Posts Tagged ‘b2b branding’
Originally posted on Namedroppings
CA, the company formerly known as Computer Associates, is displaying all the characteristics of Hamlet. It is a company that can’t make up its mind.
Founded in 1976 as Computer Associates International, Inc., the company legally changed its corporate name to CA, Inc., in February 2006 while in the midst of a $2.2 billion fraud investigation that had dogged it for four years.
Explaining the name change at the time, CEO John Swainson said:
“CA is a changed company, but not an entirely new company. We’ve taken the strengths of the past and combined them with new initiatives, strategies and ideas to ensure CA is the clear industry leader in meeting the evolving information technology needs of customers.”
Fair enough – changed but not new. The company had to move forward and CA was, after all, the informal shorthand for the company.
This week the company announced it had changed it’s name again – this time to CA Technologies. Explaining this change, new CEO Bill McCracken, said:
“The name CA Technologies both acknowledges our past yet points to our future as a leader in delivering the technologies that will revolutionize the way IT powers business agility.”
Spot the difference?
While the latest statement does make reference to the current industry buzz-term “business agility”, the two statements are identical in their sentiment and intent. There is nothing to help us understand the logic of the addition of ‘technologies’ in the CA name.
Marianne Budnik, chief marketing officer, did add: “The brand and name change to CA Technologies was designed with insights from nearly 700 customers, partners and market thought leaders.”
This begs the question – insights into what, specifically? I would hazard a guess: CA hasn’t worked as a name. It was a hasty, myopic decision made at a time the company needed to distance itself from a debilitating scandal. CA was the easy choice, but the wrong choice. It just wasn’t thought through.
The pros and cons of initials as corporate names aside (more on this later), CA works visually when connected to the original name, Computer Associates, as in the amended logo introduced in 2001. Dropping the Computer Associates name from the logo was probably regarded as a minor adjustment. And as the internal rationale probably went: competitors such as IBM, HP and BMC do just fine with initials, so why can’t we?
Well, disconnected from Computer Associates, CA becomes problematic for a number of reasons.
Unlike IBM, HP and BMC, CA has no hard letter sounds. Consequently, CA it is not heard as two distinct initials, C and A. It is heard as ‘seeyay’.
Seeyay? Come again. Oh, you mean C-A, the old Computer Associates?
CA is nothing but a weak proxy for Computer Associates, a whiter shade of pale. It is too phonetically lightweight and nondescript as a name and simply not robust enough to acquire meaning of its own.
The other not insignificant problem – Google CA and up come pages of reference to California. CA means California first and foremost.
A new CEO brings in a new perspective. Bill McCracken decides change is necessary and this time it will be based on research. Hence, the insights Ms. Budnik mentioned from nearly 700 customers, partners and market thought leaders. But they were probably in response to a very specific question concerning the CA name, and very likely centered on preferences between modifiers such as CA Software, CA Solutions and CA Technologies, etc.
Only in such a range of soft options could CA Technologies emerge as a winner. ‘Technologies’ is a verbal Band Aid and adds nothing other than a glottal stop to a very inadequate name.
This latest name change amounts to little more than fiddling around the problem, and in doing so CA creates another problem for itself.
In her statement, Ms. Budnik also said the name was “developed to ensure that we tell a consistent story in the market that reflects the full breadth and depth of what we offer.”
A redundant word in a name makes for inconsistency, not consistency. ‘Technologies’ is a such word. Lucent Technologies was always referred to just as Lucent, for example. No doubt CA Technologies will appear on things the company can control, such as corporate signage, stationery and collateral. But in all other cases it will be CA. The company’s ticker symbol is still CA, it’s URL is still ca.com, and the company still defaults to CA in references to itself on its website. It will still be CA in headlines, analyst calls and in conversation. Where is the consistency?
Rather than finessing with the corporate name a simpler option would have been a tagline to anchor the name in some specificity for marketing purposes. EMC’s “Where information lives”, or GE’s “Imagination at work” are two of the better examples.
The better and braver option for Computer Associates would have been to change the name of the company in 2006 when it had reason and opportunity to, the accounting scandal apart. While Computer Associates’ success was built on mainframe software a different future beckons, one in which companies manage their technology in what the industry calls the “cloud.” The name should have claimed that future unequivocally.
Is it just me or is the tech industry finally getting back to investing in their brands?
For some tech companies this may be good news, but for others it may be too late.
Let’s face it, 2009 was pretty bleak as it relates to creative marketing. Sure there were a few brave brands that continued to push the limits and invest during this downturn but for most technology marketers 2009 seemed more like a duck and cover exercise. Most of us expected to see the typical surge from the consumer electronics industry during the holiday season, but did you anticipate big investments from some of the technology powerhouses in the fourth quarter?
Let’s start with Intel (one of my favorite B2B brands). They continued to invest in their brand as usual but took a slightly different approach by moving beyond only product advertising (applause here). They introduced their new “Rock Star” campaign—“Sponsors of Tomorrow”, featuring their people— the very thing that makes them different. This culturally driven brand expression is brilliantly displayed in a contemporary but authentic fashion. If you have not seen the spots, I strongly suggest checking them out to see how B2B branding should be done.
Next, there is Yahoo spending in excess of $100 million on re-energizing its brand with the “It’s You” campaign. Although the campaign is eloquently produced, it’s not for me. It seems like Yahoo has been on vacation during the last several years of innovation and lost its once celebrated cache. Nevertheless, they are back in the game and it will be interesting to see how consumers react, or don’t, to their welcome back positioning.
We’ve also seen Microsoft demonstrate its commitment to investing in its products by launching the Windows 7 operating system to the tune of $300 million. So what’s with the recent surge of investment by Tech firms?
That’s simple, it’s time to get back in the game—and the ones who lead the charge are the ones who reap the rewards. Let’s face it, whether you’re a large or small company, marketing is about timing and connecting. So, as you look at your own company, ask yourself a few questions. Are we poised to take advantage of the first mover position? Is our brand correctly positioned in light of the major changes in the marketplace and is our messaging strategy relevant to the current audience needs. Posing these questions to your leadership team should bring up some interesting points of view.
But that’s my point of view? What’s yours?
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?
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.