How do you create engaging content about complex products?
That’s the challenge Brocade has faced and conquered. Over the past few years the networking
solutions firm has excelled in developing compelling marketing
offerings. These pieces of content – such as its very smart set of On Second Thought illustrations
– show that superb storytelling can be done in any vertical, including
complicated B2B industries.
Recently we chatted with Vasu Jakkal, Vice President,
Corporate Marketing, to find out how Brocade tackles content marketing, and to
learn which new trends the company is watching closely.
Check out the Q&A below:
broadly, what roles do digital content and social media play at Brocade?
A: They are both
key pillars of what we do and how we go to market.
While the basics of marketing haven’t changed over time, the
way we understand our world, the way we absorb it, the way we interact with it,
has fundamentally changed. In this constantly connected world, digital content
is a key method for engaging. It allows us to connect with people via
conversations that are meaningful and to personalize stories in effective ways
across the world. That’s why everything we do now has a digital component to
it. Snackable content is also key to engaging
audiences, given our attention spans are reducing at an alarming rate.
As for social media, I think of it like this: We each have
orbits. I have an orbit of the people in my universe and you have your own. By
engaging in different orbits we can influence a much greater number of people. We
have moved from an information age to a networking age and social media is a key
to increase reach exponentially and engage with people in meaningful ways. I’m a
big believer in the power of social media and we’ve continued to expand our
presence on it.
Q: What do you
think the difference between good content and bad content is?
A: Good content
is content that can have a profound impact. It’s a story that you tell and then
others pick up and repeat. Fundamentally, good content needs to inspire an
I believe good content has a few attributes. The first one is
that it has to evoke an emotion. It can be great joy, laughter, tears, inspiration;
The second attribute is it has to be simple. It has to be
human, not robotic. People need to understand what it is easily. They need to
be able to absorb it and react to it quickly.
Finally, good content needs to be relevant. People are
constantly connected and multitasking, so they will only pay attention to the
pieces that matter to them in that moment.
Q: We love the
On Second Thought
illustrations that you create. They’re great examples of quick, visual content.
What is the story behind the campaign?
A: Our world
today is very different from what it was a decade back or even a couple of years
back. In this digital transformation, business
is being transformed like never before. The infrastructure that businesses were
built on years back can no longer meet the demands they face. It’s creating a
The people in the IT and networking industry - the people who
are our customers and partners – feel these demands, they are frustrated with
status quo and want to be change agents and we want to help them!
Our goal with our campaign was simple – give voice to the
frustrations of our customers and help them understand that they have a better,
smarter and wiser choice.
We had to create content which was poignant and evoked strong
emotions. So first we went on a mission to understand these issues. We
interviewed a whole bunch of people, from engineers to executives, to find out
what they are most frustrated about.
Then we used a tool that’s been used for centuries: humor –
to give voice to those frustrations. And what better way to use humor than
cartoons? We got a great cartoonist who is in L.A and he came up with these
We chose the name “On Second Thought” for two reasons. First, to show that our
customers have a choice by positioning Brocade in the consideration set with
our biggest competitor. Second reason was to position Brocade as a wiser,
smarter, better choice given that “your second thought” once you have
reconsidered over time, is typically wiser!
Q: How do you
build an audience for your pieces? How do you make sure that they reach the
people you want them to to?
A: For “On
Second Thought” the key is social sharing. So we start with our thousands of
employees, they’re our first ambassadors.
We’ve also done paid media. We find the watering holes where
our customers are and target those.
Twitter and LinkedIn have been great channels for us.
LinkedIn informed us that “On Second Thought” is the best performing B2B
campaign they have ever seen. We have blown past their LinkedIn and Twitter engagement
benchmarks by between 3X and 10X.
What helped get engagement was that the campaign is bold,
simple, fun, based in truth and, especially, that it is relevant. Targeting
the right audiences also matters greatly. When you are in the grocery store trying
to buy a toothbrush and someone tells you of a great couch that they are
selling, it’s not really relevant. That’s not going to help you. But if someone
tells you of the best toothpaste that goes hand in hand with that toothbrush,
you are going to go and buy that. That’s why targeting matters so much; we go
after the people who the content is meant to connect with.
I think there’s a lot of power in data and how you use it to
build audiences. We do a lot of analytics to understand our biggest customers.
We have a lot of intelligence on that. Who are they? What do they care about?
Where are they? Where are they looking for in content?
Q: How do you
measure the success of your content? What metrics do you look at?
A: Everything is
about ROI. We have pretty robust dashboards and metrics that help show how
marketing is driving brand, sales and revenue. We measure everything, both
digital and analog. I’m a fan of engagement metrics. We measure engagement
rates, click-through rates, traffic,
and also other attributes of the funnel such as leads, pipeline and influenced
revenue. We have sophisticated attribution models to understand impact.
Q: Do you have
a favorite piece of Brocade content?
A: That’s tough.
The On Second Thought cartoons for sure.
I’m also a big fan of our customer success stories. One of my
favorites is Jim Henson. Our Jim Henson Company video takes the very
complicated idea of networks and makes it human.
Q: Are there
any content or social trends that you are watching closely right now, anything
that’s really exciting you or intriguing you?
A: Content in
general, for sure. We’re thinking a lot about things like, how
do you create pieces that evoke emotion and inspire action? How do you develop
content for every stage of the buyer journey? How do you co-create content? And
how do you personalize content?
Beyond that there’s this larger digital trinity
– mobile, social, and community – that we’re looking at a
lot. How do you build communities for people so that they feel ownership? What
are the non-traditional ways for engaging our customers?