What often separates a tech-heavy also-ran from a successful public company is the marketing campaign. There's plenty to go wrong here. Too many companies go the easy route of using glitz to drive up stock prices. What it really takes is intelligent articulation of the company's target market and why its approach is unique.
Finalists in this category have best communicated a technology or business story to their customers and investors, with particular credit going to those that are defining their particular market. The winner will be announced December 15 at an awards dinner following Light Reading's Telecom Investment Conference in New York City.
- ADVA Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV)
ADVA keeps its marketing message simple and basic: It's about building simple, easy-to-use metro optical networking gear. In fact, the simplicity of the marketing message is also part of the message itself; ADVA's trademark is building DWDM gear that's reliable and easy to install.
When ADVA decides to enter a new market, it does so methodically and sensibly. The company tends to avoid big-ticket, in-your-face acquisitions, and it's quite good at developing products internally or buying tiny little startups (see ADVA Takes Aim at SDH Access and Ethernet Monday: ADVA, WWP, and More). CEO Brian Portiva is proud of ADVA's roots as a bootstrapped engineering company that tries to do things right (see ADVA Scores Metro Deal With DT, ADVA Grows, Says It's Organic , and Top Ten Movers and Shakers in Telecom).
It's not that ADVA doesn't have marketing challenges. In many circles, it's still "that little German optical networking company." But having maintained what's generally acknowledged as the No. 2 position against Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) in metro optical, ADVA has done itself proud. Look for even better things as ADVA scours new markets for growth potential and considers a North American listing of its shares.
- Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN)
Ciena. Ah, yes, Ciena. Take your shots -- in fact it was observed on Light Reading's own message boards after Ciena announced its broad marketing makeover that the new logo is better suited for a creme-filled snack food (see Ciena Debuts New Look, New Message). Wisecracks aside, it was about time that Ciena did something. And they were right to change things.
What's impressive about Ciena's marketing makeover is that the company is finally giving an explanation for buying all those startups. Here's a company that grew up in the long-haul transport market and tried to diversify, ending up with a bushel of bad picks that fizzled out -- Cyras Systems Inc. and ONI Systems Inc. come to mind, as both stories ended recently with the shuttering of Ciena's San Jose, Calif.-based operations (see Ciena To Buy Cyras for $2.6 Billion, Ciena and ONI: Wedding of the Year?, and Ciena Cuts 1/4 of Staff).
There's no telling whether plan B, which includes moves into cable and storage, will fare any better (see Will Ciena Change at the Top?). But this time, Ciena at least has a coordinated message behind its efforts. The new campaign focuses on Ciena's breadth of products and how they help the company craft an answer to particular service providers' problems. Even if the new logo makes you think of doughnuts and coffee cakes, the campaign surrounding it gives Ciena the compass it's been lacking.
- Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)
Love it or hate it, the new Juniper ad campaign gets noticed. Campy cartoons emulating The Far Side and jabbing at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) are adorning all of Juniper's marketing materials these days, and big cutouts of goofy aliens were up front with the execs during Juniper's analyst day. But Juniper's marketing is much more than goofy cartoons -- its mostly about marketing extensive product features against competitors in the trenches of telecom.
Mostly, what Juniper has been successful at is creating the buzz as the rock-solid technology company that's an unabashed No. 2 behind Cisco. Juniper's also curried favor with shareholders by being consistent and steady in delivering on its earnings projects. Juniper has kept a financial spring in its step while other companies report shortfalls and disappointments (see Juniper Q3 Tops Estimates and Cisco Disappoints With Q1). That doesn't hurt its credibility or marketing message one bit.
Juniper's growing brand puts it in a good position to exploit the big-ticket products expected in the wake of the NetScreen Technologies Inc. acquisition, and possibly more (see Juniper Buys NetScreen).
- Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)
This isn't just the company that makes walkie-talkies and cell phones. Motorola's 2004 was marked by some aggressive moves into the telecom infrastructure markets, especially in access, where it's quickly making a name for itself.
First example? The Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture, or AdvancedTCA , is an industrywide effort being run within the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG). Originally, this was conceived as an Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) show. Surprisingly, however, the past several months, it's Motorola that has stolen the spotlight in this effort to create standards for telecom hardware (see AdvancedTCA Makes Headway). Motorola's efforts started with the acquisition of Force Computers, which Motorola acquired in a $121 million cash deal in August (see Motorola Acquires Force Computers and Motorola Gets Embedded).
Motorola's also done some interesting things with Quantum Bridge, the PON equipment manufacturer it bought early in 2004, and several other elements, such as IP video technology, that have been folded into Motorola's Telecom Access Solutions unit. This unit has been quite a surprise, winning several high-profile telecom access deals with major carriers (see Motorola to Buy Quantum Bridge , SBC Awards Microsoft $400M IPTV Deal , and Verizon Says, 'Hello, Moto').
With the serious engineering heft and deep pockets of the mother ship behind it, look for these new telecom-focused divisions of Motorola to make more waves in 2005.
Need to know more about the latest developments in AdvancedTCA? check out the coming Light Reading Live! conference:
at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, Calif., on Thursday, January 20, 2005
This one-day event, hosted by Simon Stanley, Heavy Reading Senior Analyst, will provide qualified attendees from Light Reading's global audience with original research into the ATCA components market, from its Heavy Reading market research division.