Yesterday i participated in a full on demo of VisiMeet, from Chicago based IOCOM, a company I met last week at IT Expo in Miami Beach. In a lot of ways what I saw reminded me of SightSpeed, a company my agency and I helped grow in stature and size (over 6x from when we first started with them) and saw them through their exit to Logitech in 2008.
Visimeet had a lot of what I call "me too." They offer pristine video conferencing. So does SightSpeed. VisiMeet offers multiparty video. So does SightSpeed. VisiMeet offers a browser based viewing capability. So does SightSpeed. VisiMeet is built for business. So is SightSpeed. They also do a lot of similar things on the server side to insure a fully synchronized calling experience. So does SightSpeed. VisiMeet has a simplistic chat facility. So does SightSpeed. The service works on Macs and Windows based PCs. So does SightSpeed. But that's where the comparison's end.
One of the features I liked was the "rejoin last meeting." Another was the ability to resize each individual's window frame. I had four VisiMeet team members up on my 24" monitor and my image was on the laptop. Then I moved people around. A third really cool feature was the ability to use multiple cameras on each participants end, and to view them at the same time. Now that's "me different."
The comparison and difference to SightSpeed prompted me to then check up on the musings of SightSpeed's former CEO Peter Csathy who is now the guiding force behind Sorenson Media. Peter took up blogging during his time at SightSpeed (with some gentle coaxing at times from me) and has used both his lawyers instincts and business acumen to leverage the finer points of social media effectively, without compromising his integrity or his company.
That was when I caught his post about copycat web sites, by Sorenson's competition. BrightCove. The more I looked at the two companies home pages the more I saw that Peter was, as usual, right. Given that Sorenson's web site was one of the first things tackled by their VP Marketing and Strategy, and my sometimes wine pal Erik Quanstrom, I started thinking back to a lot of conversations I've had with both of them and the more I looked and thought the more I realized not only was Peter correct, it seems that the giant, Brightcove, was clearly trying to "me too" the lesser known, but longer established Sorenson Media, much in the same way that ooVoo and now VisiMeet were "me also-ing" SightSpeed.
Why do I say this:
2) Colors, tones and effects
3) Use of similar terms, placements
4) Duplication of graphical elements (i.e. the iPhone)
5) Special Offer for Free Trial
Don't get me wrong, Brightcove is a very good platform, but its a platform that came about as a result of a changed vision, and not the original one. I remember Csathy's discussion with me just after he started with Sorenson, where he shared the Sorenson business model and longstanding company vision. It was their original one and has been the same for now some 15 years. He told me then it was a successful model.
Now let's take Brightcove, which started off in 2005 as a YouTube-type consumer-focused video content site. YouTube won that battle as Brightcove and others all have learned the hard way. Then Google bought them and no other company has really a close second since. So when that other "me too" direction failed Brightcove “evolved” by changing their business model into something completely different. Call it Brightcove 2.0. But by looking at their new website, one can only think they're being another "me too," this time though it's not "You Tube" it's Sorenson Media they're copying.
Perceptually, the market looks at Brightcove as the Goliath in the sector while Sorenson is clearly the "David." But in looking at the new Brightcove web site, it sure seems like the giant is copying the more entrenched, far deeper inside the technology veterans, who until Csathy arrived, never were bold about what they did. They just did it. That tells me that Sorenson is pushing on the gas pedal (which is always Csathy's style) on Brightcove and Brightcove is responding, feeling the heat.
So how does this come about? Well back in the day when I was working at a large ad agency and a new piece of business would come in, we would immediately ask "what were the competition doing with media? What was their creative like? What was there slogan? What was their tag line?" and many other questions. I would scour the research files, torment the research team into finding reports, news accounts, copies of ads, commercials or radio spots. I'd spend hours pouring over the most tiny detail because we didn't want our clients to be like the other guys, we wanted our clients to stand out from the crowd. You see, it was very easy for the client to say "we want to look like xxxxxxx" but it was our job to say "you want to be better than xxxxx" and get them there.
Copycat marketing doesn't make you better. Copycat marketing doesn't make you stand out. All copycat marketing does is get you blog posts like this. And to me, you don't have to be a marketing genius to do copycat marketing on the web. All you need is some basic design skills, some basic coding tools and a lack of imagination. But if a web site is the face of what the company is, and it's a copy of some competitors, then one has to wonder what else they're doing is nothing but a copy too. And in my book, that's not too BRIGHT.