Ingram Micro made an interesting move recently with the announcement that it was expanding its in-house V7 product line to include eight-port and five-port unmanaged 10/100/1000 Ethernet and Gigabit switches.
While Ingram has had the V7 line for a number of years, up until now it was largely a collection of accessories such as keyboards and mice -- although it has included a line of monitors as well.
While some of the distribution powerhouse’s vendors may not be thrilled, to me it’s a smart development and one that may just be something distributors should and are likely to do more of in the future.
Let’s face it, in the low end of the switch market, brand is less important and solution providers are making the vast majority of the decisions as to which switch gets the nod. Switches are not the only area that could be ripe for a house brand. UPSes are another
potential avenue as well.
While this may be a bit out of the ordinary in high-tech, it’s common in
other markets. In the food industry, for example, unbranded corn flakes are on the shelf right underneath Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Granted, there are no warranties in the food industry. But just like in the supermarket aisle, a placement like this in high-tech is confirmation
of a product’s commodity status.
Ingram is bound to take some heat from vendor suppliers that it will be competing with as well as supporting. But this is the way high-tech operates. It’s why the term “co-opetition” was coined more than a decade ago.
Distribution should take this a step or two further by offering to put a customer brand on these low-end commodity products. For larger solution providers, having their own branded products inside a customer’s facility becomes a marketing vehicle and a display of power and influence in the market. Having product branded with your company logo sitting in a customer’s facility is a strong marketing tool and reminds the client every day who built and hopefully keeps the infrastructure in tune.
There is obviously danger for partners in that the value and integrity of their own brand would be tied to some degree to the quality of the product that carries that brand. But that’s merely another risk/reward decision for partners to make.
Ingram’s move also raises the question of where distribution is headed over the longer term. It’s a question I get at least once a week
from vendors and solution providers alike. It’s also a question we have
been fielding for 20 years or more. There is little question that the distribution model is going to face challenges in the cloud computing model. It’s faced challenges before, reacted, and done just fine.
The cloud may pose deeper challenges than in the past, but one thing
is certain. The cloud is going to be all about branding. It will be about
perceived quality and reliability. Do I trust this cloud supplier with my critical computing processes more than that I trust that one?
It will require distribution and everyone in the channel to start thinking
more about the brand value. Brands are not built overnight, and changing a brand’s perceived value is even more difficult.
I like Ingram’s move because it’s a branding move as much as a product one. It gives Ingram more options for the future, and that’s smart. The only question I have is why the V7 moniker and is that the brand to build on?