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India Is Very Important For Red Hat: Tim Yeaton, Global EVP & CMO

Red Hat’s Tim Yeaton, Global EVP and CMO shares with BW Businessworld’s Shubhi Tandon on how they market themselves and their India plans

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As digitalisation advanced along with rapid innovation, the meaning of convenience has significantly evolved. Customers nowadays seek anytime-anywhere access to personalised, unique services which satisfy their needs. It has become incumbent for businesses to adopt a well-defined marketing strategy to ensure survival. Red Hat’s Tim Yeaton, Global EVP and CMO shares with BW Businessworld’s Shubhi Tandon on how they market themselves and their India plans. 

Excerpts:

How important is the Indian market for Red Hat?
The Indian market is very important to us for a number of reasons. We have very close partnerships with all the global SIs that are headquartered in India and some of these are our most important partnerships. Secondly, India as an economy has the second fastest growing GDP in the world and we see the adoption of new technologies accelerating in India. I believe India is a ready-adopter of open source technologies and some of the emerging concepts such as agile and innovation. Burzeen might be able to add a little bit about what we are witnessing locally in the Indian market.

What is Red Hat’s marketing strategy in India?
Red Hat as a company sells across a wide set of industries and regions. Like most companies, we tier these by segments. We have some top accounts where we have very high-touch marketing, what is often referred to as account-based marketing. With our partners we have an equivalent capability where we build joint go-to market programmes. Then we execute our next tier of accounts, which is done very strongly through resellers and other channel partners. This applies here (in India) too.

We have a fairly broad product portfolio now. So in our earlier days, we were just marketing Linux as an operating system or JBoss as a middleware product. We have also marketed to very specific, tactical uses. Now, our marketing efforts are more strategic to our customers and are a part of these bigger solutions. So we break them down into large sets of use cases and turn them into campaigns from a go-to market and demand generation perspective. They are also the means by which we train our partners and sales force to engage with customers. So think of the latter as sales conversations versions of the same use case themes. And all this is wrapped under the top level of digital and business transformation.

What are the challenges that you face when marketing these products?
The challenges we face in India are similar to what we face globally. I believe one of the biggest challenges that Red Hat has faced for the past couple of years is that our brand is so well known around Linux and the traditional data centre, that we work really hard to broaden the market and customers’ awareness about our wide portfolio — particularly in cloud computing and cloud native applications. We have a very strong positioning and are doing really well across markets. But sometimes the Red Hat brand is so strongly associated with what we have done in the past that we have to work extra hard to extend that brand awareness to the new things we have been doing. That is true here (in India) and maybe even more so than it is globally.

Digital has overtaken traditional and offline in APAC this year. So how important is digital as a medium for marketers and what is Red Hat doing in this regard?
About two years ago, when I took over this role, one of the initiatives we immediately put in place was a full end-to-end digital strategy and we made some major investments in technology to support that. We have built some very sophisticated predictive analytics, nurtured techniques and changed how we build our sites to accommodate that. I would say it’s one of our most proud accomplishments on a global basis. What we are conscious about though is we have been always on digital programme which is executed entirely in the regions. So, basically what the global team does is build the infrastructure for the cross site nav, the media buys — ensuring that organic and paid efforts are working. But the priorities are always chosen and implemented by the regional teams.

What was the concept behind the ‘Much More Than Linux’ campaign? And how was the campaign received?
We are still in the early stages of the ‘Much More than Linux’ campaign. We have a number of really exciting content elements under development. The campaign is really focused on two things. Firstly, helping the market and customers understand what we do in the cloud and open innovation communities. Secondly, helping them understand that all these innovations and technologies leverage Linux. If you look at cloud and containers, Microsoft just recently mentioned that there’s more Linux running on Azure clouds than there are Windows. So it’s really more to say Linux is everywhere and forms the base of a lot of new cloud, container development paradigms as well.

What according to you are some of the trends we need to look out for in the next six months?
For Red Hat, I would look at the evolution of our message - some of our assets are rolled out around the Linux thread that you just mentioned. We will continue to evolve our portfolio awareness, create more brand awareness and brand activation activities. Another thing we want to do is help the world understand how these open source style collaborative approaches aren’t changing just software but humanity at some level. We are doing this through a series of primarily video-based storytelling that we call open source stories. We follow an internal agency model where we have our own videographers, producers and we like the long-form videos for telling these stories. We preview a couple every year at our summit. For instance, we have done a few interesting ones around citizen science where individuals are using open source instruments to measure environmental conditions and reporting them back to authorities. We have done one on the origins of current generation AI or open AI. It’s really about painting the broader picture that Red Hat stands for open collaboration and it is not just about our products. Our open brand project is an instance of that. And then, being the catalyst for showcasing these bigger stories around how important open collaboration is to society.


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