Posts Tagged ‘aligning brand strategy and business strategy’
Welcome back to the conversation about tech brand audit. Last time we talked about the important (and difficult) strategic questions that a tech brand audit answers:
• How do customers, employees, investors and prospects really see us?
• Which brand attributes and personality do we and our competitors ‘own’?
• How much ‘permission’ does our brand(s) have to offer new products or enter new markets?
• How cohesive and compelling is our brand story and promise?
• What internal and external challenges do we face in developing and strengthening our brand to drive our business forward?
• Which touchpoints have the most impact for building our brand?
To answer these questions, usually an outside company undertakes a number of key pieces of analysis. So let’s talk about the analyses that typically comprise a brand audit, and how they help answer the strategic questions above.
Keep in mind: the ultimate purpose of tech branding is not answering tough questions or pretty logos and websites. It’s about revenue deriving from the sale of your technology/products. Revenue is driven by:
1. More people being aware of you, or increasing brand awareness.
2. The trial period of people trying your product or service.
3. Consumers preferring you and then coming back for more, or brand preference and brand loyalty.
That’s it. Period, end of story.
So what key pieces of information need to be identified to accomplish this feat? There are at least three key analyses that typically comprise a tech brand audit:
1. Competitive analysis: what competing technology providers are offering and/or copying?
2. Customer insights: how do customers think about and buy your services/technology?
3. Communications audit: how are you presenting your technology and company to the world?
I should mention here that the most critical part of brand strategy work, one almost always overlooked, is a rigorous analysis of business strategy. Brand strategy development without this critical and often difficult analysis ends up being flimsy and incomplete, even if it covers other internal, competitor and customer insights well. A thorough brand audit will highlight the specific business strategy issues that senior management needs to iron out before working on the brand.
For the purpose of this blog I’ll focus on communications audit (point number 3 above), which includes reviews of the following brand communication components:
• Data Sheets
• Case Studies
• White Papers
• Annual Reports
• Stationery/Business Cards/other branded 2D items
• Social Media
- Tradeshow Booth: Interior/exterior
- Product nomenclature/architecture
- Brand guidelines
Each of these components is reviewed with the following questions in mind:
• How cohesive and compelling is our brand story and promise?
• How effective and relevant are these pieces in communicating our unique value to the world?
• Do these support our business now?
• Do these support our plans for the future?
If any answers to these four questions are not a resounding “Yes!”, then this piece of a brand audit has done its job. Namely, highlighting areas of the brand, and possibly business strategy as well, that need rigorous and thoughtful development and execution.
Next time, I’ll give some insight into the first of two points relating to a tech brand audit: customer insights and competitive analysis.
If you have any questions or comments about a brand audit please do not be shy, I’ll be quick to respond and happy to assist your efforts.
Part 1 of 3: What is a Brand Council, and why tech companies need them
It is now commonly understood that brands represent significant corporate value and are among an organization’s most valuable assets. This value has been demonstrated in brand valuation rankings and acquisition prices worldwide.
Properly created and managed, your brand helps generate operational and economic value by:
- Enhancing awareness, consideration, trial and loyalty
- Adding value to your offering beyond price or technology, both of which can be copied
- Attracting and retaining customers with an engaging promise and experience
- Guiding and informing business decisions and activities
- Attracting and retaining top-tier talent and partners
- Easing entry into new markets
- Commanding price premiums
- Facilitating brand extensions into new products and categories
One of the most pressing challenges we address with clients is how to make business decisions that are consistent with their brand. Technology companies especially 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.
Consider the following questions:
- Our tech firm has developed a new offering/product/service. Do we need a separate brand? Why or why not?
- One or more aspects of our performance may be hurting our brand image. How can we prioritize where we should take corrective action to protect and build our brand?
- We’re considering a merger, partnership or divestiture. How might that affect our brand(s)? How do we assess which brands to use, how to transition them, over what time period, and why?
Your organization is collectively responsible for creating an expected and consistent brand experience. The challenge becomes how your organization, with its multiple layers, multiple divisions and multiple markets, comes together to address the strategic and tactical issues related to brand management.
The Brand Council defined
A Brand Council is a leadership group, led by the CEO and representative of your larger organization, with one mandate:
To ensure that business strategies, processes, decisions and actions are aligned with the brand’s positioning and values – namely, your organization’s unique promise of distinction.
This, in turn, focuses the entire organization on delivering the fulfilling customer experience that secures loyalty and future earnings. Apple’s brand practically guarantees that every new product or partnership will meet with huge demand, forgiveness for mistakes and general success. Apple has a top secret Brand Council, led by Steve Jobs and other key leaders, whose job it is to steward the brand, and with it, Apple’s success.
The Brand Council provides strategic brand governance in four 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
Next week, in Part 2 of 3, we’ll look at the specific makeup of Brand Councils around the world, the 5 functions they typically perform, and the process by which they do it.
In the final installment, in Part 3 of 3, we’ll look at specific ways to turbocharge your Brand Council, and pitfalls to avoid.
It surprises most agency professionals to learn that many marketers—both consumer and B2B—are intensely interested in exploring a value-based compensation arrangement in place of the traditional hourly rate.
A recent position paper from the Association of National Advertisers states clearly:
“Traditional metrics used in today’s cost-plus compensation agreements (usually based on time) have no relationship with the external value created for the client in today’s intellectual capital economy. Therefore, pricing should instead be based on results and value created.”
In forward-thinking companies across the country, marketing, finance, and even procurement officials are actively engaged in internal discussions around value-based compensation. If the marketing services profession isn’t more proactive in this area, clients may well be the driving force behind a change in compensation practices. And that’s ironic, because almost all pricing innovations come from sellers, not buyers.
Selling outcomes instead of hours
From a marketer’s perspective, the chief frustration with the traditional cost-based compensation system is that they’re not sure what they’re really buying. Are they buying the firm’s time? Dedicated staff? A set amount of work? In the end, they don’t really want to buy any of these things; they want to buy outcomes.
In a cost-based compensation arrangement, the client pays for efforts rather than results. Agency professionals log and charge hours regardless of the outcomes the hours produce. In a value-based arrangement, marketing firms and clients identify specific metrics of success and structure agency compensation around outputs instead of inputs.
Value-based compensation works primarily for one major reason: it aligns the interests of the agency and the client. Both parties are working to achieve the same things. They both have similar financial incentives. Structured properly, value-based compensation agreements can also give both parties similar risks and rewards.
Imagine how this could change the dynamics of an agency-client relationship. Suddenly, the concept of “partnership” takes on real meaning. Clients start to view “risky” agency recommendations differently, because they know the agency has skin in the game. A new level of trust and mutual respect emerges, because both parties have a stake in the outcome.
Value-based pricing is unquestionably where the marketing world is headed. The question is, who will get there first: agencies or their clients?
I recently read an article in BusinessWeek entitled, “Tech: The Return of Risk Taking”, it’s one of the most positive technology outlooks I’ve seen in a very long time. Basically Spencer E. Ante says, the worst of the recession is over, and it’s time to prepare for better times. Mark M. Zandi chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com predicts 4% growth for 2010 and 10% in 2011 for IT spending. Although I love the optimism, I’m not sure these outlooks are fully in tune with the entire market, especially the mid and small segments.
So, the good news is that something is finally happening. Dell’s deal for Perot Systems, eBay’s sale of Skype and Adobe’s purchase of Omniture are certainly big events for the technology sector. When the big brands start to excite the market with M&A activity, the middle market and smaller entrepreneurs will follow, but that’s going to take a while. Mid and small markets were hit the hardest and are still in operational reduction mode or stabilization mode to say the least.
But if history is any indication, America’s “Challenger Brand” mentality will prevail, especially in the technology market. I personally believe America’s brand reputation is tied not only to our technological competitive advantage but also to new and ever changing communication technology. American brands must continue to reinvent themselves to remain competitive. Lets face it, the days of leading the global economy with automobiles, electronics and commodity products are over. New rules have taken over old business models. Now, it will take courageous companies that are willing to create new categories, competitive advantages, and most importantly to take “Risk”. Yes, Risk.
This brings me to a discussion that’s happening in most every board room these days. When should we begin to reinvest in gaining market share and presence? Whether you drive your organization from an intuition based philosophy or calculated strategic risk mentality, one thing history can prove is that companies that get out into the market first reap the rewards. You’ve heard all the case studies, but do you really buy into the concept and are you willing to bet your reputation on it?
Bottom line, executives and marketers must be ready for recovery and smart ones will take risks to get ahead quicker. Nothing like a recent history lesson to validate a concept; As the 2001 recession began to rebound, the tech marketing investment (around 6%) outpaced the growth which ended up close to 5%.
That said, I have put together a quick check list of things for you to consider in your 2010 planning.
1. Create multi-tiered strategies with quarterly triggers:
Face it, the days of creating three to five year plans are a thing of the past. New rules dictate visibility of 24 months with a clear picture of Risk/Rewards scenarios on a quarterly basis. Build strategies that err on the aggressive side but are sound enough to back off slightly (no, not stop) if your budget gets squeezed.
2. Stay away from the “start and stop” syndrome.
Don’t put your company in jeopardy by starting and stopping your programs. You send mixed messages to the market and employees. It’s critical to maintain confidence in the leadership team during these uncertain times. Changing your mind frequently is not a strategy.
3. Get the story right. Bring it to life.
Remember, somebody has hit the restart button. Most markets have changed. Be realistic. You must have a clear picture of your current value proposition and competitive advantage. Don’t put your company in jeopardy by investing in a tired or irrelevant message. Stop, reset and validate your brand strategy. Maybe it’s time to rebrand?
4. Try something new. Nothing risked is nothing gained.
If there was ever a time to try something new, it’s now. Consider the change in customer behavior. The social media explosion has brought the customer smack dab into the middle of the conversation and influence. Traditional media ideas have left the building. Every statistic you read says digital media budgets are replacing traditional spending. If you have not built a new customer acquisition strategy/plan with digital media as a primary consideration, now is the time. The risk of not trying is greater than the risk of getting out there.
5. Re-Energize your staff.
It goes without saying, these are tough times for the American workforce. Your employees are under incredible pressure to deliver. Most organizations look radically different than they did a year ago. Take time to fully engage employees in your strategy and align them with the key initiatives. (Alan’s engaging employees slide deck). You can’t afford the risk of having employees standing on the side lines. Celebrate every positive win possible and remember when business was fun.
So, as 2010 approaches, what’s your risk strategy? What will you be doing differently? I’d love to hear?
Originally posted on B2BBrandDebate
On the surface this question presents some quick responses and initial thoughts as it relates to an external point of view. Most professionals would agree, re-brand when it becomes irrelevant or tired to the end customer, or when it loses its competitive advantage or differentiation. Certainly re-branding is critical when several companies or brands are merged together and have developed a new point of distinction–not re-branding in this situation can be dangerous and confusing. These are all obvious rational reasons, but B2B branders today need to address the current conditions and how it’s affecting internal B2B brands and their ability to stay relevant and motivated.
With the recent financial turmoil, most all companies are being forced to re-think just about everything. Will the existing business model and strategy continue work? Do we have the right leadership? How can we retain the key talent? How do we cut costs without cutting into the core? And how do we best communicate the changes that are happening? And most importantly, how do we keep our people motivated?
Whenever B2B companies and their employees undergo the type of radical changes most are experiencing it’s time to step back, re-think the internal brand strategy, re-consider the communication delivery and determine if the current internal brand needs to be freshened up, re-branded or just re-communicated.
Asking the following 5 questions to your leadership team, managers and employees can help you evaluate the situation quickly and provide direction:
1. Has our purpose changed? What is it?
2. Is our vision still relevant and inspiring? What is it?
3. Is our mission current, clear and distinctive? What is it?
4. Do our employees understand our strategy and how it relates to their role? What is it?
5. Are we communicating properly? How are we measuring?
So, when is the right time to re-brand? Depends on the answer to your questions. But most likely, the answers are inside.
Let me know what you think.
Originally posted on B2BBrandDebate
If you were asked to randomly search 15-20 B2B technology brands online, you’d probably come to the same conclusion. Most are boring. But why? You’d think innovative companies would breathe innovation into their brands. But that’s not the case. Here’s my conclusion and most importantly a few ideas for technology executives and marketers to explore.
Peter Drucker said it best: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two, and only two, basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” Well, most successful technology companies get the innovation part down, but struggle with understanding the role and expectation of marketing/branding. Let’s be real, technology companies only really start thinking about branding and marketing when they have to. And it’s very difficult to educate a technologist on the importance of branding and marketing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “the leaders of the company don’t get it and don’t know what it costs.” The result: boring brands and uninteresting branding. So, what can we do about it? Here are a few things to consider:
1. Know your audience. Talk in their language.
First of all, you’re not selling branding, you’re selling hope and future business success. So, you need to find the hot buttons of the sponsor you are trying to educate. Start by identifying the benefits. CEOs need to hear about maximizing the corporate value (get the category and story right for increased profits). CMOs want to demonstrate preference for increased pricing (smart branding can drive market share). COOs need to understand how internal branding can align the organization (increased performance). And smart CFOs need to know how brand strategy can help during M&A (eliminate risk and maximize investment).
2. Demonstrate versus complicate.
Another way to help executives understand what great brands are made of is to find relevant examples that allow them to visualize themselves. For example, if you are in the B2B midmarket software space, go find examples of outstanding work they can relate to. But make sure you link it back to a clear business strategy/brand strategy and examples of fresh marketing. Excite you audience with what’s possible. Set the bar high.
3. Have a process. Get buy-in for the deliverables.
Two quick points here: follow a proven best practice process and make sure everyone has a clear understating of the deliverables. It’s critical to have your executives on board before the creation phase begins. Building a world class B2B brand starts at the top. Don’t think you create it in isolation and expect them to buy off. This just does not work. Remember you’re selling hope and imagination.
4. Be courageous.
Lastly, great brands are created by people with courage to try new things. Don’t resort to mimicking safe strategies. Find greatness and promote it fearlessly. Remember your job is to inspire and create. And if you do it right, you’ll be rewarded for the efforts and leave a wonderful legacy.
But that’s just my point of view. What’s yours?