Sun Micro revamps brand

CIOL Bureau
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Michele Gershberg and Duncan Martell

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO: Network computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc. is getting a little help from its friends in a new $50 million advertising campaign to bring its brand out of the dark.

In its biggest brand overhaul, Sun's advertising incorporates such clients as online auctioneer eBay Inc., automaker General Motors and Major League Baseball to illustrate how its products and services help connect people across businesses and personal interests.

The rebrand centers on a slim S-curve to signify "Sharing," highlighting the use of computer networks to do everything from play video games on cellular phones, keep up on the latest sports match or buy a car online. By comparison, Sun spent close to $16 million on advertising during 2004, according to tracking firm TNS Media Intelligence.

"Sharing is what we've done for the past two to three years," said Ingrid Van Den Hoogen, Sun's vice president of brand experience and community marketing. "Once you share, you create a new growth opportunity."

Print, Internet and outdoor advertising will break on June 1, with creative work handled by advertising agency Butler Shine & Stern. In one print ad, a line of people hold up the picture of the bumper of a vintage car bought on eBay, each of them part of the chain of transactions that helped connect the car's buyer and seller.

Sun still seeks to recover from a bruising technology downturn in which it lost market share to rivals such as IBM and Dell.

Sun was harder hit than its competitors in the wake of the 2001 dotcom bust as two key customer segments, telecommunications and financial services, proved more vulnerable than other industries.

Now, after maintaining hefty investments in research and development, Sun hopes its bundled offerings of computer servers, storage gear, software and service offerings will restore sustained revenue and profit growth.

Sun posted a $9 million quarterly loss in April, down from a $760 million loss a year earlier that included the costs of a real estate restructuring and job cuts. Sun's servers use its Solaris version of the Unix operating system or different versions of freely available Linux.

In marketing focus groups ahead of the campaign, participants said they didn't know where Sun was headed with its services, but responded positively when told how clients like eBay made use of the company's offerings, she said.

The revamp will include Sun's packaging, office decor and customer service centers.

"Why do we have classical phone music (on hold)? We're probably more techno-jazz," Van Den Hoogen said.