Behind the Scenes Episode 391: What’s in a brand? NetApp’s New Brand Identity


Welcome to the Episode 391, part of the continuing series called “Behind the Scenes of the NetApp Tech ONTAP Podcast.”

Brands define how people think about companies, so it’s not only important to get it right, but to stay current and not be afraid to switch it up when necessary.

NetApp recently pivoted their brand to position Intelligent Data Infrastructure and we invited NetApp’s VP of Marketing, Emily Miller, as well as two NetApp celebrities – Phoebe Goh and Matt Watts!

I’ve also resurrected the YouTube playlist. Now, YouTube has a new podcast feature that uses RSS. Trying it out…

I also recently got asked how to leverage RSS for the podcast. You can do that here:

The following transcript was generated using Descript’s speech to text service and then further edited. As it is AI generated, YMMV.

Tech ONTAP Podcast Episode 391 – What’s in a brand? NetApp’s New Identity

Justin Parisi: This week on the Tech ONTAP Podcast, we invite the NetApp marketing folks to talk about why brands are important to companies like NetApp and the newest iteration of the NetApp brand identity.

Podcast Intro/Outro: [Intro] .

Justin Parisi: Hello and welcome to the Tech ONTAP Podcast. My name is Justin Parisi. I’m here in the basement of my house and with me today I have some special guests to talk to us all about brands and NetApp and the new NetApp identity. So to do that, we have Emily Miller here.

Emily, what do you do at NetApp and how do I reach you?

Emily Miller: I run brand for NetApp. You can find me on LinkedIn. I have a lovely picture of the Eastern span of the Bay Bridge on my background because I am a proud Oakland, California resident was actually born there. And while we were going through our troubles, it is still a lovely place to come visit.

Justin Parisi: It is a lovely place. I do like Oakland.

Emily Miller: Yes. Just don’t leave anything in your car when you park.

Justin Parisi: That could go for a lot of places. I mean, it’s not just Oakland. Right. But yeah, also here with us today, we have Matt Watts.

So Matt, what do you do here at NetApp and how do I reach you?

Matt Watts: Hey, Justin. Yeah. Matt Watts. I’m the chief technology evangelist at NetApp. You can also find me very easily on LinkedIn and various other channels if you do a Matt Watts NetApp search on the internet. Live in the southwest of the UK, closest cities for my American colleagues are Bristol and Bath, which should give you an idea of where I am.

Emily Miller: And you have a great pirate accent.

Matt Watts: I have a wonderful pirate accent because where I’m from, we actually do speak like pirates and I have trained myself over the course of 20 or 30 years to avoid saying ARR at the end of every sentence.

Justin Parisi: But you should say that anyway. What about Talk Like a Pirate Day?

Do you guys have that?

Matt Watts: We do, we do have that. It’s very, very natural for me.

Justin Parisi: Every day is pirate day. All right. If we wanted to reach you, how do we do that?

Matt Watts: Yeah, LinkedIn is probably the easiest place to reach me or just nice and simple [email protected].

Justin Parisi: All right. Also here with us, Phoebe Goh.

Phoebe, what do you do here at NetApp and how do we reach you?

Phoebe Goh: Hello, Justin. And hello to our awesome audience. So I am a principal technology evangelist at NetApp which means that I get to talk a lot, which I think I’m very good at that. So the job title suits my skillset. But I really like to communicate with people about what’s going on, what NetApp is doing, what is happening in the world of enterprise technology.

And yeah, I am, I would like to say, a prolific creator of content. So if you are online somewhere and you are looking up something NetApp related, I would like to think you’d find me. But I’m mostly on LinkedIn Threads, X, Twitter BlueSky, all of the social networks. So just look for Phoebe Goh.

Justin Parisi: We’ll be able to find you. And if not, we will include links for all of you in the blog that accompanies this podcast. So, like I said earlier, we are going to talk about brands and NetApp and that sort of thing, especially because NetApp has just announced a new identity.

And every now and then that happens. You basically want to rebrand or rethink about how you’re talking to your customers. So let’s talk a little bit about that history. I’ve been here a while. I’ve seen many, many things brand wise, some of them good, some of them not so good, but let’s talk about that.

Let’s talk about the history and why we are doing things with brands. What’s important about that? So Emily.

Emily Miller: Sure. Great. Well, I think one of the things that’s most interesting about NetApp and, I joined NetApp Last, bleh, thankfully not last century, but a couple decades ago but had the opportunity to meet NetApp at a really interesting growth period in its trajectory about 15 years ago.

And what is cool to see about NetApp as a brand is that while there are many things that are consistent, I think in terms of our reputation as a great partner, working with our partners, working with our customers, going that extra mile, that go beyond mentality to really deliver for ourselves and our customers.

There’s been so many changes in the environment as well as the business that we’re in. And so the ability to grow and expand your story is so critical. And if you’re not able to do that, then people have a hard time understanding who you were and who you are and where you’re going. And what I am really happy about with this positioning that we just launched as the Intelligent Data Infrastructure Company, is that for me, it really builds on a lot of the core things that are true about NetApp.

But it allows us to talk about where we’re going with our portfolio in a way that is clear and has a trajectory, a North Star. And I feel like it’s bringing clarity to who we are, which, over the last couple of years, things maybe got a little muddled as we were going through maybe a little identity crisis, and so I’m really happy to see that over the years.

I think it’s a through line to kind of where we were when we were talking about data fabric 10 years ago to be able to keep progressing the story. And so that’s what I’m most excited about because I’ve seen a lot of the interesting moments as well over the years.

Justin Parisi: Oh yeah. What does that entail? Does that entail actually unweaving the data fabric or is that just taking the data fabric to another level?

Emily Miller: I think it’s really taking it to another level. I think when George first announced that back at Insight way back in, what was that, 2014, it really provided a technology vision that I think we all really grabbed onto. It just felt like it was like, okay, I see where we’re going. I’m really excited about this. But then, we had massive changes with transformation. I think the things that we’ve been doing with our collaboration with the hyperscaler, some of the acquisitions we’ve made, it started to build out the story, but we didn’t have a way to pull that through into something that was maybe a little bit more tangible. What I like about where we’re going is that it’s the original vision and charter of Datafabric, but now it’s the concept of a data infrastructure, it’s very real. And I’m sure Matt and Phoebe, with your experience and talking to customers in the field, I’m sure you’re hearing that as well.

Phoebe Goh: Yeah. You mentioned when George first announced Data Fabric, I think we had some demos and we had some great keynotes at NetApp Insight, our big user conference. And for me as a technical person in the audience at the time, it was all about, wow, data mobility, data can move. We are making that possible where data used to sit in silos and in hard drives in certain locations and moving it is such a difficult task. And that’s absolutely part of what I consider the intelligent data infrastructure that organizations are trying to build today.

But it’s more than that. And I think that’s what’s really, really exciting. You could tell, I’m like shaking. Cause I love this conversation. Intelligence isn’t just about moving it. It’s also like, where are you moving it? Why are you moving it? What kind of data shouldn’t move? Right. Yeah.

And, and so it’s starting to build some of that true intelligence into the whole concept of where is your data? How is your data being stored? So yes, as a technical person, and knowing how the technology supports the brand and the story and the narrative I get really excited.

Matt Watts: Yeah, I’ll just jump in there as well, actually. And having been here for almost 19 years I was there when NetApp was a NAS company, and it was NetApp, NAS, Fast, Simple, Reliable, which Justin, I think it was, I don’t know if that was before your time, but,

Justin Parisi: It was, actually. Yes.

Were they called toasters back then?

Matt Watts: They were pretty much called toasters, yeah, and the reality was we were pretty much a single product company. So, because when you’ve got a single product, what you’ve got to do is then work out how do you build something around that product. We created NAS as a category but it was very much, we’re a product focused company.

And I think right up until DataFabric, was this realization that suddenly we were a portfolio company and the portfolio had to be taking us in a direction. So it was more important that we were telling people that path that we were on, that place that we were going to and then we would bring together the portfolio that would enable that to happen.

So DataFabric was more of a promise. It was an idea that would then be supported by a whole portfolio of products. And I’ll be honest, we, and I say we in the broadest sense, we struggled with it to begin with. And Emily and I were working together on this in the early days of Data Fabric. And I remember the field team saying, what is it? Yeah, how do I order it? And what’s the part number? Trying to move people from a product mindset to this idea of, no, we’re selling people on this opportunity to build a data fabric was really tough. And I think that’s reflected in some of the challenges that we went through.

And now there are simply products that are part of who we are today that don’t neatly fit into the Data Fabric discussion. If you think of Instacluster, and you think of CloudChecker, and you think of some of those products, now that they’ve come along, we’re bigger than Data Fabric. So Intelligent Data Infrastructure gives us the opportunity to build on top of Data Fabric all of these other kind of capabilities, these other elements.

The ones that we have today, and who knows, maybe things that we’ll do in the future.

Justin Parisi: And I’ll be completely honest. When I first heard Data Fabric, I was like, what is that? Right? I mean, like, and I think the field had kind of a similar sentiment, but as we started developing products that fit into that vision, I was like, Oh, okay, I get that now.

However, the things that you do as a brand can change given the changing tides in technology, right? So in this case, we went heavy into cloud, and then we realized that a lot of our customers were backing away from that a little bit to a more hybrid cloud approach. So we had to pivot as well.

And do you feel the same way about that? Or am I off base there?

Matt Watts: I’ll jump in just because I thought about this so much. So look, I think there were certain things that happened, right? If you spoke to the analysts going back to the sort of time when we were doing Data Fabric, maybe a little bit later, 2018 timeframe, the analyst community were telling us that 80 percent of customers would be in the cloud and would have shut down their data centers.

I mean, that’s what we were being told by the analyst communities. So you’ve got that in your mind that, wow, this cloud thing, this move is going to happen. That’s the impact. And then you think, well, is it really going to happen that quickly? So you look for events of the past. VMware is quite a tangible one. That had a profound impact over a relatively short period of time.

So I think there were Market dynamics, there was a lot of things happening that were saying, we need to move quickly, we need to aggressively go after that cloud side of things. And I think the reality is that the market hasn’t played out that way. The analysts have revised those estimates way down.

The cloud is growing, but it isn’t taking over. To be fair, we did the things we did because of the best information and looking at past events. But I think it was the right time for us to say, based on what we know now, it’s probably a bit of an over rotation to the cloud, and we need to do a bit of a reset.

Emily Miller: Yeah, I had a chat with an analyst Phoebe, when we were on our road show last month to Wichita

Phoebe Goh: super cool office, by the way.

Emily Miller: Great office. I have to give some serious plugs to the Wichita office. It’s so cool. We will have to go back and eat a lot more barbecue next time. But it was funny because I was talking to him about that as well, Matt, where I was like, you know, there was a bit of an over pivot and he goes, you weren’t the only one.

And I was like, okay, thank you. But if I think back to 2017, when we launched another brand campaign, the Data Visionary Campaign, we announced our collaboration with Microsoft on Azure NetApp Files that day that we went. live. So, the company needed to drive perception change for NetApp.

And I’m going to drop a great quote, which I loved from the founder of the branding agency that I used to work for before coming to NetApp. A guy named Walter Landor, where he said, products are built in the factory and brands are built in the mind. And in the minds in the market, we needed people to think of NetApp for more than just what we were, because if we were going into cloud, we needed to be relevant to the cloud conversation.

We needed to be relevant to the hyperscalers, so we did need to push that. I think the key is, don’t do it at the expense of your bread and butter, and how do you make sure that you stay relevant? And I think as you stated, Matt, we are seeing that it is not just one answer, so therefore how do we help customers take advantage of those opportunities, whatever that opportunity may be, be it on prem, be it in the cloud, be it somewhere in between. That’s what we want them to associate with us. When they think of NetApp in their mind, it is that ability to help to drive opportunity in multiple situations. It’s not just one.

Phoebe Goh: You both have spoken about the conversations with the analysts, with the market context, with what’s going on at a macro level. I always stop and think and go, gosh, if I’m a user, I’m a customer and I’m out there in the world and I think what’s happened is that B2B brands, so vendors like NetApp who sell to businesses are starting to become closer in customers minds as B2C brands, where we have really strong relationships with consumer brands. I can tell you the brands that I love, the ones that I wear, the stuff that I’ll use, and in the past, it wasn’t that case with B2B. They were a provider of a piece of equipment that sat in the data center. And I didn’t really think about them that much.

And we’re seeing more and more. I think we see with VMware and we’re seeing with some of the cloud providers, hyperscalers that people love certain B2B brands, vendors, and they can build these really strong relationships with them. And so I think that part of NetApp’s value and something that I love about the company is that I’ve always had this like, wow, NetApp as a brand, as a person I might see at a party that actually, they’re not that boring.

There’s some really cool engineering stuff going on there. And I want to find out more. And I think what we’re leaning into a little bit is saying, yeah, come and chat to us because we are still that person at the party with some really cool engineering stories. We also have some really great use cases around cloud or around how to improve yourself as a technical person.

And we have some really good things that are new, like Instacluster and Spot that we’d love to talk to you about. And I think that’s just the way I see brands now. So yeah, it’s just a little anecdote, I guess, from my experience. It’s a little more personal than it used to be. And I think this is a little bit of a pivot towards that in my mind.

Emily Miller: And I think that’s actually a really good point, Phoebe, because when I think about 2019, we had a marketing leadership change. And I talked to my boss. He’s like, okay, we need to do new RFP for a new brand campaign. And I just looked at him and I was like, I can’t meet with the same old agencies I’ve been meeting with.

Like, I just can’t do it anymore because the B2B marketing was really dry. And it’s just, we need to relate to people in much more of a consumer way. And at the end of the day, we’re people. And even back 15 years ago when I joined and it was, nobody got fired for buying EMC, that’s an emotional reason, and the emotion does play into it. We actually did an RFP with agencies that didn’t have B2B experience. We worked with agencies that did, IKEA, Kentucky Fried Chicken, because they brought in humor and a different perspective. Now, one can say you still need subject matter expertise to be doing what you’re doing and marketing what you’re talking about.

But it really has changed. I think B2B brands are so much more accessible. You look at all the B2B brands that sponsor the NFL, for example, they’re all down on the field. They’re not relegated to the boardroom or baseball suite. I remember going to a baseball game because IBM was selling a massive supercomputer to my dad at UC Berkeley. And that’s the kind of thing you did is you went to a baseball game and that was about it. But now it’s so much more in our lives. And I think that’s what’s cool about it.

And we do have a personality and I think we are a fun company and I really am excited to communicate more of that. We don’t need to be dry.

Matt Watts: I think the categories have all broken down as well. If you go back to those early days, you were a storage company, a network company, a server company, a backup company.

And whilst there are still some specialists, I guess, most tech companies are a mix of all of those things. And so I think that also makes it interesting for us is, how do you kind of shake off when people say NetApp, people think storage company, or they think NAS.

And so you’ve got to shake that off as well, because the industry’s evolved and changed and moved on, which I think is always a very interesting challenge and opportunity for a brand as well.

Justin Parisi: So another thing that I think is challenging and that I see some companies fall victim to is the idea of boiling the ocean, right?

So. If you have a brand that’s technology centric and you want to expand your brand to become more of a household name and you start to go a little too far outside of your realm, like you’re trying to build a brand outside of where people might want to use you. And I think that might get a little I guess, cluttered.

You know? Mm-Hmm. . You start to lose your messaging and, and honestly, I feel like we’ve done that a couple times here, so, are you trying to avoid doing that sort of thing as you think about the next generation of brand?

Emily Miller: I think that’s a really great observation. Also a reminder, we are a B2B brand.

We’re not funded like B2C. So we have to be super targeted with how we go after accounts and it really has to be very intentional. And I think that’s something that is important to keep in mind. At the end of the day, we need to be really maximizing our spend. And therefore we need to be very targeted with who we go after, like which personas within the accounts, the tactics we use, because we can’t afford to do broader awareness advertising that’s hitting people that will never buy from us. And that’s more of a passion project versus a real business intent. And so I think that’s a good things to keep in mind.

Phoebe Goh: Yeah. And I think, being a B2B company, we’re selling to other companies who are also trying to make money or make shareholders happy. They’re trying to reduce their risk. They’re trying to increase how effective they are. And those are the sorts of things that even as this brand evolves, as our new narrative evolves, those things aren’t going to change.

What our customers are trying to do is not suddenly going to flip upside down where they all go, well, we’re trying to lose money, you know, try and help us lose money as fast as possible. I think they’ll all be saying, Hey, how can we be more effective? How do you, NetApp, help us deliver shareholder value. And there may be things in that, that come out, like shareholders care more and more about sustainability than they used to. Having said that, I think our messaging and our narrative and our portfolio has always stood by do the right thing for the customers, and good will follow and we are continuing to do that.

So even as things evolve, we’re right there, and I’m really excited about where this message takes us.

Justin Parisi: So, it’s one thing to be recognized when you tell somebody where you work, right? Like, just random person on the street, Oh, where do you work? Oh, I work at NetApp. And they’re like, instantly the blank face, like what? What is that? Right? But it’s another thing to be able to say that to a customer that actually buys storage or works in the cloud, and they recognize it immediately.

So where’s the balance there? Where can we extend our outreach without breaking the bank?

Emily Miller: Right, and without over rotating. Exactly. I mean, I think that’s a great example. I remember I had a boss and she was like, my dentist didn’t know who NetApp was. And I was like, Are you kidding?

They will never know who NetApp is. So I think making sure that you have your ambition calibrated correctly for where you need to play. So for right now, it is still a stretch to have my dentist recognize NetApp when I give them my insurance card. But when I’m speaking to Technology leaders, when I’m with a group of people that are in the technology space, they don’t necessarily need to be somebody who buys from us, but I want them to know about NetApp and I want them to know the innovative kind of company that we are, that we’re a great employer and I want to be a strong attractor of talent.

So making sure that we get known in the right circles. A lot of that, I think that we’ve done with the partnerships with the hyperscalers is a great way to kind of draft off their equity that they have in the consumer mind, they have the benefit of having both of those worlds squarely in their day to day.

But again, as things change, as we make changes, as we become more relevant to more of daily life, we’re able to make that connection. But it’s got to stay relevant. And I love using our sponsorship relationships like Aston Martin, Ducati, DreamWorks, and Porsche. That brings it home for people, because not everybody is going to understand this technology well enough to catch that on a daily basis, cause it’s complex. It’s intense.

Matt Watts: And that’s such a great point that I’ll pick up on there, Emily, is if somebody says to you, who do you work for?

And I say NetApp, the next question is, oh, what do NetApp do? Right now, we are the Intelligent Data Infrastructure Company. If you don’t have that, and you’re not clear on that, then where do you go from that question of, and what does NetApp do? You fall back to, oh, we’re in storage, or we’re data management, or something.

You fall back to those very generic, very blasé, kind of nondescript sort of terms. Whereas I love the idea of Intelligent Data Infrastructure, because it’s my decoder ring for a conversation, because depending on the person I’m talking to, it almost enables me to have a conversation in context with them. And some of the people will have heard me say this before. I met with a data scientist and got asked the very question, Who do you work for? NetApp. And what does NetApp do? Now, where do you go with that conversation? If I had said storage company, he would have switched off. If I had said data management, it means nothing to that person.

Whereas what I said to him was, I said we help companies build intelligent data infrastructures. We’re an intelligent data infrastructure company. What does that mean? Well, what if I could enable you to take a snapshot of any quantity of training data, such that you’ve got a version history going back over minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months for any training data?

What if I could, with an intelligent data infrastructure, enable you to take clones, such that you could have instantaneous replicas of any quantity of training data, such that you could train multiple models in parallel? And that’s what I love about this idea of intelligent data infrastructure, is it’s the bridge that allows me to talk about who NetApp are, in the context of what it is that the other person actually cares about.

But coming back to something consistent. That’s what an intelligent data infrastructure is, but that’s what it is for you. And it’ll be different for somebody else.

Emily Miller: I’m remembering 30 years ago, I had a job at an internet startup in San Francisco, and my parents were just like, huh? And so again, it’s how do you make that relevant? How do you connect to something in their life, that they can go, Oh, I get it. So when I said, Oh, we build a website for Toyota so you can configure a car and buy it. They’re like, Oh, okay. I get it. I still don’t really know what you do, but I understand what you do for customers and how that makes a difference.

I think it’s squarely positioning NetApp in a way that brings relevance and differentiation to how we do it that makes that connection with customers, partners, employees. Everybody.

Matt Watts: You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been asked if I could take a look at somebody’s PC, laptop, or printer after I’ve told them I work in IT.

Justin Parisi: Yeah, I get that a lot too.

Phoebe Goh: I really like, Emily, that you mentioned NetApp being a great place to work and it ties in with this, right? Because you don’t have to be an engineer to work at NetApp. There are so many other opportunities, and so many roles that we need different perspectives and different experiences to be successful. And I always talk about this in context of AI because people go, what do I need to do to work in AI? And it’s like, well, what do you want to do? Like, there are so many roles in AI. It’s not just all data science or prompt engineering. There’s a lot of other things that happen from legal through to the business side, through to teaching people how to use AI effectively. And it’s the same thing in the data management and in storing data, there are so many different roles and so many things that you can do. And to me, it opens up that door to a conversation with somebody who’s new to the industry and says, Hey, what does NetApp do? And "do I want to work there" is really what they’re asking.

And yeah, there’s so many opportunities. There’s so many options and your experience and your perspective are going to be valuable. So yeah, come on in. Water’s nice.

Justin Parisi: That comes back to what I was talking about when you’re trying to ensure your message is refined to your target audience. You want to make sure that when you tell these stories, you’re able to tell them in a way that your audience understands. And what I do like about the partnerships that we’re choosing is that we’re not just saying, Oh, well, look at this. We’re cool partners with Ducati or cool partners with Aston Martin.

We’re taking a story and tying it to that. Hey, we do this with Ducati. This is how we help them succeed. This is how we help DreamWorks succeed. They build movies on us. This is what we do. That’s where I think the key to this branding effort is, is tying your sponsorships and your work to what you can actually deliver.

Matt Watts: I’ll pick up on that one. I’m sure Emily’s got lots to say about that, but I’ll pick on the Aston Martin Formula One piece, because, one of the things that people don’t realize is that’s one of the best sustainability stories that we have. And I love the counterpoint here because it’s Formula One.

And people don’t think about Formula One as being a sustainable sport, but actually, Formula One as a whole sport is on a path to being net zero by 2030. And part of our role with Aston Martin Formula One is that we are helping them With their data infrastructure to become more sustainable in the way that they operate, manage, run IT, including reducing the amount of technical equipment they actually have to take to the circuit with them.

So I love that about brand as well because you can almost create what appear to be conflicting things. People don’t think about Aston Martin Formula 1 and sustainability, yet actually it’s a great, great story. And it’s something that we’re helping them to achieve. So I love that about some of the sponsorships we’ve chosen as well.

Emily Miller: Yeah. I think that’s such a great thread of this conversation is about change. I’m raising children and I’m seeing they’re changing and growing over the years. And NetApp is very much like that. So our brand story needs to continue to evolve.

The stories that we tell with customers may start in one place, but then they’re going to evolve and grow. And how we continue to develop them and communicate them and get them out, then it becomes just a really exciting thing that you can continually share and stay connected with your audience.

I think that’s one of the most rewarding things for me. If I think about being with this company, it’ll be 15 years this fall. I’m at NetApp in 2007 when they did their first brand project, we created the logo and the original positioning. it is what we do for our customers and how we do it with them. That is so rewarding and getting the opportunity to go talk to them and learn about what they’re doing and share those stories? I’m so proud of being able to do that because we do pretty amazing things with our customers.

Justin Parisi: I can remember back when we were sponsors or doing partnerships with the NFL and

Emily Miller: yeah,

Justin Parisi: that was cool.

I was like, Oh man, this is really cool. But I don’t recall us ever tying that into a story. It was always just like official storage of the NFL or something along those lines, right? And I think that having some sort of, hey, well, NetApp powers this about the NFL would have been very good, but it never really materialized.

Emily Miller: Well, clearly I didn’t do a good enough job getting those out there to the employee base.

Justin Parisi: Maybe I don’t read enough.

Emily Miller: Well, we had some case studies. We had some really cool videos that we created. But I think again, it goes back to making sure that you are set up to tell the story in the places where you need to tell it.

Random side note, we had a very odd relationship. We were the first B2B only sponsor ever. in that kind of environment. So we were limited in some of the ways we could do that. Now, granted, I did not have a budget to do a Super Bowl commercial, even though everybody in the company was asking me to do one.

But being able to tell that story much more broadly, for example, back then we didn’t really have it on dot com. Because it was seen as maybe too consumery for the audience. And we were like, what are you talking about? Come on, it’s football, number one sport in America.

So we didn’t have it on the homepage. We had a tiny little box on the homepage. So that to me is also, again, this comment you made Phoebe about the consumerization of B2B marketing. It’s much more natural now to have these big sports properties on our homepage.

Whereas, 10 years ago, there was a section on the website that you could talk about this stuff. Now it’s an authentic customer story. We want to put it front and center. So were I ever so lucky to get the opportunity to do that again, it would be front and center.

Justin Parisi: Yeah, absolutely.

Phoebe Goh: It shows. Matt and I are sitting here quietly going, well, 10 years ago, I was in Australia and NFL did not mean a lot to me. And sure I have moved over here and I have adopted an NFL team as my own, but…

Emily Miller: Are you with the Lions?

Phoebe Goh: I am.

Yeah, the Lions are getting an awesome season this year.

Emily Miller: They did.

Phoebe Goh: But yeah, I think it’s also a sign the things that we may have had in a local geo, maybe just in the US or just in Australia or just in the UK, are now things that we, thanks to the internet can just all talk about, we’re all involved in. And I think that speaks to it a little bit that unless you only serve one country or one specific kind of audience, a brand like NetApp, which is global and is around the world is really something that we need to speak to those audiences in, and in their language or in the way that they want to be communicated with.

Not everybody speaks English. So yeah, it is part of that too.

Emily Miller: Connect to their passions. Yeah, for sure. And when we were in Wichita, there’s a local baseball team where, I’m like, how can we get connected into that somehow? Cause the personal is, so important.

And if you can build relevance and connect to your audiences… and we have different audiences. We’ve got the customers, but we’ve also got employees, as you say, not everybody’s going to be very technical. So how do we make those connections and build, somebody, I think it was LinkedIn the other day in a meeting, they called it "brand memories." How do we create brand memories for NetApp in a way that’s relevant and meaningful to our different audiences?

Matt Watts: One of the things that really interests me, and I’m really interested in both your perspectives on this as well, is if we think today, technology underpins so many people’s jobs. So much more than it did, if you go back 20 years ago, there were far, far fewer people that had the dependency on technology and were interacting with such sophisticated technology on a daily basis.

Now, everybody is interacting with technology of some form. Many people using it for work, other people using it for socials, for everything else. And so therefore the stack that sits behind that, it suddenly has more relevance because, like I said, with the conversation with the data scientist, He probably doesn’t care or didn’t care what the physical technology was that was sat behind the algorithms he was trying to train.

But once you explain to him the value that it could create for him, now he cares about it. And I think that’s one of the challenges that we’ve got, is how do you start to bridge that gap where we were very much B2B, and that the B that we were 2B ing was quite a limited audience. Now, it’s not B2C, but it’s not B2B, it’s something in between that.

What’s your thoughts around that, Emily?

Emily Miller: Yeah, how do I think about this? I think it’s a combination of two things. One, I think, is just the infusion of technology into our lives that, again, 15 years ago, yes, the iPhone came out and started to bring things in a new way to everybody.

But that has matured now. Also, that integration of technology keeps it from being compartmentalized and relegated to the boardroom or to the the big office building. Remember when Cisco would do big image campaigns like in 99/2000, I felt like they were trying to grow globally, but nobody knew what it did for them.

So to your point, it’s less about need to know the exact detail, but what is the impact that that solution has on me? So when I talk to folks and when they would learn about NetApp, I could say, well, are there certain apps that you use?

Well, those are built on NetApp. All of this now becoming more intertwined and that comfort with technology. And then just because it’s the consumerization of B2B in your phone. You’re taking consumer habits to interact with technology that used to be done in the basement in a black box.

Phoebe Goh: You say it in such an eloquent way. The example that I’m thinking of is was we’re driving along in the car with my partner the other day and we were saying, why is it that our kids just, the mobile phone is a thing. They could take it or leave it. It’s part of their life. And for us, it’s still this most exciting thing because we’re old. And we’re kind of like, I remember a time without mobile phones. And so now I have one. We’re Gen X, so we’re like, we’re on it all the time. The kids were born when iPhones had been around. You dated it. So yeah, they are five years younger than the iPhone. So they’ve been around a lot. It’s always been in their life to have this device that’s connected to the internet and everybody else they know and they can pick up the phone and call someone. And so it’s a different conversation that we have with them when we’re trying to talk to them about technology, what you said about what is the impact to them? Yeah, we have to talk to them about what’s the value of them being connected all the time. And even what is the value of them being disconnected sometimes, because that’s a good thing as well.

So that’s a consumer example. In the business world, especially as some of the technologies become more I would say abstract, like AI, for example, is a very, very detailed, complex, behind the scenes. There’s a lot of science and algorithms that go into training models. As a consumer or as a user in a business, you might just see the end of that, which is asking ChatGPT to write your report or write an email. Because we’re so distanced from it, the actual core starting point of the technology. We have to have these value conversations instead about why is it important that I can do something or what can I do now that I couldn’t do previously because this technology is there to support me. So more and more, I find the conversations I’m having in that space around not so much what NetApp technology does X or does Y, but it’s what are you trying to do? And let me tell you how maybe we can make it a little easier or we can make something possible because we have a way of thinking about it and some technology to support that. That’s a change to me. It definitely wasn’t something we were talking about, I would say, even 10 years ago.

Emily Miller: And that’s the power of brand. It’s not just that commodity that you shove in there. When you’re working with companies to deliver these solutions, it is the promise of what that company holds and that’s what I always love. I love storytelling. I love these customer stories. That’s what makes it really real and palpable. And that’s really what driving this brand perception and experience. How do we make that really real? How do we get people to really feel that?

The impact we can have.

Justin Parisi: So just think in 20 or 30 years our kids will be having the same kind of discussions about Neuralink chips. Remember when we got our Neuralink chips for the first time?

Matt Watts: It was funny when Phoebe was talking, I kept thinking about the famous Douglas Adams quote, you know, Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It wasn’t the Don’t Panic one, which I think is probably relevant anyway, but he always used to have this expression. He said, every piece of technology that exists in the world when you’re born is normal. To your point, Phoebe, there’s a world of people who don’t know a world without VMware.

They don’t know a world without an iPhone. It’s just normal. So, every piece of technology that exists in the world when you’re born is normal. Every piece of technology that comes along before you’re 35 is an opportunity and you can build a career out of it. But everything that comes along after 35 is we’ll bring about the end of the world and must be completely rejected.

And I always think about that quote because it sort of reminds me that there’s a lot of technology changes. I speak to audiences and I’ll say, how many people remember the world before VMware? And it’s fewer and fewer hands go up. So again, thinking about that to brand, you’ve got to keep pace with those sorts of changes as well, otherwise your brand becomes stale because it’s related to something that’s of a different generation, a different demographic, a different era of technology.

Emily Miller: Yeah, I remember, I think it was 2017 when we were doing the brand campaign Data Visionary, and I remember, we were like, there’s a persona, there’s a young, millennial tech worker. There’s just this new generation and companies, too, those that are born in the cloud, you just don’t have certain baggage. It’s so interesting. Then regionally you have differences, which just makes it cool and interesting. Depending upon which city you live in, you’re more likely to use Instacart than not, which informs your habits and your routines and it’s just super fascinating how all this stuff changes.

Phoebe Goh: You know what’s funny, that young millennial tech worker, because I know that when you said data visionary, and then you said, here’s the persona. It’s a young millennial tech worker.

I remember Matt Watts with a shirt that said data visionary, and I was kind of like, yeah, he is kind of the persona of millennials and not to date you, Matt, if you look at Gen Z now, it’s a very different kind of tech work, a Gen Z tech worker, from a different world and a different experience.

And so, we are keeping pace as well as acknowledging that there are a lot of people like Matt and myself who are millennial and still in that world. So, yeah, I think that’s a good part of brand is being able to both acknowledge what came before as well as what is here now. Yep.

Justin Parisi: For

Emily Miller: sure.

Justin Parisi: I think the important thing to remember here is that every generation is worse than the last generation.

Phoebe Goh: So true. Look at those young whippersnappers.

Justin Parisi: Get off my lawn! Anyway.

Phoebe Goh: With their large language models.

Justin Parisi: That’s right. AI writing papers.

Matt Watts: So there’s one thing that interests me and again, I’m sort of asking a question of the group. I always think of NetApp, being that we were founded in 1992, I always see NetApp as a company with heritage that we’ve learned a lot over those years. We’ve innovated a lot, we’ve done some incredible things. We’ve made some mistakes. But we’re still here, successful, and I think delivering very compelling, innovative, and unique solutions into the market. But then there will be other companies who target you and say that you’re a legacy vendor, etc. I wonder if Phoebe or Emily have some comments. How do you balance off acknowledging that heritage is a good thing, but it gets used against you because of legacy. How do you deal with that from a brand perspective?

Emily Miller: It is a great point, because I do feel that when we had our 25th anniversary, which was 2017, we had a 25 years of innovation, a brand campaign launch, and the Microsoft announcement all in one day. It was a very exhausting day. But it was a worry of, well, you don’t want to be seen as old.

You can’t be seen as old. But I do feel like now that we’re over 30, you can’t deny it. So you’ve got to take the good parts that come with experience. And I do also think the pandemic has changed things. When you think about some companies didn’t make it through the pandemic.

And having experience and a way of looking at the world, maybe we were less risky? But you know what, maybe that helped us get through it. And everybody knows I get my hair highlighted, but I purposefully pull out a streak of gray now because I’m like, this is not my first rodeo people. I am happy to own that. I know I’m not 20 something anymore. So what can I take from the age? And the age I am is, I have experience and I can help with that because I’ve been there before. And so how can I help you?

Phoebe Goh: Yeah, be comfortable in your skin. And I think it’s the same with the company. The heritage, the knowledge that we have, it comes back to what I said earlier. We look at what our customers are trying to do in their day jobs. How are they trying to make more money or make the world a better place or create some new innovation?

And that hasn’t changed in the last 30 years. So as long as we focus on what our customers are trying to do and help them do it, we’re still going to be relevant and valuable. And in fact, like you said, Emily, we have now experienced to say, Hey, maybe don’t make that mistake because we have been there and we have seen that. But we know what you’re trying to do and we want to help you get there. And we are building, continuously innovating, of course, to make sure that technologies are there to support you in new endeavors. And sometimes even bringing along old technology, we dig through the archive and go, Hey, you know, that thing that we did back in 1992 called NAS? It’s still really relevant in the cloud and people want to run NAS in the cloud. How do we help them do that better? So I think it’s a combination of just keeping your eye on the true goal, which is making sure our customers are successful and then remembering you have experience. And you don’t want to be that dad as well that, or that mom who’s trying to be cool and hip and wearing jeans on their hips and cutoffs.

Like just, no, you want to own who you are.

Emily Miller: I like to think we’re entering our classy phase, you know? Yeah.

Justin Parisi: We’re going to start showing up in robes and have a cognac twirling it around.

Phoebe Goh: Oh, dear.

I was thinking about cigars for a moment there, and I still do not like cigars, so no.

Justin Parisi: Yeah, that’s kind of gross sounding, but anyway, that’s just personal preference.

So intelligent data infrastructure is our new identity. Tell me about that. Tell me how you’re going to approach this in the next year or two.

Emily Miller: Well, it was a wonderfully long collaborative road to get there, and we put a lot of time working with our executives lots of folks from the field, getting feedback from customers, partners, analysts to get to our positioning and the new identity that we rolled out along with that. Really updating our look and feel and all of our brand assets. And now it’s about consistent execution in the market. A lot of times, we’ll joke with our teams internally that yes, you might be getting sick of seeing the same messaging, but you know what, everybody else hasn’t seen it yet.

They need to see it at least seven times before it sticks. And if we’re going to create these brand memories, we need to start working on creating some great customer stories to pay it off and be the proof. So that is really the focus this year is how do we bring this to market with our targeted approach and really getting to the right audiences?

How do we equip all of our internal teams so they can drive everything into the market? Consistency and message is really key. Really pushing the creativity on our look and feel is another thing we’re looking at. We want to push the boundaries on that. Of our creative expression and then really bringing it to life through campaigns and all the touch points that we have with our audiences.

So be ready to see it come to life at events and experiences near you.

Phoebe Goh: I think Matt and I as well are going to make intelligent data infrastructure real and making sure that it doesn’t just sit in their marketing, Hey, look, let’s put boards up, let’s have signs that say intelligent, but actually when we’re out there having conversations is making sure that it comes into every conversation we have.

Not everything has to be an intelligent data infrastructure, but it’s a conversation around what can it bring to your business and what can it bring to you? And I think that if everybody in the organization is talking about it, it’s incredible how much of an impact it can have on what you said earlier, Emily, about perception and about building that trust and the belief in the hearts and minds as well as in the technology.

Matt Watts: I’ll add one more dimension, which is, I think, it also gives us a real opportunity over the next few years to start looking at where are the next set of innovations, maybe acquisitions.

I think it’s making it clearer internally as to, we’ve created this umbrella, this new idea, this new construct, and we have lots of pieces that bring it to life today, but there’s so much more that we could bring in underneath it. So, I’m really looking forward to how it shapes product plans, it shapes our portfolio.

And some of the new things that we will bring in because they enhance this ability for us to help companies build intelligent data infrastructures.

Phoebe Goh: I want to hear people asking us, Matt, like actually throw it back at us. Like, how is this helping me build an intelligent data infrastructure? Why should I do that?

And let’s make it a conversation with them. We’re really proud of it. I’m really proud of it. I’m sure Emily is too. It’s a conversation point that we should see for the next three, five, seven years, about where people are going and what NetApp is doing as well. I’m really proud the N is so prominent in our brand. Can I just say that and make sure that gets put into a public forum?

I love the NetApp N, the gateway.

Emily Miller: I’m so happy to hear you say that, Phoebe, that was the original mark that we created back in 2007. We launched it in 2008 and it got just a little diminutive over the last few years and it’s really nice to bring it back and infuse it with a lot of the meaning and the emotion and storytelling that we know it can contain. And so very happy to hear you say that. Love that.

Justin Parisi: So on a scale from one to 10, how infuriated does it make you? To hear someone say, it looks like pants.

Emily Miller: Oh, I heard worse things. So it’s fine. Yeah. . I love the pants and you know, it’s fun.

Justin Parisi: I like pants. I wear pants!

Emily Miller: Yeah, they’re great. I know. And now they can be any color pants you want.

Phoebe Goh: I was going to say, Emily, I’m going to make a request for denim logo.

Justin Parisi: Ooh, that’d be nice.

Phoebe Goh: And it would be awesome. I would use it in some of my presentations. I can see it fitting in really well.

Justin Parisi: A little corduroy, a little velour.

Matt Watts: Plaid.

Justin Parisi: We could just rebrand as the Pants Company. I don’t know. . Alright.

Phoebe Goh: The Smarty Pants.

Justin Parisi: Smarty. The Smarty Pants. There we go. That should be the NetApp a team name. The Smarty Pants. Alright, so it sounds like we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us with the brand identity. If I wanted to find more information about the new NetApp brand where would I do that?

Emily Miller: Well internally, we have lots of enablement sites. I would say externally, the best place to go is In the area on the website that is the about us section, we have information about what the intelligent data infrastructure company means.

We have more content that we are delivering, to Matt and Phoebe, to your point about you got to make it real and got to pay it off. How do we explain it? So that is the first place to start. We’re going to be bringing out many more customer videos. We’ve got some analyst reports we’re working on to help tell the story and make it real for you as a customer.

Matt Watts: And definitely following myself and Phoebe on LinkedIn or any of the other channels that Phoebe mentioned at the beginning. We’re definitely supporters of all the brand messaging and sharing all of the content as it comes out. So if you follow us on LinkedIn, you’ll find that and so much more interesting content, particularly from from Phoebe.

Phoebe Goh: This is a company brand, and it is something that everybody is a part of and can be a part of. It’s not just Matt and myself saying, this is how you’ll say it. It’s very much something that everyone can be a part of and discuss. So find us at events and out there in the wild, and let’s talk about it. It’s such a fun time. Lots of great conversation points. So yeah, we can talk about it any way you like. Maybe in space, Matt, how do we get to get in a rocket ship and do an EBC from space?

Justin Parisi: I think that might be outside of the budget.

If we couldn’t do a Superbowl commercial, we probably can’t go to space.

Phoebe Goh: Good point, good point. It probably costs as much to do a Superbowl commercial as it does to take a rocket ship to Mars or something.

Justin Parisi: All right, well, Phoebe, Matt, Emily, thanks so much for the time today and talking to us all about the new NetApp brand identity and just brands in general.

Emily Miller: Thank you so much for having us. I love this. As you know, I love to chat and tell stories. So anytime.

Justin Parisi: All right.

All right. That music tells me it’s time to go. If you’d like to get in touch with us, send us an email to [email protected] or send us a tweet @NetApp. As always, if you’d like to subscribe, find us on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, iHeartRadio, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or via If you liked the show today, leave us a review. On behalf of the entire Tech ONTAP Podcast team, I’d like to thank Emily Miller, Phoebe Goh, and Matt Watts for joining us today. As always, thanks for listening.

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