EMC is spending time and money to prank NetApp. Why?

Stephen Foskett documents things EMC is doing to irritate NetApp:

  • A small fleet of Minis with EMC colors parked in front of NetApp HQ
  • Marking the sidewalks in front of NetApp’s HQ with EMC slogans
  • Sharing photos of these pranks at EMC events

Here’s a photo, courtesy of Mr. Foskett, of the sidewalk branding:

OK, cute. But none of these will get enterprises to spend more money on EMC. So what is the point?

Marketing chess
Great competitive analysis reverse engineers the competitor’s messages and tactics to understand top management’s world view. For example, once you understand what top management considers their biggest weakness, you, the challenger, can goad the company on that point knowing they’ll have no good answer.

That’s a nice tactical win. Score bonus points when their top management has a clumsy response to your goading and draws attention to the weakness.

The StorageMojo take
NetApp’s current marketing narrative is: “we’re pulling away from the pack to become EMC’s chief challenger.” This narrative is supported by their growth and profitability.

EMC doesn’t often talk to StorageMojo, so I’ll guess their narrative is something like: “we’re way bigger than NetApp, and now we have competitive products, so ignore them.”

Then the customer says: “can you spell NetApp so I don’t accidentally ask them for a quote?” That’s the problem with pranking on a smaller competitor.

There’s another possibility: NetApp’s success is demoralizing the EMC sales force. The pranks are intended to tell the field: “sure, we’ve been losing to these guys for years, but that’s over – we’re taking the fight to them!”

That may work. But the products have to walk the talk, or soon the sales force will feel demoralized and betrayed.

The feel-good pranks are, at bottom, a distraction and waste. If EMC now has a converged storage infrastructure as good as NetApp’s, let them prove it: convert some high-profile customers and get testimonials. That’s what will sell the glass house.

That shouldn’t be too hard, given that Isilon has been taking business from NetApp for years. EMC’s real challenge is to cannibalize their own Clariion and Celerra business with their new Isilon or whatever gear faster than NetApp can.

Let’s check back in a year to see how it’s working.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.