Tellabs aims to ‘outsmart, not outspend’ larger competitors

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Chicago—Differentiation is key to the success and survival of any business, “especially when you’re a second-tier player in a Goliath network,” Mike O’Malley, director of external marketing at telecommunications equipment provider Tellabs Inc., said Thursday in a speech to the Chicago chapter of the Business Marketing Association.

O’Malley said an “outsmart, not outspend” marketing strategy has enabled Naperville, Ill.-based Tellabs to compete against companies with significantly larger marketing budgets.

Four years ago, facing a rapidly changing telecommunications industry in which voice networks were increasingly being offered free of charge, Tellabs set out to rebrand itself.

“We were ‘your father’s Oldsmobile,’ ” O’Malley said, “and now we needed to get out and be seen as a new type of company.”

To cultivate this new image, Tellabs targeted “echo boomers,” the tech-savvy children of baby boomers and burgeoning users of those services provided by Tellabs’ customers. To reach this audience, it launched a new marketing campaign, “Inspire the New Life,” that has used such digital media as audio and video podcasts to convey its expertise.

So far, the campaign has yielded an ROI three times Tellabs’ original investment, O’Malley said. Perhaps the most telling indicator of the campaign’s success, however, is its impact on the competition, he said, noting Cisco Systems’ “Human Network” campaign and Hitachi’s “Inspire the Next” effort.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” O’Malley said.

—Chelsea Ely

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