But 3Com, apart from Palm, finds itself situated at the center of the Internet networking revolution.
The company tapped Jan Soderstrom to articulate and guide the company's brand positioning amid the welter of networking and e-business hype in the high-tech arena.
15 YEARS-PLUS EXPERIENCE
Newly named to the post of senior VP-marketing and brand management, Ms. Soderstrom logged nearly 15 years at Visa International, most recently as exec VP-marketing. In that job, she directed global brand management, oversaw Visa's Olympics sponsorship and developed the company's Internet presence. She served briefly as senior VP-global brand management at Charles Schwab & Co. before arriving at 3Com this fall. Before joining Visa, she was senior VP at The Gap.
While it may not be running with the big dogs -- Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and Lucent Technologies -- 3Com is intent on carving out a niche for itself as a leading provider of customized networks for small businesses and large enterprises. It's a tall order, but Ms. Soderstrom expects to leverage 3Com's strength in customer-focused network connectivity solutions as a core principle.
"We're focusing on a singular message," Ms. Soderstrom said. "It's an `e-network' message about the mobility of people around the world wanting access to data . . . it's about the convergence of voice, video and data."
Aside from a marketing position at Atari Corp. early in her career, 3Com marks Ms. Soderstrom's first tech-marketing gig. But it doesn't seem like a gamble.
"I see a lot of synergies between [Visa and 3Com]," she said, adding, "We [both] really talk about the benefits of what the user gets by being able to be connected in more ways."
Key to 3Com's approach is focusing on customer benefits -- access to data either by an individual or an entire organization. The company's "More connected" positioning, crafted more than a year ago, remains the essence of its brand.
"We provide more connections for people than any other networking company," she said. "We're going to capitalize on the growth in home and business networks."
3Com's e-network concept is in the early stages of development, but the first signs of the approach broke a few weeks ago in print ads by FCB Worldwide, San Francisco. The ads humorously depicted a CEO's frustration with his information-technology manager, and suggest that 3Com has the right solutions.
Ms. Soderstrom expects by June to launch a global brand effort that will articulate how 3Com network solutions make customers' lives better -- whether they're at home, at work or in transit.
An integrated approach, including sponsorships, is expected.
"We can probably do a much better job with [our branding efforts on] the Web. It's a great opportunity to tell a much more cohesive story and leverage with links to our [corporate] partners," she said.