In 1998–during the infancy of the Internet–Jay Adelson and Al Avery had a dream of creating large, high-performance data centers that would serve not only as secure places to locate critical Internet infrastructure, but places where Internet companies could come to interact with each other and to exchange network traffic. Their vision was to create the physical infrastructure needed to allow companies to connect and the Internet to grow.
After raising the capital needed to construct a new breed of state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar centers, Equinix faced a multitude of challenges: numerous well entrenched competitors, such as Exodus, Digital Island and even AT&T; a chicken and egg game of attracting customers to their centers, and; the physical construction of the centers.
At the same time, unbeknownst to all, the industry and the country were on the precipice of a great economic downturn known as the “dot bomb.”
The goal for Equinix was to garner attention for the company within the press, analyst and technology influencer audiences to ultimately reach service providers, enterprises and content providers with messages articulating the benefits of outsourcing data center operations at Equinix. Equinix wanted to be known as the leader in the network-neutral data center and collocation space.
These goals were somewhat ambitious for a start up company, especially when competing against well entrenched competitors, but Equinix’s leaders understood early on that a well-executed positioning and PR program would be instrumental in communicating their unique offering to these very diverse target audiences.
Over a ten year working relationship, Julie Karbo and her agency helped Equinix grow from an unknown, stealth startup into a $1B plus (revenue) leader in the data center services space. This included communications programs through an IPO, four acquisitions and two recessions, one of which threatened to bankrupt the company. Critical to this success was an aggressive, ongoing media, analyst and industry association outreach program combined with the creation and refinement of a first of its kind messaging platform for Equinix that emphasized the company’s differentiators against their competitors. The PR team knew it was essential to elevate Equinix above competitors by stressing the centers as a platform for business and physical interconnection compared to competitors’ real estate, server farm focused positioning. As a result, when the company was launched, positioning was based on Equinix’s unique network-neutral exchange services offering where companies would come to Equinix centers to connect to a wide aggregation of strategic network service providers. This varied from Equinix’s competitors that generally sold access only to their own, single network.
On the media side, Karbo and her partner leveraged creative themes, including the “James Bond-like” features of Equinix’s centers to attract press attention and features in Fortune Magazine and the top technology publications. After 9/11, when physical security and redundancy become increasingly important business considerations, the agency was able to leverage Equinix’s unique positioning on these issues to continue generating positive media attention, despite the extreme downturn in the tech economy at that time. At a time when competitors, such as Exdous, Digital Island, Sprint and Cable & Wireless, were acquired or failing, Equinix was thriving.
The agency also used other opportunistic events over the years as vehicles for promoting Equinix, such as the power blackout in the Eastern U.S. in 2003, when the agency placed Equinix in articles on the power issues related to the operation of the Internet in the Associated Press, the New York Times, the San Jose Mercury News and other media.
Ongoing activities included regular announcements of innovative new products and customers, along with regular media tours and face-to-face interaction with strategic press and analysts.
Equinix continues to be recognized as one of the market leaders in data center services space. Several competitors have even copied the company’s positioning. The company remains top of mind for strategic decision makers within all of the company’s core audiences: enterprises, service providers, content companies, and systems integrators. Similarly, Equinix is well known to the market analysts that are making recommendations to customers considering outsourcing their data center, collocation and connectivity needs.
The company now generates more than $2B in annual revenues and customers include IBM, Sony, Wal-Mart, Merrill Lynch, Google, Yahoo!, eBay, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.
Sample of Equinix Feature Placements Secured by the: