Building A Global Brand The Kaspersky Way

Kaspersky is not only aiming to become the number one security company in the world by 2014. It is also aiming to become one of the top international brands.

In fact, Kasperksy wants to be listed on BusinessWeek's Top 100 List of international brands.

That massive effort to build the Kaspersky brand is being cheered by partners who believe it will be a big help as they knock on more doors to push the company into the midmarket and enterprise businesses.

"Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. Nobody ever got fired for buying Symantec. That's probably going to be their biggest battle," said Jay Tipton, CEO of Technology Specialists, based in Fort Wayne, Ind.

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"Here in the U.S. name recognition seems to take a long time. The people that know Kasperksy already recognize this is a serious security vendor," Lane echoed. "We get a lot of 'Kaspersky? Never heard of it."

With the North American market making up only 25 percent of the company's sales, Kaspersky executives say the Americas still represent a wide-open playing field that is ripe for the picking.

"We are going to crack America," said Roger Wilson, vice president of global marketing. And not just by shoveling hundreds of millions of dollars for "blasting TV advertising," Wilson said, which he added was "old-age" thinking.

"That's not the way we do it at Kaspersky," he said. "We do it by stealth and by digital marketing."

Kaspersky executives say that their biggest push will be in the digital marketing arena, and that they plan to take advantage of an array of social networking tools and other Web 2.0 technologies to get their message out. Already the company has employed U.S.-based digital marketing agencies and conducted extensive market research over a variety of international geographies, with a special focus on the U.S. The company is also looking at search engine optimization strategies while further investing in field and channel marketing efforts.

The reinvigorated marketing push represents a complete about-face from where Kasperksy was a few years ago. At its inception in 1997, the Moscow-based OEM technology company put the majority of its resources into R&D. That strategy paid off by helping the company develop a strong, reliable product while fostering technical innovation, executives said.

However, their heavy focus on development left the company with glaring marketing deficiencies that some say prevented the company from flourishing in North American markets as it experienced exponential growth elsewhere over the last five years. Wilson said that the company completely lacked any kind of market research or solid branding strategy when he was first hired by the company over a year ago.

"They didn’t' have a strategy. I looked in the drawers and there was no market research, no data about marketing," Wilson said. "When I got there, we didn’t have much in the cupboard. Now we've got stuff in the cupboard."

That stuff in the cupboard includes greatly enhanced market research efforts, with laser-like scrutiny on how best to reach users in the various international geographies and market segments, Wilson said.

"We're looking at different market segmentation. It's not just about technology. It's how we can package them," he said.

Next: Resellers Weigh In

The reinvigorated marketing efforts in the U.S. came as good news for Kaspersky's resellers, who have struggled to get their foot in the door of larger enterprises with Kaspersky products.

"I think that’s something they're lacking," Burton said. "For resellers, it's been a little bit of an uphill battle. That wasn't easy. The consumer sales have helped. It's still not the household name that other things are. That's essential for them to break down the doors in enterprise markets."

In the past, at least a few customers have been a little cautious of Kaspersky's Russian roots, executives said. And some say that Kaspersky's Russian connection could potentially be one branding obstacle as the company attempts to win over more conservative enterprise accounts.

"So far, the Russian connection has not been seen as a weakness," countered Nancy Reynolds, Kaspersky's new vice president of corporate sales. "The perception is that's where all the bad guys are. The level of intelligence is phenomenal, because we're in their backyard. Our goal is to stay ahead of them."

Kaspersky executives eventually hope to transcend those objections, however, by building a truly global brand.

That means that marketing needs to have an international focus, executives say. "We're not afraid of the Russian connection. We use it to our advantage. But we don’t' want to push it on everybody," Wilson said. "This is new stuff. You've got to make it international, because I want to roll this out across the world. It has to be international."

But it’s a balancing act, executives say. In addition to traditional marketing routes, executives also want to preserve the uniquely unorthodox spirit of Kaspersky Lab with its quirky guerilla marketing tactics that have come to epitomize the company.

Those endeavors include a trip to the South Pole. The company decided to be the sole benefactor for the Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition, in which eight women from eight of the Commonwealth countries took a 38-day, 560-mile cross-country ski trek through unrelenting conditions and sub-zero temperatures while pulling a 150-pound supply sled embossed with the Kaspersky company logo. The journey culminated at an elevation of 10,000 feet at the South Pole on New Year's Day, where Eugene Kaspersky was waiting with champagne to celebrate their feat.

Wilson said that the company will initiate similar publicity events in the U.S. consumer division.

In addition, the company is generating spirit from the inside with its internal marketing campaign "All In The Familia," which attempts to define the uniquely idiosyncratic corporate culture at Kaspersky Lab and create a sense of unity and pride throughout the organization.