Sorry for the long form. But someone's ...

Posted in Insights — Jun 02, 2009

Sorry for the long form. But someone's gotta do it, and it might as well be me... and I want to give some historical perspective on *what we're doing with Symantec *that so many people's design, content, and development efforts are contributing toward...

To begin with, the virus industry is sick. The entire category’s come down with a contagious case of consumer apathy and confusion. How did it get that way and what is FINE helping Symantec’s consumer brand, Norton, do about it? Let’s review.

1982: One computer virus known to man. Symantec founded.

“Elk Cloner” got a lot of attention. It caused people problems and then left them a cute poem that said things like “It will stick to you like glue. It will modify RAM too.” It made a 15-year old computer nerd named Rich Skrenta semi-famous.

And that set the tone for years. A succession of hacker types created malicious software primarily to gain a certain kind of twisted fame. The media complied by sensationalizing their exploits and striking fear with viruses like “Melissa”, “Tequila”, “Dark Avenger”, “Good Times”, and “I Love You”.

1990: 1,300 named viruses exist. Symantec buys Norton Computing.

By the early ‘90’s as the Web emerged, Symantec’s Norton brand was an industry leader and trusted ally against threats. But as viruses grew and the virus software industry matured, people stopped worrying and got a little numb to it. Hackers began to lose interest in stardom. Threats grew quiet. Software development settled into a succession of ever more bloated versions that layered more and more patches to answer new threats that no one understood.

The average consumer disengaged and forgot why they should even care, except for increasingly brief periods 1-2 times a year when some large outbreak occurred. Meantime, tech savvy consumers simply got annoyed at Symantec’s subscription-based business model and unwieldy software. Symantec maintained its position as the runaway market leader, but in an industry that had become about as glamorous as toilet paper or cooking oil.

In this environment of apathy, where few can tell the difference, the barriers to entry into security software plummeted. A host of new competitors emerged, offering freeware and white label solutions. 13-14 software providers (triple the choices in a healthy industry) began to compete for attention, many offering limited protection when not expertly cobbled together - just enough to hook users into upgrading, or provide a false sense of security to those who’d rather not think about it at all. Norton maintained its lead, but began to see some of these competitors chip away at their share and, more importantly, to commoditize the entire industry.

2007: Symantec resolves to “Win Back The Wired”

To reverse this trend, Norton had to win back the tech savvy “wired” consumer who knew enough to avoid risks and make do with limited protection, while playing an opinion leader role with the rest of us clueless consumers. They would do this through a combination of re-engineered software that would be the lightest and fastest in the industry (go to NortonToday and take the Performance Challenge to confirm) and by engaging with consumers to expand the dialog beyond features and functions to make Norton feel like an integral part of life in the connected world again.

In 2008, NortonToday became the communications hub for this effort, including all of Norton’s online consumer advertising traffic, consumer promotions, and value-added content. NortonToday stood out in an industry that had become mired in sameness of design, predictability of content, and low involvement on all sides. In a survey of the more than 1 Million unique visitors to the site during its first year, 74% report an improved impression of the Norton brand due to their interaction with the company on NortonToday. More importantly, it helped energize (or, forgive me, Nortonize) the company.

That’s a start.

2008: 1.6 Million+ new malicious code signatures identified. That's One Million Six Hundred Thousand plus, in one year. 90% target personal information.

While the visual, verbal, and functional message of speed and currency is helping reinvigorate the Norton brand, this marketplace is still ailing. Remember all those old virus threats everyone’s forgotten about? They keep growing. But the bigger problem is that the threats have changed. The new kind of cybercriminal is much different than Rich Skrenta in 1982 – he does not want to get famous. In fact, he’d rather no one ever know his name. Because his goal is not to fill the media with his name, its to empty your bank account of its cash.

Into this landscape, a further ramping up of emotional re-engagement with the category is required. It’s a level of engagement you see only during brief glimpses nowadays, when the Symantec website is briefly inundated with traffic seeking information on an outbreak like Conficker. But it’s not about mere scare tactics, it’s about changing what has become apathetic neglect into collaborative action.

Sure, the average consumer needs software help to block bots, phishing, and malicious code that culls the Internet for personal data so effectively that a stolen credit card number now sells for merely 6 cents, and an entire identity about $30. It’s a $10 Billion industry (bigger than the security software industry that fights it) where less than 1 in 10,000 cybercriminals are prosecuted, much less convicted. Software is needed, but so is attention, education, and collaboration. Today, only an estimated 30-40% of consumers are fully protected against the panoply of threats being constantly introduced. And their level of involvement in the category is still going down.

Enter programs like Norton SafeWeb, which allows Symantec’s millions of worldwide users to rate and verify the safety of websites (while looking, as many of you know, "Veb Two Dot Oh"). And now Norton Watchgroups, which allows Norton loyalists to become leaders of their own online neighborhood watch, keeping friends and family protected and informed through a dynamic watchgroup hub page. These programs don’t look or work like anything else in the industry. They don’t look like or act like software marketing at all – that's because they aren't primarily focused at selling boxes, but actually help supplement the software in the effort of keeping you safe itself. All that is accomplished through the application of compelling design to functionality that helps deliver and share important content and creates a platform that invites consumers to not just re-engage with Symantec, but with each other.

So that’s how FINE programs fit in the past and present of one of the world's largest consumer software companies. Put simply, these tools are at the center of a next generation strategy that takes Norton out of the software box business and puts them back at the front lines of a united movement against all digital dangers.

More than that, FINE’s work with Symantec is not simply about promoting a brand. As the company that essentially invented and has led the category for 25 years, Symantec’s charge is to repair and re-envision an industry category that is more important to the average consumer, by far, than it ever was.

Nice work, guys!

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