Juniper Partners: Brand-New Message Is Finally Working10:25 AM EST Thu. May. 27, 2010
The knock on Juniper Networks has long been one of brand awareness: great products, VARs have said, and great vision, but not a powerhouse of marketing.
Finally, said Juniper VARs and partners at this week's Juniper J-Partner Summit in Phoenix, that's beginning to change.
A number of partners interviewed by CRN said Juniper has finally made good on its promise to give partners "air cover" -- that is, help build the Juniper brand in such a way that partners don't have to spend half their customer meetings introducing Juniper instead of extolling the virtues of its much beloved technologies.
More specifically, the idea of "The New Network" -- the concept around which Juniper rebranded itself last fall -- has taken hold and is giving partners a lot more oomph behind their Juniper sales.
"It's been a phenomenal campaign and brand awareness has increased incrementally," said Jeff Hiebert, CEO of ROI Networks, a San Juan Capistrano, Calif.-based solution provider. "When I first partnered with Juniper, I spent a lot of time educating the customer -- a lot of people knew them with security as NetScreen. But now, people are noticing them. People are giving them a good look now, whereas before they were thought of as a niche player."
Hiebert said the newfound marketing prowess and Juniper's vision of changing the network -- that is, changing the architecture of the data center to a single fabric, with the technologies to support it -- is resonating with partners. Juniper is playing up that message to a broader market already exhausted by HP vs. Cisco noise-making at just the right time.
"This clash of titans makes for interesting media fodder, but customers ultimately don't care. They want innovation," argued Lauren Flaherty, Juniper executive vice president and chief marketing officer, in a discussion with CRN. "They're looking at us uniquely to deliver the new network, and what we have is a very different strategy than Cisco and HP. They're far more diversified; we're more of a pure-play. While they're investing in acquisitions to build their capabilities, we're investing in R&D capability. There are many more parallels between Cisco and HP, beyond just size, than Juniper, Cisco and HP. We're an innovator's innovator, that's our positioning."
Flaherty, who joined Juniper a year ago and has since become one of its most visible personalities, said Juniper's marketing in the past had not been as comprehensive -- as end-result driven -- as it needed to be.
Not only has her team moved to expand the brand visibility through various "New Network" media campaigns, but according to Flaherty, Juniper also invested in its first global tracking study for the effectiveness of those campaigns, the results of which are expected next month.
"If you're not inspecting it, it's a good question mark on whether or not you should be doing it," she said. "This has become a highly operational approach, and I have been able to recruit a team that's incredibly talented, with big domain expertise in this market. We have a focused set of objectives so we're never confused about what we're trying to accomplish."
NEXT: How Juniper Should Be Like Apple
Some partners argued that the best thing Juniper can do from a marketing standpoint -- apart from offering them better marketing resources, some of which were announced at the conference -- is to play up what really separates it from the networking and infrastructure pack.
With fewer dollars to spend on data center upgrades, customers are willing to shop around, even as the economy recovers, they said.
"They've done a great job establishing a brand," said a senior executive at a well-known national VAR. "We've been encouraging them to continue that effort. Juniper should look more like Apple, I think, then another Foundry, Brocade, HP, Cisco, 3Com, Huawei, whatever. They're on the right track. They have to have an alternative message and an alternative way of going to market."
The executive, who asked not to be identified, said Juniper should stay focused on making itself a true alternative. Partners are getting the "New Network" message -- the changing of data center architecture to fit the demands of explosive growth in storage and network traffic -- and Juniper has to keep hammering home that message.
"At the Cisco conference a few weeks ago, we heard Cisco say 'Write the rules, own the game,' " said the executive. "Well, hey, here's Juniper writing new rules. As long as they can stay on this, and keep channel partners focused and engaged with Juniper on the things they're driving, they'll get stronger."
Andrea Bilobrk, senior product manager for enterprise security with MTS Allstream, a Toronto-based partner, said that the unified platform message was resonating with Juniper customers.
"Everyone has this offering and that offering, and everyone plays everywhere in the space," she said. "But they've got a unified message saying it's all about the network, which is really in line with with what we want to be about. We can talk up the whole Juniper offering as opposed to 'we just sell routers and switches.' We want to say -- and we can say -- we sell Juniper."
Added Flaherty: "The biggest bit of feedback I've gotten is that people perceive us as punching way above our weight class. Juniper didn't have the visibility it needed until just this past year. Suddenly, we're a much brighter light on the radar screen."