Posts Tagged ‘branding’
Conducting a brand creation or re-branding assignment can be one of the most rewarding experiences for a marketer. But for some folks it can be a daunting task that leaves the organization with a bad taste in its mouth for branding based on one terrible experience.
Throughout the years I have heard horror stories and experienced the good, bad and ugly of branding first hand. That’s why I wanted to give you a list to help circumvent the pitfalls so many technology brands succumb to.
Here is my Top 10 list of what not to do when it’s time to conquer brand development.
1. No commitment from C-Level suite.
It is number one for a reason. If you do not have strong support from the top a branding effort is worthless and doomed for failure. Rarely can a successful brand strategy be pushed from the bottom up. Take it from experience. It simply does not work.
2. Lack of buy-in from top executives.
Connected to the first point, executive buy-in is mission critical. You will earn the support of top execs by introducing the process, expectations and specific deliverables. Ensure the executive team understands the goal and owns the outcome to secure their buy-in. For if you do not have a nod from the top, it’s highly unlikely the initiative will survive let alone thrive.
3. Setting the wrong expectations.
Specify expectations, deliverables and budget before starting the project. Do not fall into the trap of thinking the brand development process will resolve every issue. Collaboration and coordination with key stakeholders across all levels and departments of the company is critical. For example if you cannot articulate a well thought out market strategy, you won’t be able to articulate a thoughtful brand position and vice versa.
4. Absence of a cohesive process.
The process should be your best friend. If you’re not using a proven plan of attack that involves internal and external as well as competitive insights, simply stop. A smart process allows you to weed out opinions that are not supported by validated research. Anything else is fool’s gold.
5. Focusing on opinions from legacy employees can kill the process.
You’ve got to remove opinions from the equation at some point in the process to move your thinking forward. Focus on getting a current snap shot of your customers’ understanding of the category. Learn how customers view your brand against the competition. Lastly, it’s imperative you understand what is currently owned by the competition. Creating a brand position that’s currently occupied by a competitor is not a good thing. Believe me, it’s happened.
6. Failure to know category definition.
For technology companies this is a must. Often we see companies build brand strategies that are not aligned with an existing category definition. Understand where you fit according to Gartner or Forrester. Technology buyers rely on these organizations to validate their purchasing decisions. If you do not know where you fit, develop a strategy and path. Never start the brand positioning process until your team agrees on the category definition.
7. Without a clear position, you’re dead.
Every step puts you closer to an intelligent conversation on the most important topic of brand positioning. If you don’t have complete alignment on the position do not move forward with developing the brand expression. This is where the rubber hits the road. Create a positioning statement that clearly demonstrates your differentiation. This is paramount to having your executives agree to deliver brilliant creative. Lack of agreement is just cause to stop moving forward.
8. Boring brand creative expression will not go far.
Just because you’re a technology company does not mean your brand expression should be boring. This is a time to set the bar for the industry. With solid positioning you can create better brand expression and design. Push it. People remember fresh and new.
9. Employees must not only ‘get it’, but also love it and live it.
You’re only as good as the people who represent you. The worst thing you can do is create a promising brand and not have your people understand what it means and how it effects their role. Successful branding strategies usually start from the inside out. Begin with employees first before working your way out to the external marketplace.
10. Manage your brand, or it will be managed for you.
The best technology brands in the world start with a philosophy and process on how they manage the brand. They develop a well thought out management system and standards to guide the brand. The last thing you want is to have people and marketers making arbitrary decisions on how the brand should be represented and managed. This is the difference between building a mediocre brand or world-class brand.
Before embarking upon a branding journey, consider all the things that could steer the ship in the wrong direction. Knowing what could possibly go wrong will give you a better shot at staying on course.
But this is just the view from where I sit at our branding firm. What would you add or change from this list? I welcome all comments and input for other blog topics you would like to explore.
Best of luck with your brands.
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.
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.
Originally posted on Namedroppings
Apple’s iPad tablet device is shipping April 3 and already it’s looking like another hit for Steve Jobs…yes, in spite of initial reaction to the name.
I must admit, I am bemused by the continuing name controversy. Admittedly, for women of a certain age it is entirely understandable they would connect the word ‘pad’ to a hygiene product in free association. In context, however, that association would be drastically minimized.
When we speak of launch pads, legal pads, bachelor pads, ink pads or pad locks we know exactly what is being referred to. There are no jokes, snickers or shudders when someone asks for a note pad. In such contextual instances, association of the word ‘pad’ to a feminine hygiene product is not only unlikely, it is perverse.
So it will be with the Apple iPad. It will come to mean the computing platform of the future without anyone blinking an eye (see Walt Mossberg’s comments in the Wall Street Journal).
In naming, context is everything.
Oddly, the prevailing negative views about the iPad name are coming from men. For some reason have assumed the banner of female disdain and just can’t get beyond the tampon. How their minds work is a matter for them and their psychologists.
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?
Originally posted on EnergyBranding
Walking across the floor at Solar Power International conference and expo in Anaheim, it was easy to imagine stroll through a Turkish market. Instead of the visual whirl of textiles and scent of exotic fragrances, the air was abuzz with the earnest pitch of a solar vendors, about 900 of them. Welcome to the great solar bazaar.
The territory is solar and there are thousands of companies scrambling to stake a claim. An overpowering whirl of sound-alike solar names – just get ’sun’ or ’sol’ in there, is reminiscent of the Internet bubble when it was just enough to have dot com in your name, never mind the business model. This is clearly an industry in the “tornado” as Geoffrey Moore characterized it in “Crossing the chasm”. It is a dynamic phase in the technology adoption lifecycle, and solar is a technology to produce electricity. In this phase, the branding imperative is simply volume, getting the name out there and building awareness. It’s all about the technology still. Incremental increases in solar panel efficiency are claimed as major differentiators. The collective imperative is cost reduction in pursuit of the holy grail of grid parity – and the inevitable rush towards commoditization, and then oblivion for most.
The great solar shakeout is surely at hand.
It’s been a seminal year economically for the entire industry. The housing bust and the credit crunch have put tremendous pressure on manufacturers worldwide to cut costs. The stage is set for a leaner, meaner industry. Very few startups will be around in three years. Technology innovation will not save them.
Another distinguishing feature of Moore’s Tornado is the emergence of categories and deep segments. Companies with powerful brands move in to dominate those categories with presence and scale. In the case of the Internet the category winners are Cisco (networking), Google (search),Oracle (RDBMS), SAP (ERP), Microsoft (software). Brand becomes the great differentiator built on a superior end user experience. Technology becomes product features.
In the solar energy category chain the race is still wide open. At B2C end of the spectrum several strong regional/national brands will emerge that forge a strong bond with residential/commercial customers based on consultation, service and trust. Think of the consolidation of the telecommunications industry. Technology will be a product in a specifier’s catalog. At the B2B end Applied Materials already has a strong awareness and respect and also has a major commitment to a future in solar. The challenge for the Applied’s, Sharp’s and Kyocera’s is to leverage a brand which is known for one thing into a market that is related, but distinctly different in its customer characteristics.
SunPower is doing an interesting job of building awareness across the entire spectrum of categories, from residential to utility scale, albeit in select markets. In the 2008 annual report the company states: “In today’s economic and competitive environment, brand is becoming an even more important differentiator and a significant competitive advantage.” Fine as far as it goes but awareness, aided or unaided, is not brand building.
Can SunPower’s awareness building be sustained across such a wide industry sweep when other brands begin to dominate narrower categories? The guess is that SunPower will eventually coalesce its business focus and brand building on a narrower category.
Branding, especially in a technology-based industry like solar, is not about generating awareness. It’s a framework for thinking about your reason for being. It’s a way of continuously sensing people’s desires and rapidly delivering compelling value to satisfy those desires. It’s about being constantly on the lookout for ways to connect with people and “go deep” into your relationship with them, and their relationship with you and each other. It’s about new processes, new business models, new ways of thinking, and new ways of interacting.
Forget about trying to differentiate through incremental technological advances. Today’s breakthrough is tomorrow’s commodity. Stay tuned in and connected to the living, breathing marketplace of your audience’s fears, challenges, and aspirations, and build your brand around that.
Alan spoke at the Solar Power International Conference last week on Building Brand Recognition.
Originally posted on B2BBrandDebate
Geoffrey Moore, best-selling author of “Dealing with Darwin” and others, recently posted on his blog that, for B2B companies, the “impact of brand is dramatically muted,” and that “brand value…has virtually no relevance to B2B complex systems enterprises.” No doubt, Moore is a brilliant business strategist, but these statements give me doubts about his expertise when it comes to brand strategy. At the very least, I disagree with his assessment of the impact a strong brand can have in the B2B arena.
Moore touches on the idea that “nobody ever got fired for hiring…” but underestimates the power of creating a focused, differentiated brand identity. The idea that decision-makers in B2B companies somehow make decisions entirely differently when they’re choosing consumer products or business partners—even if they think they’re making the decisions based on different criteria—simply doesn’t hold up. It’s been proven wrong again and again in fields ranging from advertising to neuroscience. For example, we may think we want to do business with Siemens because of the details of their RFP response, but in fact their brand’s association with answering difficult questions may bias us in their favor, even without us knowing it.
Unfortunately, Moore’s narrow view of branding will give the wrong impression to B2B businesses, who in this economy can’t afford not to position their brands so that they create powerful connections with their customers and prospects. While achieving such a connection may not fit Interbrand’s definition of brand value, I challenge Mr. Moore to find a B2B business owner that would describe it as only “marginally” important.
Why now is the time for executives and leaders to closely re-examine the health of their organizations and brands
Face it, 2009 was over for most businesses in October of 2008. The financial crisis, capital crunch and brittle confidence of customers caused business strategists and planners to pull back any future investment considerations in 2009. Everyone froze, waited and watched. We’re still watching. Now is the time to start leading.
Most American corporations have had to seriously re-invent or re-engineer themselves operationally just to stay alive and relevant in their markets. Flat became the acceptable up. I don’t know of one CEO that hasn’t been forced to make significant changes or make fundamental shifts that may have taken them many years to complete if not for the financial crisis.
Bottom line, American businesses have been bent out of shape. We’re out of alignment. Bordering on tampering with irrelevant value propositions. The broken promises of iconic brands have driven customer confidence to an all time low.
If American business is going to re-cover or re-bound in the near future, CEOs and executives need to quickly assess what the last months have done to their business and get down to serious creative planning for 2010. Start by driving your 2010 planning process with fresh, relevant insights. You don‘t have to over complicate your thinking process. Make it simple. Start by asking yourself a couple of revealing questions:
1. What have we become?
2. What’s possible now?
And remember, think Big. Use this opportunity for positive change.
1. What have we become?
Start with the internal realities.
Here’s a mind-set to consider. Throw out most of what you have learned about your company. The most important information is about “Now,” and the current perception and ability to deliver on a differentiated value proposition. Don’t rely too heavily upon historical data to drive your moving forward strategy (too much has changed). Now is the time to get a quick fresh perspective, and you need to start with getting a handle on internal realities. If you don’t have a clear handle on the internal perceptions how can you attempt to articulate the moving forward strategy? Get current quick. You have to know where the organization is misaligned in order to repair it. It’s the major premise of this blog post, and it’s not that difficult. Start with a simple survey to understand the view of the organization as it relates to strategy, structure and execution. Create your own survey at www.surverymonkey.com or reach out to existing tools such as www.strategicbrandassesment.com. Bottom line, you need to drive the strategy from a fresh, contemporary and quantitative point of view. The results from this exercise should be your platform for developing an internal operations strategy for success and an employee communication plan to re-engage employees.
2. What’s possible now?
You’ve got to be current.
Look back at your strategic plan before October of 2008. Does it look a little different today? Of course it does. Think about the people you had then and who is supporting you now. That’s why it’s critical to articulate a convincing moving forward strategy based upon current views of what the market is giving you today and where you want to take your business in the future. Start by answering a few fundamental questions that will guide your thinking:
a) Are we in the same category of business or has it changed? Conduct competitive mapping.
b) Is the current value proposition relevant? Explore new positioning.
c) What is the market saying about us? Conduct a perception study to determine the right brand strategy.
d) Do our customers still love us? Conduct a customer loyalty study so you’re not caught off guard. Develop a specific customer communication (lifecycle) plan to insure alignment.
e) Is the sales force engaged and telling a consistent story? Just interview them, you’ll know.
With these fresh insights you are ready to enter 2010 planning with a clear understanding of the health of your organization. Remember before you can fix anything, you have to know what’s broken and what’s working well. Who knows what 2010 will bring, nobody has a crystal ball, but if you start by asking the right questions, you’re bound to find new intelligent answers.
But that’s just my opinion, what’s yours?