Ribbit has the tech part down, but what about consumer marketing?

News media outlets are heralding Ribbit’s goal to “be the platform company for Voice 2.0 applications.” Countless articles in mainstream news media and posts in blog media have appeared, written by individuals with a solid command of exactly what Ribbit is all about. Om Malik, writing for GIGAOM, sums it up: “…what they have done is built their own Class 5 softswitch and back-end infrastructure and married it to front-end technologies like Flash and Flex from Adobe Systems (ADBE).” Okay, if you say so.

The company calls itself, “Silicon Valley’s first phone company.” Chief Executive Officer Ted Griggs comes across as a really nice guy on a promotional video. The video will probably challenge the attention deficit Web readers are known for. Griggs basically talks about the company and what the technology means.  But the video is about as lively as a lint brush. There’s a photo of a guy in a suit on the front page of the Ribbit Web site. He’s in a Zen state of mind. Who is he supposed to be speaking to? Even a developer wouldn’t relate to this guy. Your average person, to get excited about this product, needs to know in flat English what Ribbit is going to do for us and what it will cost.


A page on the company’s Web site does give consumers an idea of what to expect. You’ll be able to: make calls through your computer so you have a phone wherever you have an internet connection, read your voicemails so audio playback is no longer a necessity, play your messages in any order so you decide the order of importance, and access your messages on the go from any phone through a smart voicemail interface.

A New York Times headline asked, “Would you buy a telephone from a company named Ribbit?” Most of us would if we get a unique service at reasonable cost. I actually think the name can be an asset—frogs are cute and there’s a lot of creative leeway in those little amphibians. Think about what GEICO does with a gecko who talks like an Aussie and has better manners than most of us. You have to wonder what kind of accent a Ribbit-promoting frog might speak with, in between ribbits.

Meanwhile, developers are positive. According to the Ribbit Web site, more than 600 have joined the development community to date,  located throughout the world in over 65 countries, including the U.S., Europe, Brazil, China, and India. Time will tell whether future marketing efforts will succeed with consumers—maybe we’ll see a Valley girl frog offering up a designer beer, ‘ribbiting’ with zest, selling us on a new phone service in the process.


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