Q&A: Juniper Networks' Michael Callahan Takes on Brand Challenges

In Competitive Networking Market, Company Focuses on Connecting Ideas, Not Things

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Michael Callahan
Michael Callahan

Michael Callahan is VP-global brand, campaign and event marketing at Juniper Networks, which develops networking equipment and software and competes with tech giants such as Cisco Systems and HP.

In his role, Mr. Callahan is responsible for global branding, events, campaigns and executive briefing centers at the $4.7 billion company. This year, he's been focusing on efforts to build the brand and help it stand out in a crowded marketplace. In the following interview he discusses his brand challenges and how Juniper is differentiating itself.

What are your brand challenges?
Stylistically, we have a really strong brand. People recognize us. The challenge we're facing is, what is the core value of the brand and how do we communicate it? The industry is going through a big inflection point, with people moving from traditional networks to more cloud-enabled, hybrid, public-private networks.

As people move from one paradigm to another, the idea of "connected" has emotional appeal. The real benefit of the cloud is the ability to bring your ideas to fruition faster. We launched a new brand positioning, "Your Ideas. Connected," with an initial launch in New York this summer, using paid advertising and earned media.

What's the next stage in the campaign?
We're in discussions about rolling it out to other regions, and in parallel, we're building out additional verticals. The New York campaign was very financially focused. We are looking at other verticals, such as government, and creating messaging that can address other verticals.

How do you formulate your brand strategy?
We have a big focus on research and making decisions based on that. We did a lot of research and learned that many people in the financial vertical didn't think of us as a cloud-networking provider. After we launched the campaign in New York, our unaided awareness went up 20-fold, which is incredible. So we're looking into why, and if there is a similar problem or a different problem we can solve in other verticals.

How do you position your brand against your competitors?
Everyone in this space competes with the dominant player, which is Cisco. We have a different value proposition, which is about connecting ideas. That is compelling to people, and it has more of a connection than "The Internet of Things." It is not the things that are important, but the ideas.

What other types of marketing programs have been successful for you?
We created an online experience called "Data Center Rapp Battle," which was a really unique approach when we launched our security products. We did a movie trailer, and people could download a game and go into a data center to fight attacks, such as a Trojan attack, then shoot the attackers and blow them up on their phone. It was really well received.

How does that translate into sales?
It gave our salespeople and our partners a reason to talk to their customers and prospects. It starts a conversation. We're able to track engagement back by a source code, using a marketing-automation tool. It takes you to a landing page, where you can register for a white paper. The "Data Center Rapp Battle" was more of an awareness piece. In terms of awareness, we had millions of views.

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