Why Ryver Runs Negative Ads Against Slack

Negative Ad Tuft and Needle BillboardHigh-tech mattress startup Tuft & Needle runs billboard ads that openly slam their brick-and-mortar competition. The negative ads scream, “Mattress Stores are Greedy!”

Why do they do this?

First, it’s true. Retailers’ markup on mattresses is huge.

Second, Tuft & Needle sells a mattress that is technically superior and much cheaper than anything you can buy at any store.

But most of all, mattress retailers are the sworn enemy that Tuft & Needle has set out to destroy. To do so, T&N must attack the method by which consumers have been purchasing mattresses for a hundred years. To make their point, T&N has to publicly bash and shame their competition. It’s the only way to shock consumers out of the complacent status quo.

It’s noisy out there. The absolute best way to get noticed is to be controversial. Our brains are wired to pay attention to conflict.

At Ryver, we run ads that directly attack Slack for very similar reasons. Our ads outrage the Slack fanboys. And you know what? We love it! Every time someone publicly objects to our ads, Ryver gets better known. Our ads accomplish everything we had hoped.

Only the fanboys get their knickers in a bunch. Normal people don’t get upset. Why? Because we don’t actually run terriblyNegative Ad versus Slackoffensive ads (in fact, we respect what Slack has done, and we’ve said so publicly). The worst ad we run merely says, “Slack is so last year,” which is accurate – it was the hot startup in 2015.

Why do we keep running that ad, despite the occasional social media potshots ranging from snarky platitudes to frothing fanboy rage? It’s simple: That ad outperforms every other ad we have tested 5 to 1. When we relay this simple fact to the fanboys, they say we’re lying. Erm… ok… then we’re doing it… to waste money, week after week, because the ads don’t perform well? Twitter even tells us that the ad is three times more effective than their average ad.

The funniest angry Tweets from Slack fans go something like this: “These guys piss me off. I’ve never clicked on a Twitter ad before, but I had to know what Ryver was.”

When we launched Ryver, Slack had already become a phenomenon, growing at an explosive rate. It is a very good product. Ryver is just as good in most ways and better in some important ways. But we were over 18 months late to the party. We had to find a way to get noticed in a marketplace where it seemed several articles a day were being written about Slack. The best way to draft off their success was to attack them directly. Even though it made some people angry our ads are controversial but truthful.

Negative AdMarketing is war. You are fighting for your company’s life, by way of attention and sales. If you aren’t willing to go to war,
you might as well surrender and go home and knit cat stuff for Etsy.

The best way to attack a competitor is to find their soft underbelly and tear it to shreds with tooth and claw. Ideally, it’s something they are not able to change in response to your attack. Slack’s soft underbelly is their pricing model. They hook people with a free tier that amounts to a crippled trial for any real team of any size. You can use Slack for free as long as you are willing to live with huge limitations:

  1. Slack only lets you see and search the last 10,000 messages. Over that you get a message saying “tough luck but there are messages we are not going to show you.” Ten thousand might sound like a lot, but it’s only about 2-3 weeks of messages for a team of 10 people.
  2. You are limited to 5GB of storage. If you send a lot of files you can easily exceed that. Slack’s answer? “Start paying or your files are toast!”
  3. Slack doesn’t let you have any guests. Team Communication only works when you include everyone who need to be part of the discussion. To avoid paying you cannot include anyone from outside your organization.
  4. In order to make Slack really work, you must pay them $8 or $15 per user per month. Slack is touted as the replacement for email. But can you imagine how few people you’d email if you had to pay for their email account? When Team Communication costs money, people use it differently. That’s why we made ours free.

Ryver has NONE of these limitations. Ryver is entirely free. We give away what Slack charges a lot of money for.

Is Ryver Really Free?  Ryver is Freedom from Slack using Negative Ad

“Free” is controversial. You say the word, and people assume you’re ad sponsored (we’re not). Or they think you don’t understand business. People Tweet “Hey Ryver, you have to charge money if you are going to survive!” My response? “Oh really? I never thought of that!” The answer is simple: We’re a freemium model. We offer Ryver Team Communication for free and we will be charging money for add-on products such as a Task Manager. Slack is also a freemium model. The difference is that their free tier is a crippled product whereas our free level is a full product without limitations… unlimited users, data, guests, search history, etc.. We’ll charge money to turn on powerful new products that work synergistically with Team Communication, whereas Slack charges money to uncripple their base product.

If we had we run the same boring ads most companies run, we would never have garnered anyone’s attention. Getting noticed is all that matters. The first 60 days was pretty brutal. We had to have a thick skin. You’d think we were calling people’s babies ugly! But then, as more people started trying our product, we started to see Ryver defenders emerge organically. From out of nowhere, users started tweeting, “I tried Ryver and it is really good! We switched from Slack.”

We haven’t yet become the phenomenon that Slack has, but we are starting to get serious traction, tons of trials. Perhaps even more exciting is our retention. With SaaS products, it’s considered really good if 5% of the people trying you out keep using it. We’re currently seeing 12%. I suspect that Ryver is now the third best-known brand in the new category of Team Communication. In less than nine months! Could we have done this running plain vanilla ads? Not likely. We’ll keep running them as long as they keep performing so well.

Here is marketing expert Jay Baer talking about our approach. He asks the question, “Is this the best webpage ever?” I don’t know if it is the best ever, but our approach works and that’s all that matters.

Pat Sullivan
pat@ryver.com

Was co-creator and CEO of ACT!, The Best Selling Contact Manager. Founder and CEO of SalesLogix The Leading Mid Market CRM Two time winner of Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Co-founder and CEO of Ryver, The Best Team Communications that is FREE.

13 Comments
  • SF Engineer
    Posted at 15:35h, 02 September Reply

    Marketing is not war. The only people who claim marketing is war are people who are trying to rationalize immoral marketing. Literally every evil thing that has ever been done has been rationalized by the person who committed the act.
    Examples of super sleazy marketing that only worked in the short term are pop-ups that have people think they’re clicking the X but are actually links to their website. By your logic this is just good marketing because the click through rate is really high. Your ‘hey the conflict is gaining us attention’ strategy and rationalization is no better than the sleazy pop-up adds or even Donald Trump.
    I hope you soon realize that business is not about short-term spikes but rather about providing value for your customers and capturing a portion of the value you generate. Riding the coattails of Slack and then attacking them is not providing real value. I guarantee you this approach will fail, but until then, enjoy your ‘war’ against a company that people seem to really enjoy

    • Pat Sullivan
      Posted at 16:44h, 02 September Reply

      Dear Anonymous,

      I appreciate your view but I guarantee if we were not providing a great product nobody would use it no matter our good or bad marketing. People are using it and loving it. That is what matters.

      But if I could get no one’s attention, who would care?

      I am a fan/devotee of Ries and Trout’s “Marketing Warfare” classic book. Highly recommend it. http://amzn.to/2bJUstp

      They helped me fight my wars with my products ACT! and SalesLogix. Using “warfare” as a way to think about competing is common and well accepted metaphor. Competing in the marketplace actually is a lot like war. I am sorry you take issue with it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Thanks for sharing yours. Wish you the best.

  • Michael
    Posted at 11:47h, 03 September Reply

    The irony of marketing is hard to quantify…but here is to the Slack Fanboys who have objected to the Ryver marketing campaign and given Ryver the attention it was looking for to grow and thrive in a very competitive marketplace.

    Ironically, without these Slack Fanboys short sighted, one sided, opinions about Slack and their subsequent response to Ryver ads, Ryver might not be where it is today.

    Fortunately, a good majority of people who try Ryver see that there is tons of value in it and it is totally free…so those people have stuck around to continue using it and passed on the good word about Ryver’s value.

    Perhaps the biggest irony of all this is that ads attacking competitors have been used for decades and they have usually gone through the 3 phases of being widely accepted products in society. 1. Dismissal (often as humorous) 2. Strong Opposition 3. Generally accepted as the norm.

    My guess is that some, or most, of the people who have objected to Ryver’s ads are Apple users, have eaten at Wendy’s, are Samsung users, Microsoft users, drink Pepsi, Coke, or Powerade, Sleep on a Tuft & Needle mattress, or many more, and have no problem with the fact that all these companies have used attack-style ads over the years….

    Great work Ryver.

  • Fabio
    Posted at 11:39h, 07 September Reply

    “””Marketing is war. You are fighting for your company’s life, by way of attention and sales. If you aren’t willing to go to war,
    you might as well surrender and go home and knit cat stuff for Etsy”””

    False dichotomy.

    I hate this attitude, I’m not a Slack user (Mattermost at work) but you just increase my affinity with them.

    • Pat Sullivan
      Posted at 13:11h, 07 September Reply

      Appreciate your view. The beauty of views is everyone is entitled one. Yours is certainly a valid one and thank you for sharing it!

    • FEDOR
      Posted at 14:44h, 12 October Reply

      “you might as well” is not a claim of binary choice. This could be said to be a false dichotomy if he had said you have the choice between going to war or [whatever]. For example, Fabio, you can either accept his claim as true or go back to your identity studies class and sell them your social justice warrior attitude.

  • Joe Smack
    Posted at 12:59h, 21 September Reply

    I do think your ad is engaging. I do believe your click through rate is five times higher for your controversial ad. I do wonder if the conversion to sign ups is good or if the ad is just click bait.

    You might want to be careful about the warfare analogy. By default it made you look morally questionable to me. I really had to dig in and learn more about where you draw the line to forgive you for it. But not everybody will give you that chance.

    I will wait for 3 personal endorsements from people I know before I try your product, as I did with Slack.

    I like the pricing model, but it doesn’t give me peace of mind that you will be around in 6 months. As a result, I will wait longer to see if you can sustain your company for a couple years before giving you a chance.

    Best of luck. I will be keeping an ear out for your endorsements.

  • Mike
    Posted at 08:35h, 03 October Reply

    Your claim (not in this article) of no limits on integrations is disingenuous. Yes, that is true to the letter, but you only offer integrations through Zapier. Zapier’s free plan only has 5 integrations. So, to get the most out of Ryver, I have to pay Zapier.

    I’m OK with paying Zapier, or Slack, or maybe Ryver. But right now, Slack is legitimately simpler and more complete in this area.

    For me, you’ll have a compelling product when you have native integrations (or at least incoming webhooks).

  • James
    Posted at 23:51h, 05 October Reply

    On the grand scheme of things it isn’t really attacking is it. It’s just a business saying you know what our product is better suited to the consumer and here’s the reason why.

    Plus I’ve tried both extensively and Ryver is better for the reasons what have been stated.

    What’s the betting over time when Ryver erode Slacks lead that Slack will change their pricing structure…….. what this space.

    Great product team Ryver.

  • Barney Lerten
    Posted at 16:50h, 09 October Reply

    Intriguing app. If I can get our TV station/co. to try it, I think it might have benefits. Also FYI, seventh graf has typo: “At Ryver, we runs ads….”

    • Pat Sullivan
      Posted at 09:48h, 13 October Reply

      Good catch Berney. Thanks for pointing the typo out.

      Let us know what you think after your station tries Ryver.

  • Al Karaki
    Posted at 23:46h, 21 December Reply

    Hi there

    I would like to know how I can contact Pat regarding a game-changer.

  • Sydney
    Posted at 17:06h, 02 May Reply

    Even after having an ad blocker installed on my computer and working in marketing, I negate almost all ads left. Your post caught my attention, I read more and it drove me to install your app. Your “justification” post demonstrated conviction behind your product, if not I would have left.

    I can’t wait to use it with my team.

    We have been looking at slack alternatives for some time now.

Post A Comment