Awards case study: DigiPlex wins gold for 'Best use of content marketing'
“Every time you browse the internet, stream a television series, use social media or log in to your internet bank, a process starts in a data centre. If that data centre is a power-hungry, coal-red one, you are contributing to climate change – most likely unknowingly.” Fredrik Jansson, CSMO DigiPlex.
Artificial Intelligence, IoT, cloud and social media all have one thing in common; they all physically reside inside a data centre. Today, data centres are responsible for 3% of the world's power consumption and 2% of carbon emissions. By 2025, these figures are predicted to have increased to 20% of global power consumption and 5.5% of carbon emissions.
Data centres are clearly becoming one of the most pressing environmental concerns of our time. However, there has been very little media debate around the issue and hence limited incentive for the data centre industry to talk about and address this problem.
2019 saw Greta Thunberg as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. Climate change is now recognised as climate crisis, and all businesses must put sustainability at the heart of their operations. Data centres can no longer be IT’s 'dirty little secret' – it’s time to come clean.
About the company
DigiPlex designs, builds and operates sustainable data centres in the Nordic region. In operation for almost 20 years, DigiPlex is one of Europe's longest-standing data centre operators and leading in the Nordics. Its five data centres are powered by electricity produced from 100% sustainable sources, and the company has won several awards for its many energy efficient innovations and sustainability initiatives. DigiPlex is a privately owned and independent company, operationally as well as financially.
Strategy – broader business issues the company is facing
Despite a 20-year track record, DigiPlex had limited presence in the media and low brand awareness among decision-makers. The low media profile and lack of c-level awareness was starting to affect the sales pipeline.
DigiPlex had to increase its awareness and build its sales pipeline to stay competitive, whilst placing sustainability at the core.
Objectives of the campaign
DigiPlex took a brave decision to completely overhaul its brand and messaging to focus on the one issue most others chose to avoid: carbon emissions, energy efficiency and sustainability. The company took a strategic bet that becoming 'the voice of sustainable data centres' would increase demand for its environmentally friendly data centres. But it would not be easy. A 2016 survey of decision-makers showed that sustainability was the least important of 24 criteria when selecting a data centre. And the team was not going to get any budget increase. To meet the stretch target, three strategic initiatives were implemented:
- Build a marcomms machine targeted at c-level: The DigiPlex brand had traditionally communicated to a technical IT manager level audience. DigiPlex needed to make a strategic shift in both the way it communicated and the 'look and feel' of the brand. The team revised and upgraded the communication channel structure. This involved innovative ideas, thought leadership as well as 'out of the box' thinking and creativity.
- Fuel it with sustainability-led thought leadership content: A new message platform that caters to the CXO suite was created. This involved a shift from using less technical information and industry jargon to more strategic and visionary content centered around sustainability. The team has created multiple thought leadership pieces that have seen widespread adoption in both traditional and social media and resulted in hundreds of incoming leads.
- Find and activate influencers and amplifiers: CXOs of several customers, including Microsoft, AWS, Intility, Netnod, Verisec and NIX, have participated in joint activities focused on sustainability, such as press releases, journalist outreach, social media campaigns and case studies. These smartly executed initiatives have significantly strengthened both the DigiPlex brand and the brands of the customers. The team also initiated an awards programme with the idea that winning external environmental awards would help elevate the sustainability issue around data centres and amplify DigiPlex solutions.
The target audience
- CXO suite of large companies.
- Difficulty factors: the topic – environmental and sustainability responsibilities.
Media, channels or techniques used
All channels would be utilised:
- Media: The PR structure was revised and new messaging with sustainability at the core implemented. Fuelled by thought leadership geared towards CXOs, DigiPlex has featured in international publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, as well as frequently in the Nordic press. The media reach in 2019 amplified from 122 million to 551 million – an increase of 451% on 2018.
- Social media: The existing LinkedIn and Twitter channels were re-branded, and the tone of voice altered to reflect the new sustainability-centric thought leadership led approach. As an example, a short-animated video outlining how DigiPlex's data centre will be re-using waste heat to warm up 10,000 Stockholm apartments has been viewed online more than 1 million times! The overall reach on social media increased by 167% in 24 months.
- Digital advertising: SEO optimisation and clever Ad Words targeting makes DigiPlex trend at position #1 when searching Google for various data centre and sustainability related keywords in DigiPlex's primary markets.
- Native ads: The top c-level publications in the primary Nordic markets were approached for editorial space. DigiPlex piloted several initiatives with media houses, and averaged almost 40,000 readers per article, with an average reading time of 1.33 minutes. An article in DiDigital around 'Dirty Data' was read by 125,000 people, 1.25% of the Swedish population - A Native ad record!
- Events: The event mix was changed from previously including only pure data centre events where most attendees are vendors or competitors (i.e. people who wish to sell to DigiPlex) to include a set of strategic events now also attended by the c-suite (people who can potentially buy DigiPlex services). One example is the Swedish CIO awards. This is the IT industry’s 'Oscars', attended by the CIOs of the 250 largest firms in Sweden. Only three 'sell-side' partner organisations are allowed – DigiPlex is one of those and handed out the award for the most sustainable project a CIO has executed.
- Account-based marketing: To fuel the sales pipeline, an IP-controlled, highly targeted online ad campaign was launched to a list of target accounts to raise concern over their digital environmental footprint. Incoming leads went up by 1000+% and DigiPlex's marcomm efforts have had a measurable impact on all new contracts.
Timescales of the campaign
The transformation project started in mid-2018 as DigiPlex planned its goals and budget for the coming year. It was then implemented, ran throughout 2019, and is still running today.
2019 marcomm budget: £750,000 for all initiatives.
The stretch targets of doubling the brand awareness, reach and incoming leads on a flat budget have not only been met – they have been exceeded.
Brand Awareness: DigiPlex's c-level brand awareness increased from 12% to 56%. DigiPlex is now the data centre operator with the highest brand awareness amongst Nordic decision-makers.
Incoming leads: The number of incoming leads grew by 1000%, and new contracts signed in 24 months were up by 470%. DigiPlex is now the clear Nordic leader.
Reach: Media reach and social media reach increased by 451% and 167%, respectively. A 2018 survey shows that 'sustainability' is the fastest growing concern for data centre decision-makers, up from place 24 in 2016 to place 4 in 2018 – a testament to DigiPlex's ability to raise urgent awareness of the issue.
Fredrik Jansson, DigiPlex CSMO
“The exponential results of the marketing transformation have positioned us for rapid growth. DigiPlex has taken the Nordic leadership position in the industry with a huge industry buzz and very healthy pipeline. Our marcomm transformation is a result of true teamwork and it is great to see that it’s having a business impact. Our fantastic brand ambassadors will continue to put 'sustainability at the core' and challenge conventional thinking around data centres through pioneering marketing and communication efforts.”