Brand Management, Competitive Strategy

EMC Sponsors TED Talk. Questions, anybody?

Last week I wrote about NetApp’s new visual identity, and the impact of Cloud infrastructure on best-of-breed brands like ours.

There was some discussion within our marketing team over the week on this TED Talk by Morgan Spurlock, titled ‘The Greatest Ted Talk ever sold’. You may remember Spurlock as the guy behind the “Supersize me” documentary, in which he almost got himself killed by eating McDonald’s food, and nothing but McDonald’s for 3 months.


Anyway, Morgan delivers a great Ted Talk for anybody who’s into brand management and advertising, like you all, so check it out if you have 20 minutes to spare. Interestingly enough, at the end of his talk, it turned out that our competitor EMC had bought the naming rights for that TED Talk on eBay for USD7,100, and used it to coin a new positioning statement, at least one that I hadn’t seen before: EMC; Turning big data into big opportunity for organizations around the world.

It may have replaced their former brand motto “Where Information Lives”, which is no longer prominent on their website. There’s no way of knowing where information actually lives in a cloud infrastructure – so this little piece of rebranding makes sense. And “big data” sounds like “scary hairy beast”, evoking annotations of danger, fear and uncertainty in IT DMU’s, which has been the core of EMC’s storage messaging all along – so no real changes there.

Nevertheless, it’s a bold move for EMC to be part of Spurlock’s TED Talk. It’s also one of the first signs of the brand struggle ahead in our category. Within a couple of years, storage hardware and software vendors will not be selling to end users anymore. They will provide components to components to parts of bigger and bigger shared data centers. So where does that leave the component brands?

Are we all – vendors of servers, business applications, storage, security, management software a like – condemned to a life behind the scenes, hidden within nimble data centers, within infrastructure value propositions and service level agreements, positioned and priced by service providers and system integrators? Yes, possibly. Does this mean we will see more crazy moves by vendors attempting to create or maintain brand equity? Sure, why not?

The key message is, that the playing field within our category is changing, and with it the rules of the game and the players qualified to enter.

New disqualifiers surface on all levels. Closed, unconnected, uncompatibel, unintegrated are words of the past. Open, unified, connectible, integrated are the semantics of cloud infrastructure. What do hardware, software, and service propositions look like when a mix of private, hybrid, public, managed clouds makes up the information infrastructure of large corporations?

We’ll see new rounds of consolidation, new alliances, radically different value propositions.

So, what is the difference between NetApp Inside, and EMC Inside? Are we able to articulate this diference to small, medium-sized and large companies? To IT, to Line of Business management, to C-level executives? To channel partners large and small? Do we really need to?

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