Polycom Corporate Branding Shifts Focus To Software

Hoping to position itself as a software-centric video collaboration company less tethered to its hardware roots, Polycom on Thursday confirmed the first major branding change in its 22-year history, including a new corporate logo. Along with the brand change comes a marketing blitz that will include a slate of training and marketing resources for Polycom channel partners.

Much is changing at Polycom, which has a largely new executive team since Andy Miller took over as CEO in 2010. In addition to its core videoconferencing and unified communications products, Polycom in the past year has sought to expand what it can offer customers in areas such as video management software and mobile UC, with an emphasis on driving those products -- and increased services opportunities -- through its roughly 7,000 solution providers.

The brand change -- partly a shift from thinking about video in terms of endpoints to thinking about it in terms of collaboration software -- is designed to reflect that, said Kate Hutchison, Polycom's chief marketing officer.

[Related: Polycom Firming Up Software, Services Strategies For Partners ]

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As part of its overall corporate shift, Polycom has de-emphasized businesses like its wireless handsets, which it plans to divest to an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners. It has also strengthened ties with strategic vendor partners like Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper to counteract not only Cisco, which dominates the global enterprise video market, but also channel savvy up-and-comers such as LifeSize Communications and Vidyo.

Hutchison, who joined Polycom in May 2011, said Polycom's overall branding effort started last year with the rebranding of Polycom's UC Intelligent Core -- the software infrastructure used in its video products -- as the RealPresence Platform. Polycom has made several additions to RealPresence since, including RealPresence clients for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

"The brand work began in earnest in September, and what we put out then was that we were going to lead with software," Hutchison told CRN this week.

NEXT: Polycom’s Channel-Centric Rebranding Phase

The channel-centric phase of the rebranding, Hutchison explained, was that Polycom confirmed new specializations and certifications to help partners get trained on the RealPresence portfolio more efficiently. That training, along with new investment in partner marketing, was confirmed to the channel at Polycom's TEAM partner conference in April.

"It's a move toward a very bona-fide software play, and it took about six months to build out the materials," Hutchison explained. "In the world of IT, everyone wants it yesterday. But what was encouraging at TEAM was to see the partner community having had a full six months to digest what we've been announcing and see the investment we're making in them. Many of the new products require a better understanding of strategy with a C-level audience."

The way Polycom provides marketing resources to partners is also changing, from what Hutchison called an entitlement-based model to more of a proposal-based, co-marketing model. Polycom will also be working closely with distributors such as Westcon Group and ScanSource on those channel programs, she said.

Brian Cuppett, vice president of merchandising at distributor ScanSource Communications, said Polycom's channel transformation has been impressive.

"They've been very supportive of growing the channel and they've seen significant growth, especially over the last two years," he said. "They've done a good job of emphasizing the importance of their go-to-market strategy and making sure the channel is involved."

The shift from endpoint resale to more software-centric solutions selling hasn't been easy for all solution providers, Cuppett said, but most are starting to get the idea.

"It's not just Polycom does the work and we all do the fulfillment -- there's a [partner] role in designing those solutions and building them correctly," he said. "It's been a challenge, but it's a different mentality -- an endpoint sales person isn't necessarily going to be able to sell this. But they are providing more training and certification opportunities to make them successful selling it. And we have a services team that's helping expand their reach as well."