I have just finished reading a new book on branding called Brand Hijack: marketing without marketing, by Alex Wipperfurth. I’m often pretty skeptical about ‘marketing/branding’ books but this one was pretty good. They author was involved with the marketing at Napster but also uses Linux, Apple, and others as case studies. If you are interested in these types of topics I would recommend picking up a copy.
The central theme of the book is that a brand belongs to a community not a company or a bunch of marketers/brand managers. Instead of doing brand value propositions, spending lots of money on advertising or marketing campaigns, the brand manager should listen to the community and let them participate in the setting the tone/culture of the community. The community will ultimately determine the meaning of a brand.
One of the more interesting chapters was on the description of ‘brand tribes’. The book defines a brand tribe as:
A group of people who share their interest in a specific brand and create a parallel social universe ripe with its own values, rituals, vocabulary, and hierarchy.
It then goes on to compare brand tribes, like Linux and eBay with different cults. It includes a great quote from Linus Torvalds, ‘My name is Linus. And I am your God.’ I wonder if he really did say this?. The main point is that a brand tribe provides a powerful mechanism for sense of belonging and loyalty. If you want to market to these tribes you need to first understand their values, and second, stay out of their way. They don’t want to be controlled by marketing.
As I was reading the book, I could see a lot of parallel’s to the Eclipse community. I strongly believe the success of Eclipse has been because of the community, not particularly great marketing or a huge marketing budget. I’m not trying to knock IBM, in fact, I think they had the foresight to stay out of the way and listen. In my mind, the success of Eclipse has been mostly driven by the open source developer and the ISV community.
One complaint I have about the book is that it was mostly focused on creating new brands. It used very few examples of existing brands and how to ensure they remain successful. Sometime I was wondering if the case study about Napster was just good luck and good timing.
So what is the future of the Eclipse brand? The one thing I know is that we won’t be doing any advertising or marketing campaign to define the brand. Even if I wanted (which I don’t), we just don’t have the budget. The future success of the Eclipse brand is going to be driven by the community.