Monday, March 24, 2008

Where the demons dwell and they do live well!

Howard Marks writing for Information Week about Netapp's rebranding today called it "a stunning demonstration of branding over substance"

Wow - that's wrong. Here's why. And, I cannot for the life of me beleive I am going to defend these guys - but coming from me, especially, this oozes cred..

The reason for the rebranding isn't about the brand its about redefining the market - and, yeah, the n logo stinks. Did anyone see the re-runs of Spinal Tap on TBS this weekend? You can't look at the n and not think Nigel Tuffnell. BTW - does a Netapp filer go to 11? oops... I digress....

The point of the exercise is to reposition the company as a player in a larger market. Netapp is currently the dominant player in a finite market - their johnny-one-note tune is getting a little tired - and they need to move beyond selling storage (beyond NAS actually) and be viewed by customers as capable of solving problems in a larger market context.

After a while, even market leaders start running out of market. So as you reach the limits of stealing marketshare, you have to redefine yourself to enable customers to think of you when they have problems outside your previous niche.

Maturing markets don't often endure challenges to the market leader - so it's not a great surprise that customers don't seriously consider Netapp for block storage. EMC owns that space in the market's phrenology. Likewise NAS - Netapp owns that bump of market brainmap that responds when a customer thinks NAS.

EMC attempting to sell NAS, or Netapp attempting to sell block is a fool's errand. Both have to redefine themselves as offering solutions for a new larger market. In so doing, they have an opportunity to establish the definition of the future market in their own terms.

EMC was able to establish a foundation for moving beyond storage without a major rebranding - EMC as a brand element is a relatively empty vessel - it has no context other than that given to it by EMC itself. So it was easy to add the tagline, "where information lives" without rebranding the entire company - and poof, they went from a company that sold devices "where data is stored" to a company selling solutions "where information lives" - now their market includes all form of information management services, tools, devices, etc.

Network Appliance had a bigger challenge. Appliances have a definition in the mind of the market. They are boxes. So to support a larger future market that should include all forms of solution delivery - at least well beyond NAS and block boxes - they needed to establish a more loosely defined brand - but couldn't abandon their heritage either. So Netapp makes sense.

This effort is not at all without substance. It is a critical step in order for Netapp to move beyond the confines of the storage array market and become viewed in the mind's-eye of the customer as capable of offering solutions for more than storing data.

It will be interesting to see how Netapp defines that future market - one hopes it will be in a very broad context supporting vastly larger revenue streams, and not just another tortured umbrella excuse for continued shilling of sheet metal and spinning disks.

In any event - it was good enough to get Jay out of the OSG doghouse.

1 comment:

Howard Marks said...

Kirby old buddy,

You may have a point that the appliance in Network Appliance held them back from expanding out of the NAS box market.

That doesn't add any substance to shortening the name and picking a bad logo.

Even a good tag line would have helped. Actually having substantial new products to pitch in the weeks that followed would have been better as they would have gotten lots of ink and bits about how they were the first evidence of the re-branding. That boat has now sailed.

Of course you're the marketing guy. I just make stuff work and write about it.