Michael Callahan | Crain's Denver

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Michael Callahan


Zimperium brought in Michael Callahan as CMO in December 2017 because of his experience in protecting computers from viruses, malware and other external threats. The Dallas area–based company takes what companies like McAfee and others have already established for desktops and laptops and brings it to mobile devices.

The Mistake:

Years ago, when I worked at McAfee, I launched a totally different type of advertising campaign for a new product. Instead of spreading fear by saying what could happen if you don’t have this protection, we emphasized the positive steps people can take by having this product on their devices.

Fear is the best motivator when you’re selling anti-virus software. You build a campaign around scaring people by telling them about potential threats to their devices. There are real threats out there, and this strategy has been effective.

But just once, I decided to take a more optimistic approach: It’s not what you have to stop doing. It’s the positive steps you can take now.

We had a strong team working on this campaign, and the marketing materials were all positive. I remember this as one of the best experiences of my professional career.

But externally, the launch didn’t make that big an impact. We wanted to make it simple for people to understand, but we weren’t really solving a problem people have. It was the right idea with a great execution, but it didn’t speak to the audience.

Someone has a problem, and you’re trying to help solve it. Be clear on how to communicate that.

The Lesson:

Consumers will spend money to solve problems and for convenience. It has to be obvious. Someone has a problem, and you’re trying to help solve it. Be clear on how to communicate that. You have to make it real for [the client].

Those are the biggest lessons I learned.

Whether it’s a personal computer, a work computer or a mobile device, consumers need to be aware of the threats and the solutions available to protect it.

This is marketing 101. This will be critically important at my new job at Zimperium, where the focus is protecting mobile devices.

Zimperium is on Twitter: @ZIMPERIUM.

Photo courtesy of Zimperium

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