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Selling the idea of a cloud: A copywriter’s quandary

Stephen_Spector

Guest Post: Tim Clayton, Marketing, HPE 

“There are some computers and they store things. But they are kind of in the sky”.

“It uses satellites.”

“Everyone’s data is put together in one place and you don’t need to store it on your computer.”

“It is temporary storage for things.”

 

futurewrite.pngYou could be excused for thinking these are the answers of school kids when I was out there researching this article. Unfortunately, they are not. I will name no names but they are from people in the IT industry, from students, and even from programmers. And they are just a sample. I asked twenty people and I don’t believe that anyone outside of those working in Cloud was really able to give a concise and clear answer to the question: “What is Cloud computing?”

It may seem like a bit of fun but it uncovers a fundamental issue that many within cloud are not quite addressing: Just because we understand what it is all about does not mean that our audience does.

For me, this issue would be best solved with a time machine, as the problem with selling Cloud solutions to people is not in the technology but in the naming.

Think of a cloud. It is something that is, by its very nature, temporary, transient, not solid, slight fuzzy, difficult to describe, and prone to dissipating at any point. In short, it is all of the things that cloud computing is not. We are selling the Cloud as a solid, reliable and long-term solution that is not a shifting trend blowing in the wind—and the imagery we are selling that with is at odds with that sales message.

I get the impression that during the initial brainstorming meeting in which the cloud naming was conceived, they could have spent five more minutes discussing if the words they used really conveyed the correct message. If I were in that meeting, I think I would have been more inclined to go with something like “Planet Computing” or even “Death Star Computing”, using the image of some solid and powerful hulk of ultra-high technology floating above us. Of course, people would point out that the Death Star was destroyed… but my point is really that it is a shame we don’t have something more tangible as a visual anchor for what we are trying to sell.

However, that ship has sailed, so we are left with the cloud. It is a graphic designer’s dream, as there are a million cool and inspiring images they can use; but for a copywriter (and for an end user who needs educating), it can be something of a fuzzy concept.

This is something we need to bear in mind; we cannot assume that even those in decision-making positions in companies are fully able to describe and visualize the cloud. There needs to be that slightly humble starting point that says, “maybe be didn’t nail the naming first time around, let us help you understand.” The more we can sell people something they can clearly visualize, the better able we will be to then speak about benefits and how the Cloud really is the revolutionary idea that is pushing us forward.

And, when we come up with the next generation of Cloud solutions and are looking for a name, we should all be there at the forefront fighting against names like Fog, Ether, and Rainbow.

But for now, I will leave you with 5 tips which I think are essential when talking about cloud, to help us all to help customers envision it better:

  • Don’t just talk about ‘journeys’, ‘winds of change’, and ‘altitude’ simply because they allow for purple marketing prose and easy metaphors. Remember to talk about the tangible aspects of Cloud
  • Make the infographics do the work. A well-designed visual representation of the Cloud can do a lot of work for you and help the customer see how it works
  • Talk about the benefits. Don’t assume that people are aware of why cloud computing is better than what they currently have in place
  • Don’t talk about cloud as the ‘future of computing’. Many people still think that cloud is in the beta phase and they should “wait it out” to see if it really takes off. Talk about cloud as if those using are not early adopters. Speak as if those not using it are behind the curve
  • hospital.pngChoose your pictures carefully. Everyone has already seen a mountain top slightly obscured by clouds surrounded by brilliant blue sky by now. Why not think about bringing the imagery around your Cloud selling back into the workplace? Stop selling with abstract imagery and start marketing the business benefits people can relate to. So, when choosing imagery, we should be thinking about showing the end result, not the vagueness of the stratosphere. If a hospital has sent patient records into the Cloud and is now able to use tablets to recall data in real time and make better diagnoses, let’s go with the lead image of this article to show the human face of that change rather than falling back on a generic cloud image.

Learn more about HPE's cloud solutions, HPE Helion

Senior Manager, Cloud Online Marketing
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About the Author

Stephen_Spector

I manage the HPE Helion social media and website teams promoting the enterprise cloud solutions at HPE for hybrid, public, and private clouds. I was previously at Dell promoting their Cloud solutions and was the open source community manager for OpenStack and Xen.org at Rackspace and Citrix Systems. While at Citrix Systems, I founded the Citrix Developer Network, developed global alliance and licensing programs, and even once added audio to the DOS ICA client with assembler. Follow me at @SpectorID

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