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yARN: How branding can be a double-edged sword

yARN: How branding can be a double-edged sword

If your company does acquire another, don’t automatically junk its existing branding

When Apple or Google acquires a company, it’s usually quietly folded into the business and the original name disappears (such as GrandCentral) or perhaps becomes a feature name (Siri) or product name (Android).

While that is not really surprising given the strength of the Apple and Google brands, it doesn’t have to be that way.

EMC provides some interesting examples of situations where maintaining acquired brands can make more sense. But it also shows that it can be a double-edged sword.

While there is a lot more to EMC (the company) than just storage - and that is a message it is keen to get across: “we’ve changed quite a bit,” executive vice-president for product operations and marketing Jeremy Burton said at the recent EMC World conference - the company does tend to apply the EMC brand to acquisitions that are directly related to storage.

For example, Isilon Systems’ products became the EMC Isilon range of scale-out NAS storage devices following the acquisition.

But virtualisation software specialist, VMware, continued to operate as a separate subsidiary after EMC acquired it nine years ago, and the same strategy was used following the 2006 acquisition of security company RSA and the 2012 acquisition of software development tools and services company Pivotal Labs.

An important consideration seems to be that EMC management wanted to put across the idea that both VMware and Pivotal would continue to ‘play well with others’ after the acquisitions, as both of these operations depend on good relationships with other vendors.

As part of EMC’s ‘horizontal stack’ strategy (as opposed to Oracle’s vertical hardware-to-applications stack), both VMware and Pivotal can sit across a diverse range of hardware and services. For example, Pivotal works with cloud services provided by Google, Amazon and others, as well as with VMware private clouds, according to Burton. Thus it doesn’t make sense to alienate the ‘co-opertiton’.

EMC has handled the Mozy Cloud backup service in a different way again. That brand was better known than that of the company the created it (Berkeley Data Systems), so it wasn’t surprising that ‘Mozy’ lived on after the 2007 acquisition. While Mozy seems part of the storage picture, EMC chose to operate it as a subsidiary.

What’s the reasoning there? I have no inside knowledge, but my suspicion is that Mozy’s target market was until recently mainly individuals and small businesses, among which the EMC brand carries little clout or even recognition, so the Mozy brand persisted.

More recently, Mozy began targeting enterprise customers, and the branding has changed from ‘Mozy by Decho’ (Decho is the name of the subsidiary set up by EMC to hold the Mozy business) to ‘Mozy by EMC’. Those enterprise customers know the EMC brand, and Mozy is now included in EMC’s backup and recovery portfolio.

We can expect to see further acquisitions by EMC: “we have a lot of targets in our sights,” said chairman and CEO Joe Tucci. We’ll see whether the branding pattern continues.

So if your company does acquire another, don’t automatically junk its existing branding. There may be benefits in keeping it.

The writer attended the EMC World 2013 conference in Las Vegas as EMC’s guest


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Tags ApplePivotalDechocloud computingbrandingSiriVMwareemcMozy Cloud backup

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