Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Skype, one step ahead of Jajah

A few months ago I wrote a couple of articles
on this blog about Jajah. Now I still like and enjoy as much as then.
However, there is something that I missed in my analysis back then: the
distribution model.

Usrobotics_skypecertifiedOver the past few months we've seen massive marketing communications by very established brands like US Robotics,  Creative Labs or Polycom about telecoms devices that are "Skype Certified". How huge an indication of success is this? I wonder what the distribution deal between the equipment makers and Skype looks like... What does a manufacturer get in exchange for packaging products in a way that provides massive exposure to a carrier? Beside the "honor" of having products certified I mean... If you are a Business Development pro working for Skype, how do you play on your undeniable assets to convince usually conservative industrialists that a certification for your online service is actually a key benefit for the end customer?

Polycom_skypecertifiedSkype, a brand nobody knew just a couple of years ago is now certifying devices produced by household names for a service that is no longer a geek's tool, having conquered even the most conservative groups on the market. A few weeks ago, I was having coffee at a nice café in the historical center of Brussels and I overheard two ladies in their fifties sitting at the table next to mine who were discussing how great it was to use Skype. That in itself did not impress me that much. The fact that they were using Skype enabled Siemens phones did... Skype managed to crack the riddle of large scale distribution and to perform what Geoffrey Moore calls "crossing the chasm".

Although I still like very much Jajah's service and found it interesting that they are making it possible for people to call straight from a cell phone, the fact is that they are at least one step behind Skype when it comes to distribution and brand awareness. In terms of distribution, using a  Nokia phone to place a call through Jajah does not have the same power as getting a device because it allows you to use Skype. On the other hand, if you do not require any investments in infrastructure, nor any software installation to use a VoIP service, then why bother buying equipment just to use another VoIP service? I guess that's one of the angles Jajah will have to use. Of course, to drive the message out there you need to invest a lot of money in marketing (not only clever buzz marketing as Jajah does, but also more traditional forms of PR and press coverage)... And in my humble opinion that does not beat the power of marcom one gets from a set of major certification-distribution deals with household brands (at least not at an economically acceptable cost), simply because the cost of getting people to pay attention is too big today. In other words, it is easier to drive a message to a consumer when that consumer is more or less actively looking for a device (a headphone, a phone, a sound card...) that it is to beg for their attention when they are busy with something else...

This game is tough. Perhaps these two will be merged some day?

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