Posts Tagged ‘competitive advantage’
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.
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.