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Sign of the Times

By Denis Pombriant
Sep 11, 2018 9:49 AM PT

Well, here's one Dreamforce idea I never heard of. A group of groups opposed to the Trump administration's immigrant detention and separation policies has announced that it will picket Dreamforce. It already has called on speakers attending the event to pull out.

Sign of the Times

A long time ago, a very underfunded Salesforce marketing team tried a similar stunt, disrupting Siebel user group meetings in Europe and America. Salesforce's attempts were intended to be humorous sendups of their much bigger rival. In one instance, a panel van with a Salesforce logo and the famous "no software" Ghostbusters symbol drove around the arena where the user group meeting was held in Caan, France, if memory serves.

Another time, in San Diego, Salesforce people set up tables outside the venue and served coffee and Krispy Kreme pastries. It was, perhaps, the most successful demonstration of that vintage era. There is even footage of Tom Siebel somewhere enjoying the refreshments.

'Presence Will Be Known'

This time it's different. The dissenters want Salesforce to break a contract it has with Customs and Border Protection to supply cloud computing services that the government is using in connection with immigrant family separation. Frankly, the effort on the border seems so disjointed, I have a hard time believing that Salesforce is very integral to it.

No matter. The activists also say that they turned down a US$250,000 donation offer from Salesforce to go away. Instead, the coalition -- which includes the organizations Fight for the Future, Color Of Change, SumOfUs, Defending Rights and Dissent, Presente.org, RAICES, and Mijente -- plans to harass speakers, calling on them to pull out.

But wait, there's more. The group issued a threat too.

"If Salesforce continues to ignore the issue, these groups plan to escalate to high profile in person protests at Dreamforce and associated events. Advocates presence will be known through the week of Dreamforce," the coalition said in a statement.

This sounds ominous and makes me wonder what security at the already buttoned-up Moscone Center will be like.

At the same time, though, Salesforce has taken the high road. CEO Marc Benioff has issued several tweets, including this one:

Also, on their most recent earnings call, Benioff announced Salesforce would make the ethical and humane use of technology a strategic initiative at Salesforce.

This includes the appointment of a new officer tasked with forming the office of ethical and humane use, who will work with all constituents -- including customers, partners, industry groups and thought leaders in this area -- to encourage, publish and implement industry standards, guidelines and frameworks around the ethical and humane use of technology.

What Success Looks Like

It's too bad. The protesters should have taken the money. Salesforce -- or any company, for that matter -- can't simply break a legal contract as a means of protest if they expect to ever work in government again. They're all about serving the customer at this point.

However, the contract hardly means the company approves of the government's actions, just as many Americans don't support the actions.

With people like me getting emails detailing the effort, it seems that the protesters would prefer the publicity, and Salesforce is stuck between defending its contract with its customer while most likely sympathizing with the sentiments of the effort.

I guess this is what success looks like in 2018, but I liked things a lot more when protests were limited to coffee and donuts.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry analyst, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. Email Denis.


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