Aprisma finding its own way

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Aprisma Management Technologies, which offers network infrastructure management software and services, debuted a $12 million ad campaign on Sept. 18.

If the name sounds unfamiliar, it’s most likely because Durham, N.H.-based Aprisma didn’t exist until February, though its product has been around for 10 years. Aprisma is the new name for a unit of Cabletron Systems Inc., which now functions as a holding company after announcing a plan to break itself into four independent businesses earlier this year. [See "Cabletron unit coins new name," Aug. 28, Page 1.]

As one of the new Cabletron businesses, Aprisma offers network infrastructure management software called Spectrum, which was introduced in 1990.

With Spectrum in its portfolio, revenues for 2000 are expected to be more than $50 million. But as a new business, it faces the challenge of introducing its name to its customers and prospects. Aprisma management, however, believes that its separation from Cabletron will unshackle Spectrum’s potential.

Hurwitz Group Inc. analyst Caryn Gillooly agreed. It’s a good move for them, she said. ‘‘They’re doing what they need to do. They should have broken away from Cabletron five years ago.’’

Most important, from a marketing standpoint, the spinoff of Aprisma allows it to form partnerships with companies that formerly competed with Cabletron. Spectrum software, which locates problems in networks ranging from local area networks to Internet operations, is compatible with the equipment of numerous vendors, including Nortel Networks Corp. and 3Com Corp.

This key advantage wasn’t marketed to its full potential while Spectrum was part of Cabletron. ‘‘Certainly their hands were a bit tied as part of Cabletron to make a far reaching agreement with Cisco,’’ Gillooly said.

Darren Orzechowski, Aprisma’s VP-marketing, and his team are making up for lost time. Currently, Aprisma in on a road show with Cisco Systems Inc., which is introducing Spectrum to customers and partners. As a further sign of the chumminess of this partnership, Orzechowski points out that Aprisma’s ads are running in Packet Magazine, a Cisco in-house publication.

Branding strategy

The freedom from Cabletron allows Aprisma to devote marketing communications dollars to promoting its products and services. The money being poured into the new campaign dwarfs previous expenditures. ‘‘In the past 10 years, we’ve done four ads in total [for Spectrum], and three of those were by us in the past year,’’ Orzechowski said.

The campaign is running in BusinessWeek and several trade publications, such as Information Week. For help in branding the company, Aprisma turned to TFA/Leo Burnett Technology Group, Boston. The agency had created branding campaigns for other technology companies, including CMGI Inc. and Motorola Inc.

TFA/Leo Burnett has created six ads for the campaign, three focusing on Aprisma and three promoting the Spectrum brand. The campaign’s tagline is, ‘‘Manage what matters.’’

The line has a dual meaning. It refers to managing the network, which in this Internet age, has become an element many companies need up and running at all times. It’s a task that often requires extraordinary commitment by network managers and other technology professionals.

That brings us to the tagline’s second meaning. To keep the network functioning often requires long hours-long hours that may cause CIOs to miss, say, a child’s birthday, as one campaign ad implies. The message is that Spectrum software will quickly locate and identify any network problems, so it won’t require so much extra attention.

The selling proposition is emotional, and one that Jeff Winsper, president of the agency’s Boston office, argues is the right one. ‘‘It’s often difficult for technology clients to ... realize that they sell brands to people, they don’t sell products to companies,’’ he said.

The success of this approach remains to be seen, but is becoming more common in the Internet age. B-to-b ads have become vehicles for emotional branding messages, and the rational, ‘‘speeds-and-feeds’’ sell has been moved to company Web sites, which customers and prospects can consult when they’re ready to buy.

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