Why IT suppliers’ message no longer works in Europe

By Yann Serra, journalist at Le MagIT.fr

In IT, the way major suppliers communicate with European journalists no longer reflects what the latter want to tell their readers. By trying so hard to sell the dream, similarly to B2C comms, marketing has lost the most important point of B2B communications: the utility aspect of the product.

Marketing departments have clearly decided to go for the eye candy with so-called experts delivering lessons to the masses on fashionable technological subjects. They seek to amaze by listing figures and studies. They make people dream by talking about artificial intelligence, the cloud or cybersecurity. And they do all this to make people want to excel. Of course, the brand – rather than the product, which we don’t hear about much anymore –  is said to be ‘the key’ to achieving this.

This approach is totally at odds with the very pragmatic expectations of companies on the Old Continent, who are primarily concerned with how a product can technically solve their own challenges. On this side of the Atlantic, we don’t care about the aura of an expert, about studies that speak for someone else, and even less about becoming an imaginary hero. On the other hand, we do like to feel involved.

And in this respect, the message from the major suppliers doesn’t just sound uninteresting. It sounds false, even disrespectful.


Over-seductive communication can be counter-productive.

Let’s take a simple example. Recently, an “expert” shared the following information with me: 

“Thanks to artificial intelligence, you can give Google a text in English and it will translate it to French very efficiently” (I should point out that this expert does not work for Google, but for another very famous IT supplier). This little sentence, very representative of the communication mechanics of the IT giants, poses three problems.

Firstly, it is false. No, Google is not at all effective at translating text from English to French. As an expert in the field myself (well… I’m French, you see), I can see the person I’m talking to is talking nonsense. I’m not going to believe anything else he tells me.

Secondly, if this person has no problem talking nonsense about an area he knows I’m an expert in, it’s probably because he has no respect for me. My takeaway is that their aim is not to help me. 

Finally, this information is anything but interesting. Obviously, I wasn’t waiting for this interview to test the effectiveness of Google’s translation service myself. So, I’ve come to meet an expert in the hope of learning something new, but in fact he’s wasting my time.

Of course, there’s no doubt that this person wanted to share something that is relevant to me, that I can relate to, to intrigue me. Except that it doesn’t work.

In France, and to my knowledge in the rest of Europe too, this fashionable communication strategy is ultimately counterproductive.


A speech formatted to impress, but that is of no interest.

Having established the principle, let’s move on to the details. It turns out that all the speeches, forums and interviews given by the spokespeople for the major IT suppliers are scripted. Here’s the 12-step process:

    1. Start with large amounts of data taken from studies carried out by Gartner, IDC and other analysts, or information that everyone has read in the press about a given subject.
    2. Yet more research on the subject.
    3. And so on… the idea is to make the spokesperson seem very knowledgeable.
    4. Then say: “As we can see, the world has changed, and companies need to embrace these changes”.
    5. Change No 1: improve productivity.
    6. Change No 2: improve something else related to the product area (security, computing power, customer relations, communication, etc.)
    7. Change No 3: modernise to stay in the game.
    8. Claim that: “Certain business sectors are particularly affected by these changes”.
    9. List as many business sectors as possible that are nothing special (health, industry, commerce, transport, finance, media, etc.).
    10. Claim that: “Since these changes are here, not changing is no longer an option”.
    11. Claim that: “And that’s why a supplier like us can support you in this new challenge”.
    12. And, with employees applauding in the room, share on social networks, etc.

Here’s what a European IT professional thinks when they hear all this (and by extension, the journalist who writes the story):

    1. The data: “we already know this”
    2. More data: “you’re just filling in the blanks because you’re lazy, aren’t you?”
    3. Changes: “I know the changes I need to make better than you do”.
    4. Lack of details: “I want to compare your solution with that of your competitors. Why are you hiding the details?”
    5. Sectors: “I only care about my own, I don’t care about the others. You’re wasting my time”.
    6. And also: “I’m free, I can do what I want. Don’t start telling me what to do.
    7. “Why we can help you”: “No, you’ve never said why. You’re lying.”

And here’s what a European professional would rather have heard, to feel engaged:

    1. Right now, we know there’s a problem that you need to solve.
    2. Here’s how we can help you solve it (with details).
    3. Here’s how you’ll ultimately benefit from our solution.
    4. The end.


Too much simplification, too much Google translate and not enough local stories.

To finish, let’s look at three details that single-handedly spoil all communications efforts from IT suppliers.

The first one is to address the public by explaining things “as if they were a five-year-old child”. While this works well – in France, in Europe – when a scientist addresses an audience, this approach risks a diplomatic incident when the audience is made up of experts who were expecting to be seen as equals.

The second is the use of Google Translate, a habit that is becoming increasingly common among suppliers who believe that head office should retain control over all global communication. This service does not work well: not only does it make the message sound unpleasant, or even complicated, but it also quickly shows that it was translated in a rush. At best, the reader of machine-translated copy will interpret it as a cruel lack of attention. At worst, they will think that the supplier doesn’t even trust its local teams to adapt the message.

The third one is the absence of local stories. To buy into what is being told, Europeans need to see themselves in it; they want reference points that are similar to their own, stories that portray constraints that are similar to their own, that they can relate to. The industry is not enough: the health system in France, for example, has nothing in common with the health system in the USA. Without this mirror effect, the audience will think that this supplier has not understood the expectations of the local market.

For the original version of this article, in French, please click here.


Yann Serra is senior editor at LeMagIT. With a very technical knowledge of IT storage, he has written for various French tier one outlets including TechTarget, PC Expert, L’Informaticien, 01Business and others. Yann made his start on the IT press scene when he was only 16 years old (for Joystick and Amstrad 100%). In addition to his IT and reporting skills, Yann is also a very talented cartoonist!

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