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Time-to-Mitigate SLAs and the Irony of Being a Marketer

As a professional marketer, it can be a little ironic how often you're frustrated when people you care about are influenced by marketing in ways that can't possibly be good for them. Everybody knows that marketers do nothing but lie all day - or "spin" as they call it. And as far as the profession goes, there's probably some truth to that. But there are plenty of marketers out there that have a good deal of integrity, and there are few things more frustrating than when people fall for marketing "spin".
There's certainly no shortage of such examples. An easy one (perhaps too easy) is the diamond ring. I have an acquaintance that couldn't care less about diamonds. She's said so. And she proudly wears costume jewelry - when she wears any at all. But when it came time for the engagement ring, it absolutely, positively had to be a diamond. Now, as someone who's taken an economics course at some point in his life, I'm generally aware of the concept of supply and demand. So the idea that a company (De Beers) could a) create a perception of rarity around something that's not rare at all, b) tie that perception to a powerful emotional need (diamond = love), and c) manipulate that need to establish a not insignificant price anchor that belies its actual rarity (and indexed for inflation!).... On one hand, I have nothing but the utmost professional respect. On the other hand, it just drives me crazy.

There are diamonds everywhere you look. I've been marketing DDoS protection here at Akamai for a couple of years now. And in that time, one thing I've noticed is that there are a lot of claims out there that are never substantiated or challenged. For example, prospective customers often compare our services to someone else's and ask us what's different, because every vendor says it can protect them from the largest DDoS attacks. Now, competition is a fact of life for any business and not frustrating in and of itself. What's frustrating is when someone takes a marketing claim (even Akamai's) at face value without challenging it in any way. Especially when the stakes are as high as they are with a DDoS attack. How do you know that the claim is true?

For any DDoS protection service managed by our security operations center (SOC), Akamai offers a time-to-mitigate SLA. Now, a lot of vendors offer SLAs, including availability SLAs, performance SLAs, and the sneakily similar sounding response SLAs. But I don't know of any other vendor that offers a time-to-mitigate SLA. What that means is that, from the moment your traffic is on our platform (because some of our services are offered in an on-demand configuration and your traffic may not always be on our platform), Akamai commits to mitigating the attack within X number of minutes. So in other words, this isn't another vague marketing claim but a corporate commitment backed by contracts and legal remedies.

The TTM SLA has always been included with our Prolexic services, and I credit the Prolexic organization with elevating all of Akamai to their higher standard in the year and a half since the acquisition. We were all excited when we got approval on June 30 to extend the TTM SLA to our latest service. Kona DDoS Defender actually launched on April 15, but without the TTM SLA. As a company, we wanted to get the product to market, but our SOC team would not commit to the TTM SLA with the product until they had the confidence that they could not just meet it, but beat it by a wide margin. That gives me confidence as a conscientious product marketer, because I certainly don't want to be out there making claims that my product can't back up. But it should also give our customers confidence that the product they chose will actually do what it says it does, and they don't just end up as another victim of marketing "spin".

2 Comments

Has the word "marketing" become a pejorative? If so, would it be easier for us to just call ourselves "Product Advocates" or some such?

Would it make our lives easier if we just called ourselves "advocates"?

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