Marketing Computer Forensics

Posted on March 9, 2010

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I try to avoid being exposed to advertising whenever possible, as I find its exclusive focus on humanity’s negative drives to be vexatious to the spirit. These days the admen seem to have grown increasingly tasteless and shrill in their clumsy attempts to appeal to our greed, lust, envy and dissatisfaction, and there is surely a special place in Hell reserved for the dead-eyed sellouts who use the Beatles’ ‘All You Need is Love’ to flog phones, or who pimp the celluloid cadavers of long-dead movie stars to push whatever crap it is they’re selling this week. When it comes to advertising and marketing, I’m with Bill Hicks:

Anyhoo, I’m also as big a whore as the next guy, so I’m going to use this post to set out my stall as a marketing guru for computer forensics equipment and services. Let’s look at the big hitters and see how they’re doing.

Guidance Software used to align themselves with the LE sector, probably because cops were their biggest users. This changed over time, and these days their marketing and website are very much focused on the corporate world. Their homepage now shows a startled-looking Captain of Industry with a piece of toast in his top pocket, next to the gnomic phrase ‘Satisfy your obligations, decrease risk, control cost’.

Click to embiggen

Now, not being an e-discovery type, I don’t know what this expression means. What are my obligations? What risks are they talking about – will Encase protect me from tigers, or from high blood pressure? And how is it going to help me control cost? The cost of what? Toast? The ‘Learn More’ link underneath the text is sorely needed by this monkey, because I haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about. Clicking on it leads to a picture of a man who looks like a televangelist and a lot of mumbo-jumbo in lawyer-speak. Maybe corporate folk like this sort of thing, and to be fair to them it’s not my world so I don’t know if Guidance are talking bollocks or not. Moving onto their ‘Encase Forensic‘ section, I’m pleasantly surprised. This part of the site seems to be written for simple working folk, as it gives a quick but comprehensive overview of the main features of the product. And that’s the problem – it’s simple, and quite plain. Where’s the lust? Where’s the fear of being outdone by a neighbour?  My guidance to Guidance is that they need to sex the page up a bit.

After an adland-style brainstorming session with my cat Mr Spoons, we decided that they need to capitalise on the crime side of things – everyone loves a good crime. It’d be in bad taste to show real crime scene photos, so I’d go for something a bit stylised.  Here’s my mockup:

If you use FTK, your wife could be next!

That’s better, isn’t it? It’s got edginess, conflict, boobies and traditional gender roles, as well as a retro vibe that will appeal to adland’s culture-plundering ‘creatives’ almost as much as ironic facial hair does. Will it shift dongles? Who cares! Encase Forensic is a standard piece of kit, it’s like Homebase trying to market screwdrivers. Note to Guidance: you’re welcome to offer me money for this ad idea.

Let’s leave Guidance alone for a bit now, and move on to Accessdata. Their site is a lot more direct and to the point. I’m viewing it on my netbook in 1024×600 and what jumps out at me straight away are the graphs showing speed increases for their new line of distributed-processing products. There’s a comedy tortoise with a rocket strapped to its back that reminds me of those ‘Click the monkey to catch ebola’ banner ads, but we won’t talk about that. The homepage is centred around slapping you in the face with facts – Increased speed! Process lots of data quickly! Do jobs more quickly than with any other tool! I kinda like their site, now that I look at it – there’s no mystical corporate guff about synergising your eschaton, it’s just plain and to the point. I criticised Guidance fo this, but they seem to have very different needs – they want a bit of colour, a bit of razzmatazz, a bit of cleavage. If I was going to be giving Accessdata a marketing makeover, I’d go for plain-speaking punchiness.

Gimme all the RAM or I'll shoot - I'm running FTK3 here!

If they wanted a TV spot, I’d probably get Herc from The Wire to stand in the shattered doorframe of a server room that’s had its door blammed, and deliver the line ‘FTK3: We only released version 2 to kick you in the balls. It’s the way we roll in the Western District’.

Now I come to think of it, the relationship between Guidance and AD is a bit like that between Microsoft and Apple. Taking both products just on the plain old LE forensics suites, you’ve got Guidance producing small iterations of a workman-like product that hasn’t changed much since V4 (still sucks for email but it’s finally decided that understanding Rar files might come in handy), competing with Accessdata who are innovating with great enthusiasm but has trouble playing nicely with others (no scripting). The only difference is that neither side tends to be dominated by self-congratulatory polo neck-wearing fops.

There are a lot of other forensics companies out there, but I won’t attempt to cover them all. Except for pointing out that I’d buy any Paraben product that Amber Schroeder was selling. Shallow? Moi?

This post was brought to you with the help of crispy anchovies and green tea. Chinese supermarkets FTW!