In September, 2017, Hitachi launched its newest business, Hitachi Vantara, at its Las Vegas NEXT conference, capping a whirlwind buildup that started with the company’s inception just five months earlier. Driving anticipation throughout, Vantara, which harnessed existing capabilities to provide data-driven solutions, debuted with relative fanfare for a tech company, complete with robust press coverage and parties for Hitachi employees around the world. Communications, led by CCO Mary Ann Gallo, was at the heart at the initiative, playing an integral role at touch points from coining a brand of value and naming it accordingly to getting buy-in from individuals inside and outside century-old Hitachi. Gallo spoke with the Holmes Report about what went into making it a success. An edited transcript: 

Why would a century-old company with name recognition like Hitachi launch a new company now?
In the IT realm, we saw tremendous opportunities as companies are transforming more and more. The power that data has can help them not only with their business but also make a difference in the world. Hitachi is in a lot of different industries, has a lot of knowledge, plus we have a whole IT arm that has software and hardware and services. It was the opportunity to create something of new value to customers.

What were the communications challenges in doing that?
The introduction of a brand new company, and a brand new brand to the market place, is not an easy thing to do by any stretch of the imagination. We needed to make sure that this was something we really wanted to do. From a marketing and brand perspective, it takes on average 18 months to do a rebrand and introduction. We did it in five months, from the OK to the marketplace. The reason for the accelerated time line is we had our first customer conference, NEXT, scheduled, which was a great global platform to reach press and customers, and activate our global employee base to get them excited for this new company.

What kind of message did accomplishing that require?
We have different companies within Hitachi Limited. Hitachi Data Systems is a $4bn company with 6,000 employees. There is Pentaho, the software company we acquired, and Hitachi Insight Group, and engineering teams focused on IOT platforms and IT and the industrial knowledge that we have. It’s not like we were just merging them together. We were effectively creating something brand new. And that has a level of complexity and interesting challenges, so it went beyond branding communications, as we learned. We wanted was having a brand that stood for who our future customer was going to be.

So once you figured that out, how do you go about crafting that brand?
We partnered with Liquid Agency in Silicon Valley to create a brand that speaks to the audience. They really worked with us to create the message for that audience. We got all the executive team engaged. We had very intensive messaging workshops to make sure the message that we [chose] really fit who the company would be not at launch time but also what it would be down the line.  We wanted it to be lasting and relevant.

So the brand really started with [identifying] who our target customer is for this new brand — data-driven innovators — and who the customer is — leaders in different industries who want to leverage [capabilities] for competitive advantage. The second piece of this was identifying what we can uniquely do for this data-driven innovator.

We are really about delivering business outcomes as well as outcomes for society. We call this the double bottom line. We are not here just to help business succeed, which is important, but we also have a greater purpose — that the societies we live in and operate in are better do to the work the work we do. The topline of the brand is changing the way the world works through data.

Tell us about the name, Hitachi Vantara.
Naming a company is not an easy proposition and it was something that we wanted to do differently. Within Hitachi we have a very straight forward descriptive naming. But with this new company we wanted to paint a very interesting future that would not be limited by who we are today, but have room for growth. We wanted to take a leap and take a new name that didn’t have any associated meaning to it, a name we would create over time.

We worked on a name with (the naming agency) Catchword. We also wanted people to know that while we were creating something new, our offerings…social innovation, data-driven solutions, virtualization technology…were going to come with us and be a key part of our strategy. Advantage was another element, that everything we do at Hitachi Vantara is rooted in customer value. Vantara is having a vantage point, having insights into data.

You made introducing the name of the brand a media event in its own right by debuting it at the NEXT conference.
We worked quite closely with our agency partner Edelman on rolling out the name. We had all the global press and analysts at (at the NEXT conference in Las Vegas). We had the CEO of Hitachi Limited announce the name from the main stage. We wanted to show that Hitachi was really excited about this new company, that we are definitely a growth engine for Hitachi going forward.

Our employee base was a tremendous part of the launch too; We had close to 40 celebrations all over the world in offices from Kuala Lumpur to Paris to announce the new name. People were running toward all the cakes, thinking they had the name on it. It was such an exciting way to get employees excited about a great milestone.

Being able to launch Vantara at a big event like NEXT must have helped the effort?
We really wanted to go to great quality coverage, and ensuring that (attendees) had a multi-touch experience. We gave press analysts preview right before the keynote, so they got the scoop, and the color and motivation for the new company. That really helped set the tone of the coverage moving forward. We had an in-house team that did a tremendous amount of work partnering with industry analysts so they understood our strategy. We appreciated people spending time in Las Vegas with us and we wanted to reward that.

So now the company is up and running. Where does that leave you?
The launch to me was really day one. You don’t build a brand overnight. Part of the fun is that this a multi-year process…the whole concept of the double bottom line, helping society along the way, the internal culture and external ways of working. This is just the beginning.

I would say the one thing that really surprised me was just how much my organization and global [communications] helped to be a glue for the wider team. When you roll out a new brand, it’s not just a marketing or a communications endeavour. It’s a close partnership with HR, IT, finances, sales, services … you name it. I think people were willing to do whatever it took because they believed in it.