First there was Disney World, then came LinuxWorld, and now, ladies and gentlemen, we have AccelrysWorld.
It’s not your typical user group meeting. The event, taking place at the end of this month in San Diego, is open to anyone willing to fork over $895 for registration. It’s a combination of creative marketing, branding, and, yes, science too. “One of the goals of AccelrysWorld is to continue to build our brand image as a company of scientists for scientists,” says Accelrys life sciences marketing VP Dennis Rossi. In fact, two Nobel laureates will headline the three-day meeting: Harry Koto and Robert Huber. Lee Hood will also give a keynote address.
Although 27 non-Accelrys scientists will present, some 200 expected attendees will certainly be barraged by marketing pitches from Accelrys and its partners. Directors of each of the company’s business lines will give presentations, and many of the speakers are customers who will talk about using Accelrys software in their work.
And here’s the clever marketing angle: “We are also providing any registrant free software,” says Rossi. “We will give them a $1,000 voucher towards the purchase of software through April 30, 2003.” So in a sense, the fee for the conference is a pre-purchase of Accelrys software — but Rossi insists that “it’s a scientific conference.”
The question is, will presenters really be free to criticize Accelrys’ own offerings? “We’ve asked them to come as scientists to speak about scientific issues,” says Accelrys chief science officer Scott Kahn. “And if it means they’re going to say something less than favorable about a product … we learn from that. That’s our perspective on it.”
“I will definitely try not to be a spokesman of their marketing department,” says Accelrys customer Jean-Marc Neefs, senior bioinformatics specialist at Johnson & Johnson’s Beerse, Belgium, site, who will speak on the first day. “I’m in there for the science.”
— Aaron J. Sender