I can think of a few others)...

Jeremy said...

"a company who has had years of trouble trying to launch ONE product....they have an accessory which they are trying to get us to buy and they can’t even supply a sample"

My money is on the Optimus keyboard, and the $200 accessory they're trying to sell is the 3-key model that was released recently. :)