Intuit’s PR Push

Barrons and Forbes both did big profiles on Intuit (INTU 58) this weekend.  When this happens it’s not likely by accident and you can thank a good PR company.  Rising stock prices affect the likelihood of feature articles.  Reporters want to explain to their readers what is going on, and whether to get on the bandwagon.  Sometimes they do themselves.

Over time, Intuit has been a monster winner, and almost doubled since the beginning of 2010.  (In Wired’s piece on Mary Meeker also this month she cited Intuit as one of her personal investing home runs.)

Chart for Intuit Inc. (INTU)

Barron’s is awfully chipper.   Acquisitions of Demandforce and Mint.com I take as a problem in innovation but platitudes get through unscathed in the article by Robin Goldwyn Blumenthal

Smith also talks about “using data to create delight.” That would include, for instance, enabling Mint.com to analyze customers’ data and find ways to help them save money and improve their businesses—and deliver targeted credit-card offers to customers.  Smith added that Intuit’s products “put more money” in customer’s pockets. Patient investors who bet on its shares should find it putting more money in theirs as well.

They quote “bulls” saying the stock can reach 70 in the next year from the current high 50s.

Bruce Upbin of Forbes has been a frequent (and increasing) bull on Intuit.   The September 24 2012 issue has a spread on page 72, on “Why Intuit is More Innovative Than Your Company.”  The print edition’s title is a touch more tame, “The 30-Year-Old Startup” which should indicate why it’s unlikely they’re more innovative than your company.  How?  They test things and visit customers and Eric Ries speaks to them.  ’nuff said.

An online sidebar about Intuit is also available from Upbin (fair enough to publish multiple pieces after a month of research.)  He also profiled them extensively on April 26th How Intuit Uses Big Data for the Little Guy, prior to hosting Nora Denzel of Intuit in the Forbes Leadership Forum, while naming them #57 most innovative company (a notch ahead of Pepsi!)  Forbes online in June did another profile of Brad Smith, the Intuit CEO.   All this kicked off February 9, “How Intuit Uses Cloud Computing.” by Ray Wang.

There’s no conspiracy here; Intuit and Forbes are going to be a match made in heaven but if one company mows through about five concepts to describe their business to one publication in one year the only thing they’re likely innovating is their branding, to juice the stock.   Bloomberg has a more balanced piece, “Intuit’s Smith Says Software Maker Didn’t Bring A Game.” which also confirms there has likely been a deliberate PR push.  I smell (another) major acquisition coming.

The Mint.com acquisition of course is proof that at least up to 2009, the company had not been anywhere near as innovative as it needed to be.  I find Mint.com to have broken regularly and not been nearly as useful as before.  Can someone else disrupt this?

Mint’s founder, Aaron Patzer, was initially worried he was going to lose control of his baby. “Every startup fears being sucked up by the Borg,” he says. “But they told me I could run it as I saw fit, and they held true to their word.”

This is damnation by feint praise, and surely if there was more innovation going on than at your company, how about Patzer’s?  He is still listed as “currently” at Intuit but his Linkedin profile also says he is

Currently working on a number of ideas, including health diagnostics and crowd sourced drug effectiveness using machine learning, transportation algorithms, and sensor systems.

Which suggests he may not have Patzer’s full attention.  INTU may very well be leveraging big data in the cloud, and they have wonderful marketshare for the ever-more complex world of tax filing and prep.  But entering into payroll and orthogonal fields is going to be a brutal, low margin battle with the Paychexes (PAYX 34) of the world.

Intuit at 58 now, I’ll pass.

 

 

 

 

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