Why Marketers Should Embrace Cloud Computing

The IT world is aflutter with discussions about cloud computing. This amorphous concept has become the IT buzzword of the year. But cloud computing should not be the domain of the geeks. In fact, cloud computing should really be exciting marketing departments and product designers. It has the power to change how organizations conduct marketing and how they design products. What is Cloud Computing in Marketing Terms?

According to Wikipedia, Cloud computing “is the provision of dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources as a service over the Internet on a utility basis.” In layman’s terms, this means that a whole bunch of applications are becoming available as services on the internet. You can access them as an application (think salesforce.com) or better yet as an API where you can build the interface and use the service.

A few examples:
Varian, a manufacturer of electronic measurement devices, decided to forgo the annual industry conference and instead create an immersive web experience entitled The Varian Experience. This is just the type of web application that IT departments hate. Unpredictable volume with high spikes that needs to be deployed globally and immediately. This is why so many of these applications end up on underpowered agency servers. But instead, we hosted the application on Amazon’s EC2 cloud. For a fee starting at $50 a month, we got more stability and scalability than most Fortune 500 web sites today. Check out The Varian Experience later this month.

Nystrom, the industry leader in classroom maps, knew that they needed an electronic map offering to compete in the digital age. The first reaction was to create their own mapping interface. But after assessing the time and effort to create even a basic offering, we looked for a better way. We ended up creating a application that sits on top of Google Earth utilizing their open API. We use Google Earth for basic mapping functions and we have created an overlay application which displays Nystrom’s educational maps and content. We brought the product to market in less than 6 months and Nystrom now focuses on content creation versus basic mapping. Check out StrataLogica.

When Tesla Motors reinvented the automobile with the world’s first commercial electric car, they wanted to do more than just reinvent the engine and drive train. They wanted to change how cars are conceived, designed and built. Franz von Holzhausen, famed designer from VW, GM and Mazda has an ambitious vision to recreate the in-car experience as well. In the Model S, Tesla’s breakthrough sedan, there are two LED screens where the instrument panel and center console are in most cars. The center console itself is a 17-inch multi-touch display. Sitting in the car, you immediately get the sense of how these screens define your experience, and that is exactly what Franz intends. Whereas electronics in today’s automobiles are proprietary and out of date before they even leave the showroom, the Tesla experience will be constantly updated, heavily leveraging the cloud, and will be completely personalized. To take one example, in the current prototype we were able to add GPS navigation leveraging a $40 USB drive and Google maps. We had the working application up in less than a week. Ditto for internet radio. Ditto again for HD radio. Try that on your BMW iDrive. Franz can redefine your driving experience constantly and by doing so keep the Tesla brand fresh in the eyes of its customers. Check out the Tesla Model S .

Interior of the Tesla Model S prototype

Interior of the Tesla Model S prototype

If you are a marketer or a product designer, you should really consider how the cloud can help to accelerate, change or even redefine what you are trying to do. And do it quick. The IT community is already starting the backlash against the cloud. In a recent Gartner conference, the IT dialogue has moved from the possibilities of the cloud to the risks. Many of the risks are real but all are manageable but talk of risks will carry the day if marketers and products designers aren’t more imaginative in how they use the cloud to advance their causes.