Marketing Jaguar. Marketing open source

Earlier this week, I attended a talk by Jaguar‘s Head of Global Marketing Communications, Laurence Thomas. In it, he described how the company had worked to move the Jaguar brand from being seen as the old man’s favourite, to a credible, premium alternative to BMW, Mercedes, etc.

As Laurence described the substantial efforts his team had employed to effect the change, I began to think about two things we’d discussed during season 2, episode 3 of LugRadio:

  • the role of marketing in open source software
  • the NHS’s decision to stick with Microsoft.

Aq was very vocal in his opposition to any form of, what he might describe as, corporatism, including marketing, in open source software. Later, when discussing the NHS, Jono said that we had failed – “we” being the open source community.

Aq wants us to find a way, other than marketing, to build and promote open source software. Jono feels the collective pain of a community whose products, and organisation, are experiencing the shortcomings of not employing marketing.

Beautiful, fast software

During his talk about repositioning Jaguar, Laurence Thomas made it clear that changing the perception of a brand does not begin and end with some witty copy in an advert. Instead, the company needs a common goal and philosophy, which then creates the brand

Internally, Jaguar has a statement of purpose, which is intended to inform everything the company does:

Beautiful, fast cars.

Three words which are broad enough not to restrict but specific enough to be a meaningful guide for the company’s actions.

Rather than simply telling the world that Jaguar is different, they have actually changed the company, so that their products, service and communications all live up to a certain set of standards and ideals. The reality informs the brand.

This, my marketing-fearing open source friends, is what marketing is. It’s a management philosophy that evaluates needs and creates solutions to satisfy those needs. To use open source terminology – it’s about scratching itches.

Perhaps it’s useful to see how the marketers themselves describe marketing:

Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably. Chartered Institute of Marketing definition.

In other words, marketing is not just advertising, nor is it dodgy door-to-door selling. Marketing is finding out what people need and giving it to them. The profit you make would normally be financial, but it could be any benefit that is worth more than the effort expended.

It’s reasonable to say that the open source development model already employs marketing methods. The challenge is to get open source proponents and project leaders to realise that marketing isn’t evil; it’s essential.

As Jaguar have shown, marketing isn’t about smoke and mirrors, or trying to fool people. Marketing is about creating a reality which is best for both the organisation and the end user.

I’ll be writing more on this subject, over the next few weeks. I’m sure I’ll raise the ire of some people, but there’s genuinely no need to fear marketing within open source; in fact, to dismiss it is to dismiss much of what already happens.