HPC Marketing – A Sign of the Times?

By Mike Bernhardt

June 26, 2008

If any of us question what’s changing about HPC, all we need to do is look around us. The technology is always changing — it always has been — but today, there is a very clear “sign of the times” being reflected throughout the HPC landscape. And it’s not just in the technology. You can see it in the dramatic changes taking place in HPC marketing and advertising programs. As the traditional boundaries of HPC erode, marketing strategists face a new challenge in creating messages that will resonate with a new ecosystem of users. HPC marketing is maturing.

Going back to the late eighties and early nineties, marketing was generally looked down upon in this community. In the minds of many decision makers, marketing was a necessary evil and marketing types were not to be trusted. I remember it well. At a time when I was running two-page spread print ads for Multiflow Computer, a pioneering HPC company, I recall more than once hearing industry colleagues discussing why they “don’t need no stinkin’ marketing” — and their reason was usually, “everyone in the community knows us.” Indeed, it was a small community.

Back then, advertising in Supercomputing Review (the forefather of HPCwire) was hip and cool for a small number of companies when exotic Grand Challenge rendering images were beautifully covered in the pages of the magazine. But when print advertising gave way to online advertising, the HPC community was slow to respond. There seemed to be a hesitation to allow creativity, spark and entertainment value in HPC marketing programs for fear of being shunned by the community as purveyors of marketing hype. Up until just this past year, one only had to look at any number of mainstream online publications to see that HPC advertising and marketing programs were lacking in many aspects. The world was changing, but most companies — as far as their HPC marketing and advertising programs — were having nothing to do with the change.

A sign of the times? The marketing vice president is now one of the most respected members of any HPC company’s executive office. And HPC advertising is achieving a new level of maturity — adopting rich media, bringing in entertainment value, and wisely targeting marketing and advertising messages, not just internally to the HPC community, but on a level that is attractive to mainstream, enterprise IT decision makers. Marketing to the changing world. You only need to look at HPCwire to see the evidence.

In fact, in a recent survey of HPC marketing decision makers conducted by the Tabor Marketing Group, 23 percent of the respondents indicated they would be placing more emphasis on rich media products in 2008 and 2009.

As stated in that survey report, “As HPC’s perceived boundaries erode and stakeholders attend and participate in events representing a broader base of interest, they notice a difference in the use of rich media, from websites to advertising to presentation materials. The HPC industry has been slow to adopt the richer media and has lagged behind other industries in terms of adding an entertainment factor to marketing and communications products. As the prospect audience expands to include influencers and decision makers from a range of commercial sectors, the HPC marketing leaders are recognizing the need to employ new marketing strategy and more creative programs enhanced by the use of rich media.”

We’ve been saying for years that HPC is everywhere, but I believe the recent maturity of HPC advertising is a strong and undeniable proof point — and no mere coincidence. It’s no longer about selling “into” the community; it’s all about taking those HPC value statements and communicating to the IT decision makers, end-user scientists, researchers and engineers at the fringe, at the edge of the ecosystem.

The world is changing — we have to accept that — and, as a community, we need to change in order to keep up. Globally, more and more organizations are finding innovative ways to adopt HPC, and that in turn is changing the very fabric of HPC marketing as we reach out to a new world of HPC users.

A sign of the times? Yes, I think it is.

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