How to Read Marketing Material

Author: John Honovich, Published on May 28, 2008

Almost all IP video info is vendor marketing. Good decision making requires critically reading and analyzing this material.

At first, I did not believe that most information was vendor marketing material. Obviously, web sites and press releases are marketing materials but you also have articles and reports from magazines. However, almost every article I find across a dozen magazines is written by a vendor (usually the head of marketing). Moreover, most of those articles are clearly promotion pieces for the vendor's offerings. They argue the merits of the trends behind their company's offerings with minimal attention or fair treatment of opposing views. Even news reports are routinely copies or excerpts of press releases.

As such, you really need to be careful and cognizant of the motivation and structure of the information you are reading. I have had to re-train myself to be more critical of what I read as I realize how consistently this is an issue. If you want to make good decisions and quickly discern what is the true value of what you are reading, I encourage you try the techniques I share here.

At the same time, I am hoping vendor's consider modifying their marketing materials. As I will discuss throughout, in the long run, I believe all parties will benefit from clearer communication.

Here are my key recommendations for reading marketing material:

  • Determine how well the offering works
  • Determine what benefits the offering provides over the next best alternative
  • Determine what the cost of the offering is

How well it works

Marketing material routinely speak in glowing terms of what their offering does. This is great for establishing the conceptual potential of a product, which is a necessary element of communicating value. It sets the stage for what is fundamentally different and what customers might expect to gain from the offering.

The problem is that it is so vague that it is impossible for readers to determine how well it fits for their environment. Most importantly, very rarely does the material discuss how well the offering works or how well it might work in different applications. I have seen this happen for 2 reasons: (1) the vendor is not sure which segment the product is a fit or (2) the vendor wants to launch the widest possible net and not lose any prospects. In either scenario, it becomes very hard for a reader to make a realistic determination of the fit for their needs.

I do not think this is ultimately beneficial for any of the parties. The vendor might get a short term win by an immediate sale. However, even for the vendor, it still could be a problem. If the deployment goes poorly (and often does if the fit is poor), the chances for repeat business and referrals is low. Essentially it becomes a very high cost sale that does not grow the long term market.

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

As a reader, you need to clearly ask yourself how well this offering will work. Consider what operational or environmental issues may undermine the project. Since it is unlikely you will get a clear and fair assessment from a vendor, you need to do this yourself to make good decisions.

The next best alternative

Most marketing material gloss over the benefits of your existing systems or processes. For instance, NVR vendors routinely claim benefits that any low end DVR can deliver. Megapixel vendors make assumptions about camera deployments that you would almost never use in deployment. Essentially, the comparisons are skewed to maximize the positive positioning of their products. (Note: this is not unique to any product category, NVRs and megapixel cameras are simply two of the big products of the day).

This causes confusion about the specific differentiators of the product offering. Truly innovative aspects can be lost in long lists of routine existing features and functionalities. End users can be motivated to purchase more complex or expensive products that do not truly generate more value for their organizations.

While it is hard for vendors to truly understand competitor's offerings deeply, more clearly and fairly stating actual advantages can help customers make better decisions more quickly. Though I honestly have little hope of this element changing, clearly considering what truly is a new benefit can help determine the actual value for your organization.

The cost of the offering

Vendors rarely discuss costs of their offering. Generally, vague statements are offered like 'substantial ROI' or 'significantly increased value.' Vendors are justifiably concerned about interfering with their dealer's ability to set end user pricing. They are also often worried that disclosing price will scare off some buyers and that it is better to promote their general benefits and handle pricing once the customer is engaged.

The huge downside of not discussing costs is that it's impossible for readers to determine 'value' or 'ROI'. Without having an idea of cost, by definition, you cannot calculate financial return. And it's not just a mathematical issue. This is a very practical issue as readers cannot discern whether an offering is feasible for their budgets. I see this all the time with articles on RAID, QoS, IP multicast, redundant servers. The costs for these features/products can be very expensive. It is hard for anyone to assess fit without having a ballpark sense of cost.

It would be very valuable if vendors provided rough costs for their products. It does not need to be a negotiated price, a simple MSRP would work fine. Readers need to know the general range pricing is in. For instance, is your megapixel camera close to $500, $1000, $1500, $2000? Setting an approximate range is good enough to allow a reader to gauge how that would fit in their budgets and how much value the product would need to deliver.

Keeping these points in my mind when you read marketing material can help you better assess the true value of the offerings being promoted. Until marketing materials become more clear (if ever), applying this should help in evaluating this information.

Related Reports on Marketing

The 'Last Chance to Save' On Hikvision Is Here on Sep 29, 2016
It is over. After at least 8 across the board price cuts in the past 10 months, including an unprecedented back to back 20% off, Hikvision has...
How To Become an 'Expert' In An Hour on Sep 02, 2016
If you want to be perceived as an expert in your market, speak at every event possible... the math is simple: when someone stands in front of an...
Axis Takes Over Canon Surveillance Sales and Marketing on Sep 01, 2016
The wasteful Axis / Canon conflict is ending. After more than a year of Canon's video surveillance group competing with Axis, Canon...
How Much Axis and Avigilon Pay For Sales And Marketing Per Camera on Sep 01, 2016
When you buy an Axis or Avigilon camera, how much of that goes to pay sales and marketing expenses? Is it trivial like $2 or $3? Or is it far...
Get End User Leads for Just $997 A Month on Aug 31, 2016
Scam or opportunity? As trade mags continue to suffer from the decline of print media, they are scrounging for new ways to make money. Rather than...
Integrators Vs Manufacturers Direct To End Users on Aug 31, 2016
Many manufacturers have increasingly large and hungry sales forces that call on more and more end users. One recent example is Axis ~$20 Billion...
Milestone Declares End-To-End Is A Dead-End on Aug 24, 2016
While Axis celebrates their end to end system win at top 50 global retailer H&M, their Canon sister company Milestone is proclaiming that...
Hikvision 20% Price Cut Twice In A Month on Aug 23, 2016
Days after celebrating the Chinese government's commitment of up to $3 billion USD more in funding, Hikvision USA is now launching up to 20% across...
Axis Lists Itself First Among VMSes on Aug 19, 2016
When you think of VMSes, who do you think of first? Well, Axis, the camera manufacturer, thinks of itself. Axis declared: There are a variety...
Dahua Fakes Being American on Aug 10, 2016
Robbed from the Hikvision playbook, now Dahua takes it turn. Dahua, China's second largest manufacturer, is ramping up its...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Arecont To Release Industries' Best H.265 Support on Sep 30, 2016
Go big, or go home. That seems to be Arecont's philosophy for H.265, they say they are working on the "best" H.265 implementation in the...
Wall Street Journal Runs Report on Dahua Hack on Sep 30, 2016
The Wall Street Journal is bringing attention to the massive Dahua attack we reported on Tuesday. In an Thursday article entitled, "Hackers Infect...
Dahua USA CEO Tim Wang, Where Is Your Integrity? on Sep 29, 2016
Dahua USA CEO Tim Wang and Dahua Director of Marketing Tim Shen shared their IPVM passwords extensively, resulting in Dahua USA CEO's account...
Allegion NDE Wireless Lock Examined on Sep 29, 2016
While wireless locks are one of the hottest areas of access control, two of its biggest challenges are high cost and limited integration with...
The 'Last Chance to Save' On Hikvision Is Here on Sep 29, 2016
It is over. After at least 8 across the board price cuts in the past 10 months, including an unprecedented back to back 20% off, Hikvision has...
Camera Calculator Class and IPVM Member Orientation October 2016 on Sep 28, 2016
Members, learn how to better design video surveillance systems and get the most out of your IPVM memberships with 2 upcoming live classes. Both...
Axis 4MP Camera Tested (M3046-V) on Sep 28, 2016
Axis has brought 4MP to its camera line in the new M3046-V, the highest resolution model in their revamped M30 series. We bought and tested this...
Hiring Spree At Aimetis 6 Months After Being Acquired on Sep 28, 2016
Aimetis was acquired in April 2016, and is now expanding almost all of their departments, hiring employees from Axis and other industry...
Hikvision Chairman Tours With Chinese Government Boss on Sep 28, 2016
Two China Communist senior officials toured Europe this summer, one was Hikvision's Chairman and the other was his boss, SASAC Director. In this...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact