Posts Tagged ‘Google’
In the first of two parts we explore what is a Brand Audit and why tech companies choose to conduct them.
Remember the fantastic scene from “A Few Good Men” where Lt. Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise), an inexperienced military trial lawyer, confronts a seasoned Marine Colonel Nathan R. Jessep (played by Jack Nicholson) about the facts surrounding the apparent murder of a fellow Marine? “I want the truth!” exclaims Kaffee in the courtroom. “You can’t handle the truth!” shouts back Jessep.
Although it is sometimes hard to ‘handle’ or swallow, the truth is the idea behind conducting a brand audit. More so than some other industries, tech companies need to know the cold hard truth of how they are perceived in the marketplace. Even if the results hurt the technology brand ego. Because the first step in strengthening brand weaknesses or vulnerabilities is learning precisely where the brand value stands now.
This year, some tech companies won’t need a full-tilt, top-dollar rebranding. They may have just finished a complete rebranding last year, or recently merged or acquired other brands. They might just need a brand audit to help them with this year’s strategy and resourcing decisions.
What is a brand audit?
A brand audit is a thorough, multi-dimensional analysis to understand a company’s brand(s), its internal and external perceptions, and their strategic implications. Brand audits often include rigorous competitor brand evaluations to deliver strategic context and recommendations to its findings.
A brand audit answers questions such as:
- How do prospects really view the technology brand?
- Which brand attributes and personality does it and its competitors ‘own’?
- How much ‘permission’ does the brand have to offer new products or enter new markets?
- How cohesive and compelling is the tech brand story and promise?
- What internal and external challenges stand in the way of developing and strengthening brand to drive business forward?
- Which touch points have the most impact for building this technology brand?
- How should brand position change to be most effective against competitors?
- Is it wise to go ‘head-to-head’ with primary competitors? Why or why not?
- What differentiators do the brand offer that cannot be easily copied?
- How relevant is the brand in today’s marketplace? How believable is brand promise? How differentiated?
In many cases, technology brands ‘lead with the tech’. They believe it will be compelling enough to drive the trial, preference, and repeat business that drive future revenue. Technology is only part of the value offered by Apple, Google or Microsoft. These technology leaders all carry brand value and associations far beyond the technology they offer: prestige (or ‘everyman-ness’), cool (or not-so-cool) ‘geekiness’, self-expression, social or economic status, values, etc.
Top technology brands also carry associations related to value delivery, service quality, and relative pricing, whether it’s their products or stock. The brand value goes far beyond a technological development.
Unfortunately, executives do not always want to hear the truth about their brands. Lack of honest insights can cause uninformed decisions and leave them wondering why the numbers or performance of their brand is not improving.
Can your team handle the truth? Let us know how you uncover the honest data that leads to informed decisions.
Next time, we’ll look at the specific elements of a brand audit, and why it can be a relatively inexpensive and extremely effective tool.
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 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.