Salesforce's Benioff: Yes, your toothbrush will be a marketing tool

Salesforce's Benioff: Yes, your toothbrush will be a marketing tool

Summary: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff's Dreamforce keynote aimed to fill in blanks between a broad strategy where the Internet of things meets marketing and branding everywhere.


Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff outlined the company's latest platform and evangelized a day where customers would have a relationship with mundane items like toothbrushes and the vendors behind them. It remains to be seen how this strategy will play out and how long it'll take.

Benioff's biggest challenge in his Tuesday keynote at Dreamforce 2013 was to highlight the connective tissue between its Internet of things meets customer strategy and how the Salesforce1 platform is necessary. Most of the news from Dreamforce already landed.

The Benioff keynote came with the usual pyrotechnics---as well as house band Huey Lewis & the News---and a Back To The Future theme with Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris. Was it gimmicky? You bet, but the substance was Salesforce wants to be an ecosystem for developers and a must have enterprise platform.

Note that the substance was a bit tricky to find. The shtick between Benioff and Harris was at times confusing. The point: Everything will be marketing and everything will be branded.

"Everything is on the Net. And we will be connected in phenomenal new ways," said Benioff. Benioff highlighted how his toothbrush of the future will be connected. The new Philips toothbrush is Wi-Fi based and have GPS. "When I go into the dentist he won't ask if I brushed. He will say what's your login to your Philips account. There will be a whole new level of transparency with my dentist," gushed Benioff.

benioff harris
Marc Benioff and Parker Harris play Back to the Future with Salesforce1.


Benioff's argument is that consumer relationships with all of their vendors will change. "I want to connect not just with the product, but the company. I want to be connected. I want all the vendors of everything to be customer companies," said Benioff.

benioff toothbrush

In Benioff's world, a pro baseball team should connect with customers in the pro store, the stadium and even when a favorite player is chosen on the PlayStation 4. Universities will connect with alumni in new ways. The aim: A 1:1 relationship between brands and companies.

Benioff said the next generation will be all about creating a "customer journey."

Go forth and sell

The punch line to Dreamforce, Benioff's pitch and the company's strategy is fairly clear: Sell enterprises more stuff and become a go-to platform. As more businesses depend on Salesforce's platform and cloud, the company can build a revenue stream far into the future.

A handful of customers in current negotiations with Salesforce have noted that the decision is a big one. Why? Once a large enterprise is on Salesforce and buys into the ecosystem, there's no easy way to turn back.

CRM strategy 1


Sure, the lock-in with the cloud is less than on-premise software, but once you pick a partner you're in.

On Salesforce's third quarter earnings conference call, Benioff called out Keith Block, a former Oracle executive who now leads the company's sales efforts. Benioff said:

(Block) has hired several dozen executives now to come along with him and to reconceptualize and rebuild our customer-facing organization.

If successful, Block will be pitching Salesforce1 and more of an entire suite sale. A deal with HP to create a Salesforce Superpod also broadens the market for the company.

In the end, Salesforce will be increasingly successful at selling the bundle. Benioff highlights Salesforce customers probably better than any other tech CEO. Benioff couldn't help but name drop GE CEO Jeff Immelt.

I was just with Jeff Immelt a couple of weeks ago, and he took out his iPhone and he said, you know, Marc, there's only two apps that I use every single day to run General Electric, and one of them is Salesforce. And he showed me exactly how he uses what is now Salesforce1. And I'll just tell you, it just completely blew me away that I can use it to run my Company; he can use it to run his company. We're customer-focused executives. And when we get that kind of environment where it's a company that has a culture so focused on their customers, we know we're going to have phenomenal cross-sell opportunities.

The underlying theme of Dreamforce is that the company is hoping to get that GE vibe with a bevy of other large enterprises.

And now the reality check

Benioff acknowledged that not all companies will be ready for this big shift. It's worth keeping that in mind since Benioff has already acknowledged that his social enterprise pitch didn't quite fly.

To Salesforce, Salesforce1 is a way to future proof the company and enable things that'll take time to develop in the enterprise. "The platform needs to be build for the developers, ISVs, end users and customers," said Benioff, who noted that Salesforce has essentially carpet bombed the ecosystem with APIs.

Give Salesforce credit for thinking big, but I have to question whether customers are really going to want to connect with every vendor and product. Do we really want a world where everything is brand and marketing?

For instance, I'm all for commodity goods that remain dumb. I don't want my toothbrush monitoring me. Benioff obviously does.

As for enterprises, the missing piece in Salesforce's stack is analytics. Is there a big data play in this big Salesforce1 driven model? Benioff didn't talk big data and it's a safe bet he would have if there was some fodder.

Add it up and Salesforce's vision is interesting, but may be a few years ahead of its time.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Cloud,

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  • Hmm

    Yea who cares what companies want!? People won't be buying toothbrushes that spam you. Connected devices for a reason are good though. A wifi thermostat or jacuzzi that can be remotely operated has a purpose that the consumer wants.
  • Sometimes...

    Sometimes I just want to consume without caring who, or what, is behind the item I'm consuming. How far will this go? Microchipped Toilet paper updating your twitter feed with how many wipes you used, and sending updates of your hemoroids to FaceBook? The *VAST* majority of items that I interact with I don't need to have a conversation with, I just need to use them. If they do not perform as I wish, I find a product that will perform to my liking. This is what free market is all about!
    • re: Sometimes...

      "How far will this go? Microchipped Toilet paper updating your twitter feed with how many wipes you used, and sending updates of your hemoroids to FaceBook?"

      LMAO ... don't give them ideas ...
  • Let me ask...

    There are a LOT of people that are sick of being manipulated across the internet, oops, I meant "targeted marketing".

    What happens when everyone says "connect your device where the sun don't shine" and refuses to buy the garbage?
  • There will be a whole new level of transparency with my dentist...

    ... and, with some more gadgets, with my obgyn...
  • What's the deal?

    What's with all the stuff? They never provoke many, if any, reader comments and are about as interesting as reading about the Star Trek Borg. BOOOORRRRRINGGGGGG!
  • Disgusting

    I have celebrities on TV asking if I fold or scrunch my toilet paper. They can go jump in my Bidet.

    Every place I go, everything I eat, used as free advertising. Will my shopping bag tell me the levels of salt or sugar will kill me? No, it'll encourage me to buy more crap and sell me health insurance.

    Do I have a Farcebook account to post my habits on, daily routine, personal preferences on? No, they are personal and not for sharing with the world, much less a source of income for some greedy b*d.

    If I throw something away, do I need a pop-up to tell me to buy another, or recommend an alternative based on my previous purchases? Based on my friends'? Based on my facial expression? No, I threw it away because I didnt want it.

    I dont have a problem with a personal computer learning my preferences in order to have things I need done at whim, like routine shopping. I dont have a problem with biometrics identifying me wherever I go and using the device to tell me about things I might like nearby. There's noting wrong with targeted adverts for service or goods provided its discrete, but there is nothing discrete about everything I touch telling everybody else about it.

    I do have a problem with greed, and Benioff is a king of that. He seems to think consumers want to be told what to buy and when to buy it so he and his friends can continue to laze about and find new ways to make more money for themselves selling it with as little work as possible.

    I have news for him: Buy, buy, bye bye!
  • Another example of American Totalitarianism

    "For instance, I'm all for commodity goods that remain dumb. I don't want my toothbrush monitoring me. Benioff obviously does."

    I'm with the protesters: time we passed laws taking back our privacy and punishing invasive advertising.

    I'm also with SIO2 and have a suggested resting place for Benioff's toilet brush ;-)
  • I hate capitalism.

    Revile it.
    • then North Korea is the best place for you

      try it, you'll love it.
      • Why North Korea?

        You see the effects of unchecked capitalism every single day--unless you ignore that 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Or that huge companies like Walmart cost tax payers an average of $900k annually to subside welfare programs because the Waltons are too busy getting rich to pay employees a living wage. (In fact, yesterday, an Ohio Walmart started taking donations from employees -- to go to WALMART employees who are paid too little to afford rent and food at the same time.) Then there's the food service industry, though whether to talk about the low wages or the fact the FDA (run by Monsanto's former head attorney) finally admitted that processed chicken has carcinogenic (cancer) causing chemicals.... Then there's also the abortion restrictions in a nation largely preaching abstinence as the only option for birth control----and the few abortion clinics that are still open when the anti-women bills pass are largely run by large corporations who jack the price up. (Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has a sister that benefitted financially from his anti-woman bills while the poor and raped suffered.) Plus, one of the neat things about living in America is that our tax money also goes to killing innocent people in other countries; mostly civilians and now we have drones doing our killing for us. OH JOY!

        But don't worry, because this is the USA. The land of the free and home of the brave! We've got you covered, even if you can't pay your mortgage. ...No, wait, banks will foreclose on you--sometimes illegally. And even if you can, companies like BoA will refuse CASH payments, despite them being legal tender that cannot be refused in the US.

        And if you want to protest this conglomerate crap factory...? Well, thanks to H.R. 347 (aka 'the Anti-Occupy Bill') and Eric Holder being an former lawyer for Wall Street and big banks.... you just might be out of luck. But it's okay, I mean it's not like our educators are being thrown out on the streets with their two kids while being a paid teacher of our youth or anything. Oh wait, I'm sorry , a teacher and mother of two in North Carolina recently broke down during a meeting with legislatures because she and her children are homeless...but that's okay too. Homeless educators can join the 1,168,354 homeless children, which the Dept. of Ed says is a 10% jump from 1,065,794 and cut out the pesky middle man of schools.... Which are under-funded. And regardless of what you do, the government will monitor you, whether through illegal wiretapping that violates the 4th Amendment (and Katz v. United States 1967), biometric recognition software, or through the TSA's new behavioral

        So what were you saying about North Korea?

        ...Don't be afraid of opening your mind and taking a real look at this country and what's going on ForeverSPb. Your brain won't fall out. Trust me. Unlike you, I know what I'm talking about....

        P.S. Feel free to Google anything and everything I've just said. Then do something about it by getting involved, since you're such a flippin patriot. (And by the way, you're a nationalist, not a patriot. A nationalist waves the banner of a nation regardless of what it does. A patriot in the US holds the government accountable for its actions, believes in the Constitution, and actually gets off their butt and does something about these problems.)
        • Correction...

          Sorry, I meant to say "even if you can pay" regarding BoA.
  • Oh lookie....

    Another way for hackers, spammers, phishers, and the NSA to gather even more data on you. Joy of joys. And thanks to the TPP and unchecked capitalism, you too can become a complete marketing tool--and one used for demographic research.

    And they'll even *LET* you pay for the experience! Where do I sign up for this wonder of wonders? (That was complete sarcasm for anyone who didn't get it...)
    • Sarcasm Duly Noted

      ... nicely fulminated;-)!