Archive for July, 2010
Why category positioning is paramount to building a successful technology brand.
During the first part of this series we spoke about the importance of defining your business category and brand positioning. The second part focused on the approach and type of insights you must acquire before entering the strategic phase. To finalize this series, we need to explore ideation; defining your category, crafting a winning position and establishing brand strategy.
First of all, ask yourself and your team a very simple question. Does your current and future business model/strategy and offering fit into an existing category that is clearly recognized and defined by your audience and qualified industry analyst (such as Gartner or Forrester)?
If the answer is yes, then you can craft a well-defined category description base upon the current interpretation and competitive considerations set, but more importantly you must now clearly understand who already owns what in the category and determine what positioning will give you the greatest value and differentiation.
Clearly if any of your competitors already own a positioning space that’s seated in the mind of your audience, stay away from trying to take it over. In our experience this is a losing proposition. Remember how your customers think. They will know you for ONE thing (as the accompanying video so poignantly points out).
So pick something you can own long term. Something fresh. Something new. And that usually starts with being first at something.
A good way to start thinking about a winning position and brand strategy is to ask yourself a few questions to generate ideas. Here’s a few things to think about:
1. What are you good at?
2. What do you love to do?
3. What can you be famous for?
(Thank you to Tom Peters for providing this wonderful way to explore brand positioning.)
Once you’ve articulated these thoughts, put yourself to the test of trying to narrow it down to one word or simple idea. Remember, the more narrow the focus the stronger the technology brand. Throughout history most great technology brands can be articulated in a word or two.
Dell owned personal (before it was commoditized). Linksys owned networking before they were bought by Cisco. And Cisco is trying to own Human Network. And the list goes on.
So you see, it must be simple. It must be believable. It must be relevant and most importantly it has to be defendable! These are always good criteria to put against your thinking.
But what happens if you don’t fit into a category? What happens when Gartner or Forrester don‘t recognize or have a category that fits your business? Well, that’s a little tougher.
Basically you’ve got a few options:
1. Work with Gartner or Forrester to co-develop the category (this takes time and money).
2. Identify the category you are closest too and tweak the definition slightly so your audience understands but gets a refreshed view and new spin on it.
3. Create a new category. This is the most courageous/interesting and potently valuable. However, it’s also tricky and takes considerable thinking, making it a great idea for the subject of a future blog.
Technically speaking, understanding what business you are in and defining your category and position is fundamental to growth and building value. But that’s just my opinion, what’s yours?
I hope you enjoyed this series, please submit your comments, experiences and suggestions on other topics you’d like to discuss. Best of luck with your businesses.
Who is part of the Brand Council and what are its functions and processes?
Last time, we talked about why almost all companies, technology companies especially, need a Brand Council. Technology companies in particular struggle to enhance the value of their brands by aligning their activities to deliver a fulfilling customer experience beyond the functional and/or technological benefits they offer. All genres of technology are being replicated more and more quickly each year, and customers are getting more and more sophisticated.
The beautiful and invaluable thing to remember about a great technology brand is that it can’t be copied.
Constituting a Brand Council for technology-focused companies
We suggest following two guiding principles to determine who should be a member of your Brand Council:
1. Your Brand Council should have a senior representative from each functional area, since all areas impact the delivery of your brand promise, including:
· C-suite management
· Human Capital Resources
· Public/Investor Relations
· Research and Development
We recommend that you also retain an external consulting partner to maintain an objective point of view and provide your Brand Council with current and top branding strategies.
2. A member of senior management should be your Brand Council Leader. This individual should represent the importance and visibility that your organization wishes to give to the brand. We recommend a CEO or COO. The Brand Council should also have a Chair who is responsible for setting the agendas and directing the meetings.
The Brand Council provides strategic brand governance in five categories:
1. Creation/management of the brand
2. Challenges and opportunities for the brand
3. Brand compliance
4. Brand measurement and refinement
5. Brand culture
Beyond “Logo Police”
Following are the types of issues that you may encounter in your Brand Council, grouped into the five categories introduced above.
1. Brand Creation/Brand Management
a. Alignment between business strategy and brand strategy
What is our business strategy, including our short- and long-term business objectives? How does the brand strategy bring this business strategy to life?
b. Business objectives formulation and assessment
How can we leverage the brand to achieve our business objectives (i.e., revenue growth, cost reduction, market share growth, etc.)? How have these objectives changed in the last year/quarter and what impact could these have on the brand?
c. Product and /or service portfolio decisions
Which products/services complement the brand direction and, therefore, warrant a current or future investment? Conversely, which products/services should be rationalized because they no longer match with the brand promise? What is the best ongoing process to review our portfolio?
2. Brand Opportunities and Challenges
a. Operational choices and decisions
How should the brand promise guide everyday operational issues and/or decisions (e.g., work quality, defect rates, product design, response times, communication gaps, product line or service gaps)? Conversely, how do these operational issues and/or decisions affect the brand?
b. Customer targeting
Which new customers are most likely to benefit from the values, objectives and promise that our brand stands for?
c. Merger and acquisition evaluation
When evaluating potential mergers or acquisitions, which organization(s) would complement our existing brand promise? How do these organizations fit into our existing portfolio? What would be the brand implications of merging with or acquiring these organizations? How can we manage the brand to maximize value for an upcoming liquidity or merger event?
d. Prospective partner assessment
Which potential co-branding partnerships will align with our brand promise and values? Which of these partnerships might be most beneficial for building brand equity?
e. Competitive analysis and response
How does the brand help us differentiate ourselves and de-position our competitors? How can the brand dictate our response to competitive activity?
3. Brand compliance
How do advertising, communications, signage, online and other applications of our identity (e.g., logo, visual vocabulary, language and tone of voice) align with our guidelines for consistent brand expression? Should there be differences in brand expression in the organization and, if so, what are these differences? What are the challenge areas (e.g., too many versions of the logo, inconsistent execution across applications) in the expression of the brand?
4. Brand measurement and refinement
General brand assessment What is the state of the brand (e.g., metrics definition and tracking, findings and implications from any recent brand research, recent media mentions, share of brand choice, etc.)? How do we measure the brand’s performance against the competition in a changing marketplace?
5. Brand culture
a. Brand culture assessment
How deeply are our employees engaged with the brand? How well are our brand attributes being embraced internally to help shape desired behaviors and attitudes? What new programs should we develop to keep people engaged and “living” the brand?
b. Customer touchpoint management
How well have the multiple interactions that customers have with the organization been considered and aligned with the brand? Have touchpoints been mapped and analyzed for improvement so that investment can be directed to those that have the greatest potential for positive impact on the customer experience?
Next time, in Part 3 of 3, we’ll look at specific ways to turbo charge your Brand Council, and pitfalls to avoid.
Why category positioning is paramount to building a successful technology brand.
Last week we spoke about the importance of defining the category in which a technology company competes in order to develop an effective brand position. This week we are going to focus on how to approach the assignment and what you need to know to make it successful.
First of all, timing is everything.
If your tech company does not see an immediate need, the likelihood for the project to be successful will be slim. Basically, you have a few options. Wait for some major change that invokes the discussion of re-examining the positioning (like a merger/acquisition or new product/market direction) or you can create evidence (quantitative or qualitative) for the need. Take caution when developing the latter. In our experience, technology brands must take individual opinions out of the equation and use research to justify the need.
A sure fire way to create internal buy-in is to conduct the questioning we discussed in Part 1 of this series. Having your executive team reveal their understanding and thoughts as it relates to brand positioning usually gets the group talking about the need to re-examine.
Another suggestion would be conducting a simple survey to existing customers and prospects. There is nothing like fresh research to help understand the current perceptions of your brand positioning and category considerations. Lastly, if your organization is consultant friendly, it’s never a bad idea to have a third-party organization come in to give you an assessment that roles up both internal and external perceptions. Remember, if you don’t get buy-in from the executive group, you are in for a big challenge. You must develop the need.
Developing your category definition and brand positioning is not just a marketing exercise. It is a business exercise and decision that must involve your executive leadership in order for you to be successful.
Once you have buy-in from your team, it’s critical to establish a specific process with defined deliverables that everyone understands and agrees upon. Timing will be critical. Once the project starts it’s extremely important to keep momentum going for the group to stay engaged because you need to have the executive group involved throughout the process. Basically they need to commit to a few meetings and an hour-long, in-depth interview.
A typical brand development assignment of this nature generally takes around 90 days from start to presentation of final recommendations. Our brand consultants suggest getting brand strategy going with a simple kickoff meeting to familiarize the group with the process, expected outcome and their roles in the project. Fundamentally you and your selected technology brand experts need to guide the group through the assessment and discovery phase.
Here are the core pieces of the research. Make sure you not only roll up the findings into insights, but also suggest what the research will mean to the project.
1. Internal Insights: Personal interview with executives and survey of management and employees to capture strengths/weakness/gaps
2. External Insights: Customer/Prospects and industry experts (like Gartner) perceptions and driving influences
3. Competitive Review: Mapping of competitors positioning and brand strategy
4. Market Dynamics: Clear understanding of the current dynamics and future considerations/influences
Once armed with this insightful information you are fully prepared to discuss the strategic paths to developing a well-defined category definition and brand position for differentiation and growth.
In the final installment of this series, we will explore what it takes to develop winning positioning and how to build a technology brand for optimal performance.
Category positioning is paramount to building a successful technology brand
During the last several months, I have had the opportunity to work with several well-known technology brands. Interestingly enough, although they are distinctively different in size, business model and longevity in the market, each technology brand shares the same business challenge: defining what category best describes their business, and how to position themselves within the competitive environment.
Our team of brand experts believes if you don’t get the category right or cannot arrive at a differentiating position, nothing else matters. So often, we find corporations throwing massive amounts of budget and resources into category positioning that is off-target and irrelevant. They are often left wondering why their branding and marketing is ineffective. Does this sound familiar?
Why is this a common problem amongst technology brands?
Unlike other established traditional consumer markets, technology is always evolving—it’s a moving target. New markets are constantly emerging enticing companies to forge into areas that are outside of their defined consideration set. Additionally, technology companies think in terms of technology rather than branding and marketing. However, category and brand positioning are not just a marketing decision; it’s a business decision that must be embraced and aligned with company executives.
In addition, research companies like Gartner and Forrester define categories that often influences technology brands. Yet these innovative technologies and companies do not always fit into an existing consideration set, which can present a challenge.
The bottom line is the technological industry is always changing, but does this mean your brand positioning needs to change? In order to answer that question, start by asking yourself or your team a few simple questions. This will determine if your company is internally aligned. You might be amazed at the response:
1. What business are we in? Describe.
2. Define the category of business in which we compete.
3. Are we positioned correctly against the competition? Describe.
4. What does our brand stand for?
If you cannot clearly articulate answers to these questions, or if your team is not aligned, imagine what your customers, prospects and market must be thinking?
Do not fret, for you are not alone. These are common issues that most brands deal with when change has occurred. The bigger question is how to develop a brand strategy and process? What is the best way to team up in order to deliver the type of thinking needed to develop the right brand strategies and path to move forward?
Next week, in part two of this three-piece series, we will explore how and what you need to think about when developing your moving forward brand strategies.