Marc Benioff story on a rumour that Marc Benioff, the CEO & founder, may ring the bell on the floor of NYSE with his dog called Koa when his company goes public. Om Malik thinks this is a publicity stunt.

He believes good, or bad, any news is better than no news. A little while ago, he got an egg on his phase when he tried to use Dalai Lama in a software promotion. His Holiness was not amused.

But Kevin Maney nicely puts things in perspective by calling him a “character”.

Let’s say you run a company as Benioff does that makes technology most of the population will never see or touch. Yet you want to get a lot of attention and have a major impact.

What do you do? Well, one approach is to be “a character.” You do quirky things, talk to the press a lot, and become the reason people learn about your company. It has worked for Ellison, who runs Oracle, maker of big unfathomable databases that do something incomprehensible but important behind the scenes just about everywhere. As a billionaire playboy sailor who built a $100 million Japanese villa to live in, Ellison is much more fun than Oracle, though his new wife will no doubt put the kibosh on the playboy part.

Back in the 1930s and ’40s, the same thing worked for Thomas Watson Sr., who ran IBM when it made big clattering tabulating machines that were at the time incomprehensible yet ran things behind the scenes nearly everywhere. Watson had those famous THINK signs, held conventions in tent cities and led employees in company songs. It got IBM on the cover of national magazines.

Now here’s Benioff who happens to be a one-time Ellison protg. Salesforce is already doing well. On Wednesday, it will release numbers expected to show 2003 revenue of about $100 million, up nearly 100% over 2002. Like Ellison and Watson, Benioff is apparently a good businessman.

But that doesn’t get you worldwide press coverage and a spot on society’s radar. For that, you need a character.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.