Today, NetApp is launching a new “brand identity”. This includes a new logo, a new tagline, new messaging framework, a completely reworked corporate website -- the whole shebang. We are even changing our legal name from Network Appliance to NetApp. (For more details, see our new web site, this press release, and this podcast on the research behind our new brand.)
To understand ourmotives, you have to understand the relationship between brand and awareness.Awarenessis about how many people are familiar with your company, and brandis about the stuff that you tell them in order to increase awareness. The new brandis the first stage of a new awareness campaign. Over the next few years, NetAppwill spend tens of millions of dollars on awareness. Before we spend all thatmoney, it only makes sense to get very clear about what -- exactly -- to tellpeople in all of those advertisements and customer programs!
At its heart,branding is about making promises. If you explain to people how your companycan help them, the “brand promise”, then they can figure out for themselveswhether to buy from you. (I wrote this blog entry about the idea of a brand as a promise.)
Based on past experience,I expect many readers -- especially technical ones -- to view this as so muchmarketing bullshit. Ironically, NetApp has never spent much on branding and awarenessbecause our engineering-centric executive staff largely shared this view. Wewere skeptics! Other skeptics might like to hear why I’ve changed my view.
Since the goal ofdeveloping a new brand is to increase awareness, the most obvious question iswhy we think awareness is important. NetApp’s unaided awareness is less than10%. Unaided awareness is when you ask potential customers to name all of the vendorsthat they would consider to solve a particular problem –- storage and datamanagement in our case. Less than 10% of potential customers list NetApp. Thatmeans our unaided awareness is very close to our market share, which isalso about 10%. Pretty much everyone who knows about NetApp is buying from us. Thinkabout it: Everybody knows about EMC, but only a third of them choose to buyfrom EMC. Ten percent of people know about NetApp, and almost all of them chooseto buy from us. Apparently, pretty much everyone who knows us likes us. Justimagine how well we could do if the other 90% knew what the 10% know!
One barrier toincreasing awareness is that people call us so many different things: NetworkAppliance, NetApp, NetApps, Network Applications, Network Associates. What’sworse, our own material said both NetApp and Network Appliance. How can peopleremember you if they don’t even know your name? More people call us NetApp, andit’s shorter and easier to remember, so we decided to reduce confusion bylegally changing the company name. Now we are NetApp. (FedEx did a similar rebranding in 1994.)
“Okay”, I hear theskeptic saying, “that makes sense, butdid it really take expensive consultants to figure out that you need a singlename and that you should start advertising?”
That’s fair, butother aspects of branding are trickier to get right. I said earlier that if youtell people what you do, then they can figure out for themselves whether to becustomers, but it’s tricky to get the details right. Your explanation must be honest,clear, and relevant. If you aren’t honest about what you can do,customers will figure that out, and you’ll have a nasty backlash. If you aren’tclear,then people won’t understand what you are trying to say. Also, you must take avariety of audiences into account. Historically, we focused on the technicalfolks who use our products, but the higher-level business people who write thechecks and make final decisions on vendor selection are equally important.Finally, you must be relevant. There are many true thingsthat we could say about NetApp, but we want to share the true things that customerscare about, that will make them want to buy from us. (Just to be clear, thereis a profit motive here.) For our top level messaging, we also want to say truethings that are of interest to both technical and business people.
Getting all thisright takes careful research. We interviewed customers to hear why they buyfrom NetApp. We worked with industry analysts to validate customer input and toexpress the messages as clearly as possible. We did test marketing -– completewith one-way mirrors -– to see whether potential customers understood ourmessages, and whether they cared. (As an engineer, this whole process surprisedme. It felt more like an engineering development project than I expected,complete with requirements, development, testing, debugging, milestones andeverything.)
As part of thelaunch we are changing many things –- the logo, the tagline, the messages –- butwe are not changing NetApp itself. Since we began, NetApp has changed from asmall startup to a major IT vendor in enterprise data centers. The brand launch is not about driving morechange; it is about introducing people to what NetApp has matured into, afterfifteen years of successful growth.
NetApp has been awell-kept secret for too long, and we intend to change that.