SAS not quiet anymore

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For most of its 24 years of existence, the SAS in SAS Institute might have stood for "secret and silent.''

"They're kind of the quiet company,'' said AMR Research analyst Peter Urban. The privately held company was about as quiet as a $1 billion operation could be. But that may be about to change for the Cary, N.C.-based provider of statistical analysis and data-mining software.

Looking for a bigger share of the burgeoning market for data-mining software, which is growing thanks to the e-commerce explosion, SAS Institute launched today a $25 million print advertising campaign. The ads will appear in The Wall Street Journal, The Industry Standard and other business and Internet publications. SAS will add to the campaign budget by launching TV spots in September.

The print ads, which use the tagline, "The power to know,'' feature portraits of people with headlines such as this projected onto their foreheads: "The future of your e-business is being decided right here.'' The body copy asks, "Do you really know what goes on in the minds of your e-customers?'' SAS promises that its software can "reveal insights that can help you optimize online merchandising, recognize cross-selling opportunities, build greater customer loyalty and establish more profitable relationships with your best e-customers.'' "We took great pains not to represent the classic tech image,'' said Scott Crawford, senior VP-creative director at Howard, Merrell & Partners Inc., which created the campaign. "We avoided showing computer screens and digital information. We wanted it to be about human beings and their behavior.''

The campaign represents the first broad branding effort for SAS and doubles its standard advertising budget, which usually is spent in trade publications, said Betty Fried, SAS' director of corporate communications.

A broader audience

The broadening of SAS Institute's marketing efforts comes as data-mining software, like most things e-business, grows more central to the entire enterprise. "Research showed that SAS is very well known in the user community,'' Crawford said, "but once you get beyond the user to the CXO level, where people are making major decisions on capital expenditures to leverage the Web, they don't know SAS.''

Additionally, SAS has great penetration among the Fortune 500, but now it seems to be looking to expand its market to include more smaller companies as data mining becomes more important--and likely more affordable--for businesses of all sizes, Urban said.

In the past, a typical SAS customer was the U.S. Census Bureau, which uses the company's software to identify trends in the reams of data it collects. But now with the Web providing most companies with mountains of data, products such as SAS' WebHound can be used to perform clickstream analysis and to customize Web messages.

As the demand for these products grows, so does the competition, analysts say. For one thing, competition is growing for SAS Institute employees, and so founder Jim Goodnight, who has long resisted going public, is mulling the idea to provide employees extra incentive to stay.

Competition also is coming in the marketplace. IBM Corp., Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. all are angling for portions of SAS' markets. In January, SAS formed an alliance with IBM to incorporate its technology into IBM's DB2 database software to enhance the product's customer relationship management function.

Banking on R&D

hese moves may have the ultimate result of commoditizing data-mining software. "SAS has had the luxury of going into big corporations and charging people millions of dollars for their software,'' said Keith Gile, a Giga Information Group analyst. "That's not going to happen in a commodity market.''

SAS, Fried said, is not about to let that happen, and its large research and development budget may go a long way to keeping it ahead of the competition. "A major thing for us is to make sure it's not a commodity,'' Fried said.

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