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The Asia Pacific region is one of the most diverse territories to conduct business in. For senior executives charged with growing Asian markets, their country portfolio typically extends from as far north as South Korea, to Australia in the far south – covering everything else in between. It’s hard to imagine the challenges CMOs must face as they create their brand for the first time in emerging markets such as China and India, while maintaining their position in developed markets. Frontier Strategy Group’s Associate Vice President, Chris Moore sought out the expertise of Brocade’s Asia Pacific senior management team, winner of the 2011 CMO Asia award for brand excellence in the region. In the following interview, Deb Dutta, Vice President of Asia Pacific and KP Unnikrishnan (Unni), Director of Marketing share their best practices for successfully building the Brocade brand in Asia.
How do you balance between maintaining a consistent global brand versus adapting your message within the local context of Asian markets?
Brocade has been in the Asia Pacific and Japan region for 11 years now. We take pride in the fact that we understood the potential of the region and invested early. From early on we did not just leverage Asia as a place to sell our products, but to also build our products presence. In fact, some of the early brand-building campaigns that we first implemented in Asia were later replicated around the world. One of our key philosophies is that while we have a global strategy, we adapt our approach for the local markets. The CMO award was a great example as we were able to go to our customers in Asia and offer them an opportunity to build their brand on a global scale through a joint advertising campaign published in Forbes. We created a true win-win solution in which our local customers partnered with a global brand in Brocade to establish their own brand in Asia and worldwide.
What are some of the mechanisms that you have in place for keeping abreast of the local market trends and incorporating that feedback into how you position the Brocade brand?
There are quite a few things that we have done to localize our business, but one is definitely the partnership we have with Frontier Strategy Group in terms of really understanding the market and the trends that we need to be aware of in the Asia Pacific region. It is a combination of working with strong advisory groups such as yours, partnering with local industry associations, local media houses, and lastly working with our alliances partners. All of these relationships bring a lot of local flavor into what we are doing because it helps us understand what our customers’ needs are and gives us local visibility for when we run campaigns and demand generation initiatives in these markets.
How much of a role does the sales team play in building the Brocade brand in their territories?
We strongly believe that every employee at Brocade is a brand ambassador. We are aggressively working inside and outside the organization to position them as thought leaders in the industry. We support the sales teams to attend local industry forums and even speak at these types of events. Senior sales leaders are encouraged to engage with the media and support our brand building efforts as well. We actually have media training programs plus social media programs to ensure our employees understand how to best represent the Brocade brand in the marketplace leveraging the latest communication trends and tools. Our customers’ willingness to discuss with the media about their success stories partnering with Brocade is a direct result of our sales organization building strategic relationships with our customers.
How do you think about mitigating or managing the risk of giving third parties (such as distributors) access to your brand?
Our business model is a 100% partner model in Asia. We strongly believe that this is the best way to scale our business given the diversity of the region. We take part in joint marketing initiatives with our partners. We review plans and forecasts with them on a quarterly basis and ensure that the dollars put into our campaigns link back to the plan, which in turn link back to revenue generation. We put a lot of strong discipline and process into it. Our 360 degree approach involves working with marketing agencies, telemarketing to create demand and partners then convert leads into closed business. Each group knows what everyone else is doing because we are all working towards the same goal. Most partners even know what our strategic direction and focuses are so when we collaborate on a joint investment it can be a win-win for both sides. We also set clear standard operating procedures for how we onboard and certify our partners. This is an ongoing exercise though, because there is a lot of attrition that happens in Asia. We need to make sure that all channel partners undergo the same level of training so that all partners are as skilled at representing the Brocade brand as the Brocade team members themselves.
When you think about communicating with your customers or your prospective customers how do you see the channels evolving over time?
We have a program called the Alliance Partner Network which is a portal we developed for all of our channel partners. Through this online portal, a mobile application and quarterly newsletters we ensure customers are always aware of the latest developments happening at Brocade. We have also built portals that are more specific for the local needs of the partners in Asia. For example, if we release new products in the local market, the partner can login and take part in an online training to understand how to best position the product in the marketplace. The partner doesn’t need to invest in his own go-to-market resources; we provide everything in a fully-customizable format through our portal. The portal is a communicative platform that allows us to both provide partners with the tools they need to sell our products, and capture valuable feedback from our customers about the realities of on-the-ground market conditions.