A Tech Brand Looks Past IT Set with New Identity and Site Rethink

As a manufacturer of commercial data storage systems, Network Appliance has an audience of mostly IT and technical engineers. But with a new brand identity, ad campaign and Web site, NetApp, as it is now known, is aiming a little higher.

Not that NetApp doesn’t value its relationships with the engineering crowd. But as technical issues loom larger in American corporations, it’s increasingly members of the C-suite who decide what equipment to purchase. So while NetApp will always need its contact with the IT department, the company realized real growth meant raising its profile among the execs writing the checks.

“We had to think about how they could hold on to their technical engineering geek audience, but also speak to their bosses and their bosses’ bosses,” said Misha Cornes, group director of strategy at digital marketing shop Organic, which was brought in to do the company’s site redesign. “The challenge was really to up the level of their brand to speak to a more strategic audience.”

While a B-to-B ad campaign and branding makeover would help get the attention of that audience, it was the company’s Web site that would be relied upon to truly engage them. At the same time, as the main point of contact for the engineers, the site had to remain similar and inviting enough for that audience so as not to alienate it.

Organic Research identified seven distinct personas that NetApp would have to reach in order to achieve its goal, from the technical storage administrator up to the CIO. Among those personas were a handful of “bridge” executives — people familiar with the concerns and priorities of both the engineers and the C-level officers.

These were the key insights guiding the site redesign. Organic reworked the site from the ground up with an eye on “empathy” for each of these audiences. Meanwhile, Landor worked on a new look for the brand, and Y&R began crafting a B-to-B ad campaign.

“The user is in control and has to be able to pull up the messaging and information they want, particularly in regards to B-to-B,” said Cornes. “It’s all about trying to inhabit the particular persona and understand what their needs are, to help them get answers to the questions that are germane to them.”

Among the insights were the various ways in which the different personas preferred to receive their information. Bridge personalities, for example, are looking for case studies showing ROI or white papers offering justification for purchases. Those in the C-suite, on the other hand, are looking for information on a company’s reputation and how they fit into the marketplace. Engineers, of course, are visiting the site for technical information and customer support.

Landor recommended shortening the name to NetApp and crafted a new, more approachable logo that would hold appeal beyond the tech audience, and other collateral that Y&R could incorporate into the ad campaign focusing on driving users to the site.

Now, visitors to the site, which re-launched March 9, can choose between three distinct channels: “Our Products and Support,” “Our Solutions,” and “Our Company.” This allows engineers, bridge personas and the C-suite executives to find what they are looking for without wading through unnecessary information. The hope is that this will provide new visitors with a satisfying experience without making the engineering community feel marginalized.

“There are parallel user flows within the site, so it’s a single unified site but there are pathways of information,” said Cornes. “The engineers now have a real community where they can share information, and there are a lot of really authentic voices on blogs for the C-level audience.”

Whether the effort achieved NetApp’s goals remains to be seen. But Cornes is satisfied that they have, for now, “brought this secret Silicon Valley success story to a much wider audience.”

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