INSIGHTS

Branding a Force

I have in my hot little hand a two-page handout that I got at the recently concluded Dreamforce 2008 event in San Francisco. With all the excitement about the election and the economy, as well as this day job I have, I had not really taken the time to peruse it.

A quick glance a couple of weeks ago told me that the company had added a new color — blue — to its logo, but closer inspection reveals that it isn’t just the color, there’s another logo all together.

The title of this document is “Salesforce.com New Branding at a Glance October 2008,” and it is the work of the clever and talented Jane Hynes. The import of the doc, beyond the familiar logo — now with a blue theme for the “no software” tag line — is in the copy.

The Big THE

The new logo belongs to Force.com, which is the ultimate evolutionary branch (so far) in Apex, S-force and who can remember what else. The most interesting thing to me is the first sentence — “Salesforce.com is the enterprise cloud computing company.” Executives at the company told me that despite this statement, there is no attempt to de-emphasize CRM. How could there be?

CRM is what pays the bills and what built the company, but there’s a bigger point being made too. The platform and CRM cannot be separated, and if anything, the applications form the basic armature around which everything else is built. Platform, however, is the future of computing, and that needs to be pointed out. Companies grow, evolve, mature, change and all the rest, and Salesforce.com is evolving too. It makes perfect sense if Force.com is the future of the company –and maybe even the future of computing — that this inversion of rank takes place.

The timing is probably very good for this company too, if you consider what’s happening in the greater economy. As I have often said, it’s hard to be in an inflection point moment and to know it; often it is only in retrospect that the inflection point becomes clear. Take it form me, though, with the economy tanking because credit is tightening, we are certainly in a major inflection point right now.

The World Today

The importance for Salesforce.com and its customers and prospects is that adjusting to the new world — forming at the intersection of recession, Peak Oil and a renewed sense of public purpose made evident by the election — will require new software to support new business processes. Lots of new business processes.

If you follow this space, you might recall a recent piece suggesting that vendor financing for some businesses makes sense but that there is no commercially available software to support such a process. If I am right (and that is always suspect), companies everywhere will be innovating small credit applications to keep their businesses competitive.

Historically, such applications were developed in spreadsheets, but going forward there’s a reasonable chance that at least some companies will choose to develop credit applications using the same data and tools that make up their sales systems. Of course, credit is just one example, but my thinking is that in an inflection point moment, when everything is changing to one degree or another, we will need software to pave over the new business processes that inevitably spring up. In that context, making Force.com stand on its own makes good sense.

Even looking at the slogans under the two logos gives a hint of past and future. For Salesforce.com, it’s “Success. Not Software,” which harkens back to the early years of this decade when the big challenge was simply deploying Windows-based client-server CRM. Force.com’s message is all about the future. “Dream. Build. Succeed.” You notice that the notion of success is baked into each, but you can’t help but figure that Force.com is aimed at a bigger stage.


Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant’s research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and Web site. He is working on a book and can be reached at denis.pombriant@beagleresearch.com.


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