SGI recasts market image

Silicon Graphics Inc., known for the last 17 years primarily for its high-end 3-D graphics computers, last week launched a new strategy aimed at educating customers on the full breadth of products it offers.

Although the legal name of the company will remain Silicon Graphics Inc., the company plans to market itself simply as sgi (in all lower-case letters). The change is being made in conjunction with a major product brand-name consolidation effort that will place all of SGI's product offerings into one of three categories: Silicon Graphics visual workstations, Cray supercomputers, and SGI servers and services.

A recent global study conducted by Landor Associates, a company that specializes in corporate identity marketing strategies, "told us that our brand meant 3-D graphics workstations to our customers," said Kathi Kaplan, vice president of marketing and communications for SGI. "We believe that we have been misperceived by the marketplace," Kaplan said. "We [offer] a huge breadth of products."

For example, approximately 50 percent of SGI's revenues in the commercial and federal sectors are generated by the company's server line, Kaplan said. "People don't know we're in this business," she said. SGI has been "significantly misunderstood."

Company officials said the product consolidation will help attract new customers who are not familiar with SGI and will refocus existing customers on the company's full line of products.

According to Kaplan, the company's existing workstation and server products, such as the Origin line of servers and the Octane line of workstations, will maintain their brand names until their technology becomes obsolete. All future products, however, will be branded according to the company's new brand-name categories.

"This is a campaign to clean up our identity," said Anthony Robbins, vice president of SGI's federal systems area. "This will help us make more federal customers aware that we do more than just graphics," he said. "We're going to develop systems for enabling solutions for the federal government," not just for running graphics, Robbins said.

To help jump-start that effort in the federal sector, SGI chief executive officer Rick Belluzzo last week visited with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill and also made stops by the Pentagon, several customers in the intelligence community and NASA - one of SGI's largest federal customers.

"We're aggressively targeting the federal sector in Washington, D.C.," Robbins said. "You become a more relevant partner for the federal government by understanding the mission of federal customers and then developing solutions that best meet their requirements."

With its goal of becoming more relevant to its federal customers, Robbins said SGI plans to increase its cooperation with application developers and federal systems integrators as a means to provide the government with the high-end technical computing and server solutions that it needs. "That's where the growth of our organization is really going to come from," he said.

The past few years have seen SGI make several significant changes to its market strategy, including the acquisition of Cray Research Inc.'s supercomputer technology in 1996 as well as the launching of workstations and servers based on Intel Corp.'s processor technology and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT operating system. However, although SGI has become one of the leading high-end technical computing solutions providers in the industry, "our corporate identity was not getting us credit for that," Robbins said.

David Redhill, a spokesman for Landor Associates, said the SGI rebranding campaign is part of an effort to "make SGI far more relevant" to its current and future customer base. "A thousand sub-brands is confusing in the minds of SGI's customers," he said.

By collapsing all of its products into just a few categories, SGI will get through to its target audiences more effectively, Redhill said, and that will "eliminate the noise and confusion" associated with marketing to government agencies. "If handled properly, a rebranding campaign has the potential to revitalize and refocus the mission of a company," he said.

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