Primary vendors IBM, NetApp, and Western Digital all have different strategies in marketing to customers. It was found that IBM focuses on using experts to pitch their technology, NetApp focuses on using case studies, and Western Digital focuses on using white papers and reports. An overview of their marketing strategy is detailed below.
- For all of their lines of businesses, including their enterprise solutions segment, IBM uses a combination of psychographic, geographic, and demographic segmentation variables. They do selective targeting to make a particular product and service available to their clients according to their requirements.
- Their website has a MediaCenter that has videos that show off their products, including the FlashSystem Flashcore. They have most of the same videos and more on their YouTube channel called IBM Storage.
- IBM does a bulk of their advertisements through digital advertising, and they also post regularly on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Each social media page is used to show informative content about the data center world, and how their products can help make it better.
- They have videos that feature computer generated graphics of their hardware, with moving text and shiny backgrounds. However, their YouTube channel prominently features experts from IBM that talk about their products and how it can help make a data center better. Some of these experts are high-ranking, which is seen in the video by IBM Fellow and CTO of FlashSystem Andy Walls.
- Even in their broader Data Center Services webpage, they put a lot of emphasis on experts. This can be seen on their social media posts too, as their most recent social media post is about their CMO Eric Herzog talking at a recent conference put on by Cisco. Using experts to talk about the use of their products in a non-salesman-like way makes it seem like their products are the products that other professionals should be using, rather than just a product that they could use.
- In terms of offers, IBM doesn't usually market their products as a single solution, but they market solutions that are often integrated, offering multiple products in various areas to solve a variety of problems.
- On their website, IBM often uses the terms "transformation" and "future". Apart from these terms, they also push a message with the use of their experts in their many videos on YouTube and social media that their products are the products that everyone should use.
- Their strategy is more product-focused than brand-focused, as their aim is to market their product to fit the client's needs. But with their digital ads, they place the IBM logo very prominently and use ambiguous marketing language, such as can be seen with their Hybrid Data Management ads.
- NetApp's marketing strategy is focused on promoting a number of its key products such as their all-flash storage business. They are focusing on marketing these products because they now make up 76% of their net product revenue.
- NetApp markets through blog posts on their website, through digital ads, through YouTube videos, and through other social media channels such as Facebook. The messaging on all these channels are similar in showing how other companies use their products, and how their hardware and other products are aligned with the cloud.
- One of their digital marketing strategies is to use examples of important companies that are using their products. Some of these companies include Boerse Stuttgart, WuXi NextCODE, and Dreamworks Animation. This same strategy can be seen on their social media pages, where they mention companies like Ducati using their technology to solve problems related to data storage and processing.
- Hardware is a very important facet of their business, but they focus a lot on their cloud business, which can be seen in the way they mention cloud more than other technologies. When they do mention non-cloud services, they mention their next-gen tech such as their all-flash storage systems. They also link to reports done by third parties like Gartner that mention their products which gives some added validation to their products.
- In terms of offers, NetApp usually pushes the 'hybrid cloud' and 'futuristic' narratives and tie their products to an established cloud service. An example of this can be seen on their homepage, where they promote their services within Microsoft Azure. Under their Products and Solutions, they place their cloud, hybrid cloud, and flash storage offerings at the top, and the rest of their hardware and services follow afterward.
- NetApp is a data center vendor company, but many businesses are now moving away from having their own data centers and moving to the cloud. This is why in all aspects of their business NetApp is leaning towards messaging that features the cloud and marketing their products to say that they are being used in the world's biggest cloud services.
- NetApp is also selling its hardware products as something that is futuristic as the cloud, such as their flash storage systems that replace disk storage systems. It is also why they mention 'multi-cloud' a lot.
- Over ten years ago, NetApp had a problem with declining sales along with people not knowing the brand like they knew their major competitors IBM, Dell EMC, and HP. To combat this, they went on a brand awareness campaign with a new logo and tagline. Recently, with a growing brand awareness and a growing annual revenue of close to $6 billion, NetApp decided to rewrite their brand strategy again to spur even more growth.
- CMO Jean English stepped into the role in 2016 and began to rewrite the brand narrative, focusing on making the company as more than a technology hardware provider, which aligns with the CEO's own vision for the company. This brand-focused strategy can be seen in their digital ads, where they feature the logo very heavily and put content that tells the story of a feature or a company that used their product, without naming the product itself. The ads also feature large call-to-action words such as 'Find Out More' on a clickable button.
- For a long time, Western Digital was widely known in the domestic and small-scale data storage space, but after acquiring SanDisk, they entered the data center business which now accounts for 30% of all their sales. Their Data Center Systems portfolio includes the growing-in-popularity line of all-flash storage, their Ultrastar line, as well as their IntelliFlash series and their ActiveScale series. They market these products on their website by making one cohesive experience where corporate messaging could tie in with the purchase of their products.
- Western Digital markets its products through two main YouTube channels associated with their enterprise solutions: Western Digital Corporation and Data Center Systems by Western Digital. They also have social media pages such as their Facebook page and Linkedin page.
- On social media, Western Digital constantly reviews the needs and views of their most active customers on social media and on communities like Reddit. Western Digital also has an internal channel called the Reseller Council, where they hear from their partners on their products, marketing campaigns, and other ideas.
- Their marketing team is in charge of hearing customers out, and they contact customers directly to let them know that they care and are listening. Their customers may believe them, as Western Digital's engagement on surveys can be as high as 80%.
- Western Digital's digital advertising is somewhat similar to NetApp's, where they have ads showing factual statements by third-parties like Gartner, with a link to the report or white paper. They have many ads mentioning NVMe, which seems to be related to their IntelliFlash line of flash arrays which use NVMe technology. They have ads for each product-line that they offer, and there is always a 'Learn More' action button associated with them, which is different from the consumer-oriented ads which usually have 'Click here' or 'Buy Now'.
- In terms of offers, Western Digital has marketing language on their website, their ads, and in their social media posts, that they offer their products alone instead of in bundles with other products of their own or by other vendors.
- Western Digital seems to put a lot of emphasis on research and development. Their ads and content show how their products can drive discovery and the development of new products. For instance, the very top of their homepage tells a story of how their products were used to visualize a black hole. Then below that, they show different types of products that they sell for the data center, such as their storage systems, data center drives, and platforms. The messaging is similar in their digital ads, where they are geared towards learning and research.
- Their advertising is more product-focused. They will almost always use the names of technologies such as IntelliFlash in their digital ads, social media posts, and videos. Each social media post usually links to a longer article or video that explains the technology or product in greater detail. They will also occasionally mention a testimonial in their social media posts, such as is seen in the featured quote by the CTO of Sony Pictures Studios on their IntelliFlash product and how it helped his company make uncompressed 4K videos.
In finding 3 primary vendors, we first looked at what a primary vendor is. It was discovered that a primary vendor is one that is usually the one that would appear on bills and merchandise reports on a multi-vendor item. We determined that this meant that primary vendors would usually make and sell their own products and product bundles directly to the customer. We also had to make sure that they did this for medium and large businesses, so we sought businesses that sell data center products to the enterprise, which is a term that can describe businesses of any size, but is usually meant to describe medium and large businesses. A list was found of top enterprise data storage vendors, and we confirmed this list could be used because it had a list of data center vendors with Dell, HP, and Lenovo. We then went ahead and looked for other US companies that fit the bill. We used IBM and NetApp as they are deemed direct competitors to Dell, HP, and Lenovo in this space, and we also used Western Digital because it "produces data center storage systems like Ultrastar for the data center." After this, we sought articles, case studies, and papers that described each company's strategy as it related to their data center products. In the case of IBM and Western Digital which had other businesses apart from their data center business, we used papers and articles that described their overall marketing strategy and used examples and information from their data center marketing to bolster what we found. Social media channels, their websites, and media channels were scrutinized for themes to properly analyze what their strategy for their data center products is. For each company, we give a short overview of their strategy and detail their tactics, offers, main messages, and whether their marketing is product-focused or brand-focused.