Flush with their success in the U.S., Salt Lake City-based Fusion-io can’t wait to load up on big accounts in the U.K. But with shallow awareness, this maker of mind-bogglingly fast flash-based IOMemory cards, simply doesn’t think a traditional marketing approach will cut it, especially when trying to engage historically illusive SQL programmers. Instead, Fusion-io is taking the plunge this week in the U.K., launching a high risk, high reward promotion called the Crappy Code Games.
Noted Trip Hunter, Fusion-io’s Senior Co-Marketing Director in Europe, “if we weren’t taking calculated risks, we’d just be one more boring and invisible company.” Not afraid of pushing the boundaries, Hunter added, “we just set a Guinness World Record for building the largest voodoo doll in the world at the supercomputing show in New Orleans, so I think we are comfortable with intelligent risk taking.” Whether or not this promo ultimately causes a buzz in Britain, its unabashed, né uncanny approach to marketing is well worth a closer look.
The Roll Out
Prior to the Crappy Code Games themselves, SQL coders across the U.K. will receive an invitation that is actually a retro 8-bit computer game. Explained Hunter, “the purpose of the game is to remind us how simple coding used to be when memory was tight.” Navigating around a low-brow, low-tech loo with four occupied stalls, the game itself uses commands and sounds veteran programmers will remember with a hardy chuckle, a recollection that Fusion-io expects will suck them into the gaming experience.
Knowing that most SQL programmers are true geeks at heart who fondly remember the early gaming era when big things were done with meager resources, Hunter’s co-marketing director in Europe, Mat Young, is optimistic that Fusion-io’s real message will also seep in. Offered Young, with tongue firmly in cheek, “with seemingly limitless memory now, coding has a tendency to become bloated,” a problem that database administrators fully acknowledge and have themselves termed “crappy code.” And of course, this problem is the nasty bit of business Fusion-io’s record setting drives seek to eliminate.
Let the Crappy Codes Games begin
Not going it alone, Fusion-io is partnering with SQL Bits, the largest community of coders in the U.K., on the games themselves. Consisting of three rounds of competition in March and April, the games begin in Manchester, move on to London and then end in Brighton. In addition to blessing the idea and providing insights along the way, SQL Bits will help host the “grand finale” on the first night of SQL8, its annual and largest gathering of such coders in the U.K.
At each of the competitions, Hunter noted that, “dbA-thletes will compete head-to-head writing code that pushes the boundaries of SQL performance.” Among the four events, the “high jump” challenges players to generate the highest input/output per second and of course, the “SSIS-athlon” seeks the coder that can “load a one billion fact table in the shortest time.” And while this may not sound like fun to you and me, who wouldn’t want to get awarded a “Golden Plunger” by none other than Apple co-founder and Fusion-io’s Chief Scientist Steve Wozniak?
Pushing the boundaries
With a barrage of potty puns, insider jokes pervade every aspect of this promo. T-shirts for competitors feature the line, “finally, an event for coders that truly give a crap.” Party favors include a “refreshing SQL spray” that promises “no more crappy c’odors, ” while branded soap claims to “wash away crappy code.” Aiming to squeeze out every last bit of schmaltz, the coup de grace is the promo logo itself, a black toilet seat filled to the brim with stinky green code and overlaid with the words Crappy Code on scrolled tissue.
Suspecting that word of this promo may leak across the pond, Fusion-io is also prepared to support the promo via local social channels. Potential players can learn more about the games on a geo-targeted Facebook tab and let it rip on Twitter. Feeling confident that the hashtag #crappycode will gain some notoriety in March and April, Fusion-io will limit its own use to a U.K. specific twitter handle (@fusionio/UK) and will reach out to bloggers with more than a whiff of irony.
Enough with the plug
By now you’ve probably guessed that I don’t think this promo will bomb in Britain and that I’m an unfettered fan of Fusion-io’s scatological silliness. Guilty as charged. Just when I was beginning to worry that chutzpah had left the marketing universe, out comes a promotion that dares to be different, that engages before it educates, that is as clever as the target it seeks to enlighten. Sure it pushes the boundaries of tastefulness but it does so shamelessly and with clear purpose.
As Hunter explained, “our average customer doesn’t realize they have a performance issue until they have gains of 3 to 10 times over what they had prior to deploying Fusion.” “The Crappy Code Games will help get this conversation started in the U.K. with the SQL community in a extraordinary fashion,” added Young. With Fusion-io’s memory cards helping the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Zappos “cope with an overabundance of data,” can you guess where the Wall Street Journal ranked Fusion-io on its list of most promising companies in 2010? Wait for it, and no I’m not making this up … #2.
Final Note: For the full scoop behind this pungent promo, see my lengthy interview with Fusion-io’s Trip Hunter and Mat Young on TheDrewBlog.com.