Posts Tagged ‘B2B technology brands’
Do you completely understand what a brand positioning statement does? Do you know how it is used and why it’s critical for your brand? Has your company adopted a well thought out brand positioning statement?
Well, if the answer is no to any of these questions, you should definitely keep reading. Even if you listed three yeses, there are more than likely some key insights to be taken from the insights below.
First of all, it’s best to explain the philosophy, interpretation and practicality of using such a critical strategic tool. Simply stated, a brand position statement should provide the underlying platform for all communications. It should distinguish and differentiate the company in its market by constantly articulating its point of differentiation and unique value.
More than most industries, a corporate brand positioning statement is crucial to the success of a technology company. In most cases the tech consumer is choosing the specific product based on his or her confidence in the brand. How the technology company positions itself within the marketplace is paramount in the decision buying process.
So what exactly is a brand positioning statement? It is a simple, concise written statement of the concept and parameters behind a brand meant to convey a brand’s supported point of distinction relative to competitors.
The main components of a well-crafted brand positioning statement include:
1. Definition: How does the company define itself?
2. Differentiation: What makes the company special?
3. Deliverable: What value does the company deliver to all customers?
Following this cadence and structure really forces a company to examine its brand strategy. My experience shows the most successful brands have powerful brand positioning statements that control the brand’s destiny as well as drive internal and external communication. This statement is at the heart of differentiation for every brand strategy I have developed.
As you ponder an existing brand positioning statement, or the creation of a new one, consider the following points to ensure its truly unique and differentiating.
1. Credible: Will people believe it?
2. Relevant: Will people care?
3. Unique: Can anyone else believable claim it?
4. Durable: Will it last?
5. Inspiring: Will it engage people emotionally
If you follow this thinking, you can be assured the brand positioning statement will not only be effective but also stand the test of time.
So, now what do you think about a brand positioning statement? Can a successful brand live without it?
Please send us your comments and experiences. Let’s hear some more ideas on ways to create a winning brand positioning statement.
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.
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.
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.
Why are many brands unintentionally hijacked by their own people and strategies?
There have been many papers and books written on the importance of brand alignment, employee engagement, brand adoption, call it what you may. So, why do so many companies still suffer from poor employee morale, low retention, misalignment, performance fatigue and the inability to make good on their brand promise?
To answer the question, all you need to do is look at the typical business eco-system – its structure, interactions, systems and most importantly its accountability and philosophy. For the most part, business in America is built in a departmental fashion, and the larger the company becomes, the more susceptible it is to falling into a “Silo” mentality. Obviously the “Silo” effect works against the principle of being aligned, collaborative and fully informed. When the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, they are left to their own interpretation and often work against the brand’s best intentions.
Structure is the next problem. The biggest problem here is, who is really in charge of pulling the entire picture together and reporting on its effectiveness. HR deals with internal issues, marketing controls brand, operations tries to deliver the goods and sales. So the problem is not only that “Silos” are not conducive to collaboration, but that structures typically are not built to orchestrate a bigger picture mentality and understanding of the customer experience, the internal experience and how it’s being perceived and delivered.
In addition, companies often fail to develop well thought out interactive/collaborative processes to foster “informative decision making” internally and externally. Yes, most companies have some loosely defined collaborative meeting structure but most don’t monitor the internal brand working relationship to the external delivery. Again, people and departments are left to make decisions without confirmation of alignment to the overall strategies.
One of the biggest disconnects we often experience is the division and disconnect of Marketing and HR. So often these departments work on their own strategies without coming together to fully agree and embrace how the communication content is generated and distributed. We find that successful companies and brands that co-develop strategies and shared systems experience greater unity and brand performance.
So, if you’re looking to increase the morale of your organization, improve retention, or better deliver on your customer experience and brand, here’s a few things to think about:
1. Have a holistic view. Don’t develop brand strategies as it relates to your brand experience strictly in a departmental fashion. Bring department leaders together to truly understand the internal/external workings of the brand. Develop a brand council comprised of your department leaders, to guide, instruct and monitor the internal and external brand experience.
2. Say NO to “Silos”. If this is an issue, break it down now, it will only get worse. Especially make sure Marketing and HR are collaborating in strategy and the development of monitoring metrics (and don’t leave out operations).
3. Continual innovative communication. I know it sounds obvious but people need to hear strategy over and over to get it. You must reinforce the importance of the organization to nurture and foster brilliant internal communication and to have external proof that the brand is performing to its intended standards.
If you follow these simple rules, you’ll reduce the chances of your brand being hijacked by its own people. But that’s my opinion, what’s yours?
The ongoing news about Google potentially pulling out of the China market has stirred up some very interesting points of view as it relates to sticking to your brand values versus protecting your bottom line. If you read Google’s core principles you can see why so many people are keeping a close eye on their moves as it relates to pulling out of China. It’s not just about money, it’s about principle. It’s about their brand.
When you get a chance, check out the philosophy section of Google’s website, specifically the core principles that guide their actions. Basically they have 10 statements that clearly articulate their thoughts as it relates to conducting behavior and business. I’ve always liked the concept of “clarity” and “consistency” as it relates to a company’s action, but the challenge becomes staying true to what you believe in during tough or challenging circumstances and not bending or shaping the principle to work in your favor.
In the case of Google, they clearly state, “You can make money without doing evil”. Therein lies the dilemma. In January Google outed that the December attacks that hit 34 corporate firms originated in China. Bottom line, it’s all about censorship and privacy, and Google has publically threatened to withdraw its search engine business from the Peoples Republic for these practices. But will they?
Just last Friday at the TED conference, Google co-founder Sergey Brin stated, “I want to find a way to work within the Chinese system to bring information to the people”. Really, even if the government has no intention of stopping censorship or blocking certain sites? Needless to say, there is a fine line between staying true to your brand principles and protecting your brand reputation. Careful what you ask for? Employees, customers and prospects are very savvy and will not put up with posers in this day and age. Google must be very careful to walk the walk if they want to remain one of the most courageous and admired brands of the decade. But that’s’ just my opinion. What’s yours?
Originally published on NameDroppings.com
Is a legal pad an item of personal hygiene for female layers? How about a launch pad – is that a contraption for sending Maxipads into orbit? What about ink pad? Or bachelor pad…is that for unmarried lesbians?
Pardon the puerile analogies. Of course you know what these kind of ‘pads’ are. We are familiar with them. To force interpretation of their meaning through association with a feminine hygiene pad is perverse. But that’s no worse than what happened this week with Apple’s iPad.
Within seconds of the unveiling of the iPad by Steve Jobs, Twitter lit up with women complaining and/or joking that the name immediately made them think of …iTampon.
Experts who should know better fanned the flames. “It’s an unfortunate name choice,” contended Michael Silverstein, senior vice president at Boston Consulting Group and author of “Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World’s Largest, Fastest-Growing Market.”
“They needed to do a research protocol and testing for a product that would offend no one while making clear its technical, functional and emotional benefits,” he said in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
That may be the way they think in the literal world of management consulting. What he clearly does not understand is that, when it comes to names and naming, experiential context is everything. Just is we do not suppose a cell phone is for making calls in jail, that Virgin Atlantic is an airline for the sexually inexperienced, or indeed Apple is a company that manages orchards, the iPad will create its own context and it will be become just as familiar and accepted as iPod.
The trap to guard against with new names is the natural tendency for people to associate an unfamiliar name with something that it is familiar. The statement that begins, “It reminds me of…” has led to the premature dismissal of many a good name candidate. Associations are important, but focus should be on whether the the product or company that is being named could create new, positive meaning around the word, rather than rear-view association.
There’s nothing that can be done with plain bad names such as the Ford Probe. But just imagine if iPad had been called the iTablet, which some bets were on before the launch. Would physicians be lighting up the internet advising us not to take more than two a day, and then only after meals with a glass of water? Of course not. They know what hypochondriasis is.
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?