Case study: B2B marketing is tired: How Wasabi used its entertainment roots to spice things up

As the chief marketing officer at Wasabi, Michael brings 25+ years of experience building brands across a wide spectrum of technology companies, ranging from venture-backed startups to publicly-traded global technology leaders. He has served in executive roles for companies at all stages of growth from seed/pre-revenue to hyper-growth, to IPO and turnaround. Most recently, Michael led marketing at Google-venture backed startup Plexxi. Michael founded Cabletron’s marketing organization in the early stages of the company and led the company’s marketing and brand growth to $1.5 billion in revenue. He followed up as the head of Bay Network’s corporate marketing efforts in its successful turnaround and $7+ billion acquisition by Northern Telecom. Michael joined startup Castle Networks in pioneering the VOIP switch category, resulting in a record-setting acquisition by Siemens. Among other stints at several startups, Michael served as CEO at NextChoice Systems, a pioneering company in the online food ordering industry, and as a co-founder in Ping4, the leading safety alert mobile app company. Michael is a co-founder or advisor/investor of several other fast-growth startups and serves as a mentor to technology entrepreneurs.

Remember the heydey of jingles? The short song that accompanied commercials for your favourite products, one that would start playing in your head out of the blue even if you hadn’t seen the ad in days, weeks, months, years? Even after all this time I still find myself humming the theme for Klondike Bars, Band-Aid Brand and Oscar Meyer… maybe it’s my brain’s subliminal messaging for telling me I’m hungry.

Like any fresh marketing professional coming out of college, I originally thought my days would be spent ideating on the next big hit campaign. But like many of us, I found my true calling in enterprise tech instead of consumer products that tend to receive all the glory in the media. While many of the goals are the same — ultimately, we’re trying to get someone to buy stuff — the content used to reach our audiences tends to be different. Instead of a catchy radio or television ad, we reach our prospects through well-thought-out pieces of content like eGuides, whitepapers, technical briefs and case studies.

While these assets are critical to our salespeople, channel partners and customers, I kept asking myself why we couldn’t adopt the same strategies to create brand affinity as our peers in consumer industries, because quite frankly, what they were doing raised awareness for their brands AND drove demand while having a lot more fun. In my humble opinion, there’s a vast blue ocean of opportunity for creative marketing in enterprise tech. And while I’ve enjoyed great success at doing this with some of my other tech ventures, none of them had the built-in brand opportunity that a name like “Wasabi” presents.

So, my team and I decided to try it out.

Personifying our value add through song

At Wasabi we focus only on providing the world’s best cloud storage platform. We work closely with IT value added distributors (VADs), value added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs) that sell our unique cloud storage to their customers across the enterprise tech landscape. We have (and always will) arm our sales channels with technical content that effectively demonstrates our value add. After all, our main customers are IT leaders who are technical-minded and rely on such content to make informed purchasing decisions. However, almost all of our current and potential customers come to us to solve the same problems – expensive data storage infrastructure costs, limited flexibility and unreasonable vendor agreements.

We could have gone a variety of ways to tell our customer story – an infographic, a series of short social media videos or banner ads telling the story of the frustrated IT professional. But we had a unique resource that had yet to be tapped.

You know how we refer to people who are particularly gifted at their work as “rock stars?” Well, at Wasabi we don’t have a true “rock star,” but we do have a guy who worked very closely with them.

Our CEO & co-founder David Friend started his entrepreneurial journey by founding ARP Instruments – a company that produced synthesizers that were used by the likes of The Who and Led Zeppelin (among other music icons). After that, he went on to found numerous technology companies — but music was his first love.

Who better to lead a crazy idea for a B2B tech cloud storage company? Instead of going with our traditional marketing avenues, why not create a full-length music video to catch someone’s interest?

David jumped at the idea and has played an integral role in song development resulting in “Nate, the IT Guy.”

While the production of the music video was lots of work with plenty of fun, none of that would matter if our campaign wasn’t well received.

Nate in the “IT wild”

The launch of the “Migrate with Nate” campaign came with plenty of audience testing, but what we discovered very quickly was how much IT professionals resonated with the video. It told their own, very real stories. It triggered specific emotions felt day-in and day-out by IT professionals, needing to plead the importance of storage to company leadership, explaining soaring IT costs to the finance department. On countless occasions I’ve heard from people saying “I’m Nate” or “I’ve felt this way for so long!” It seems our friend Nate has liberated an entire legion of long-repressed IT professionals.

Our campaign results have been strong with a 10% impression click-through rate, two million total video views, 158+ total hours watched and over 2 million impressions.

A new approach to reaching the B2B audience

While my team and I are excited about the results, what strikes me most about this experience is how stuck in our ways we can become as marketing professionals. We didn’t start out seeking a completely new medium for our campaigns, but we are fortunate enough to have found a clear hole in the industry.

This use case isn’t unique to cloud storage though and I could easily see this same approach being played out elsewhere in enterprise tech. For example, why couldn’t Nate be the overworked developer seeking a more user-friendly DevOps environment or a security professional who isn’t equipped with the right tools to keep a company’s network safe?

As the enterprise tech space continues to heat up amidst rapid digital transformation efforts, I expect the approaches to marketing will shift too. It’ll just require the right minds, a willingness for risk and a reminder of the original marketing tactics that inspired you to enter the business in the first place.

Picture credit: Wasabi

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