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If you are in the technology business you have to see this video. Even if you know nothing about technology you’ll appreciate the humor and personal connection.
From a corporate branding standpoint, the video is one of the most brilliant conversions of brand positioning, language and comedy. And if you have ever been involved with naming a company it’s a must see.
This just goes to show you, when companies get creative with their brand strategies, they are awarded benefits of complimentary endorsements and expansive exposure as witnessed by more than 5.5 million YouTube views of this video at time of this post.
I applaud David Placek and Lexicon, which is the team created the BlackBerry brand name who encouraged the client to resist the temptation of calling it Pro-mail or Megamail. With a name like that, no one would be laughing.
If you’re like me, reading business strategy books is a constant part of your diet. But, I must say, I’m usually not that impressed with the content. It just doesn’t seem like anything is that original anymore.
Very rarely do I pick up a business book that I don’t want to put down. That’s why I decided to take a moment to recommend What Would Google Do?.
I know it’s a good book when I read it in a day or two. In this case it was during a trip back east, which this book helped make one worth taking. It’s a fascinating disclosure of modern strategy at work and the way professionals should think about their brands.
Jeff Jarvis gives some wonderful examples of how Google is changing the current social landscape and how marketers should re-think marketing. The Dell example is classic.
Long gone are the days where we are in control of our brands. Also, the book provides good examples of how big slow moving brands are quickly adapting and changing to the new social stadium. If you’re company is still not engaging in the social arena, these examples give you good justification to make the move. Do yourself a favor and check out this book. You won’t be disappointed.
After you go cover to cover, come on back and let me know what you think.
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.
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.
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.
Why category positioning is paramount to building a successful technology brand.
Last week we spoke about the importance of defining the category in which a technology company competes in order to develop an effective brand position. This week we are going to focus on how to approach the assignment and what you need to know to make it successful.
First of all, timing is everything.
If your tech company does not see an immediate need, the likelihood for the project to be successful will be slim. Basically, you have a few options. Wait for some major change that invokes the discussion of re-examining the positioning (like a merger/acquisition or new product/market direction) or you can create evidence (quantitative or qualitative) for the need. Take caution when developing the latter. In our experience, technology brands must take individual opinions out of the equation and use research to justify the need.
A sure fire way to create internal buy-in is to conduct the questioning we discussed in Part 1 of this series. Having your executive team reveal their understanding and thoughts as it relates to brand positioning usually gets the group talking about the need to re-examine.
Another suggestion would be conducting a simple survey to existing customers and prospects. There is nothing like fresh research to help understand the current perceptions of your brand positioning and category considerations. Lastly, if your organization is consultant friendly, it’s never a bad idea to have a third-party organization come in to give you an assessment that roles up both internal and external perceptions. Remember, if you don’t get buy-in from the executive group, you are in for a big challenge. You must develop the need.
Developing your category definition and brand positioning is not just a marketing exercise. It is a business exercise and decision that must involve your executive leadership in order for you to be successful.
Once you have buy-in from your team, it’s critical to establish a specific process with defined deliverables that everyone understands and agrees upon. Timing will be critical. Once the project starts it’s extremely important to keep momentum going for the group to stay engaged because you need to have the executive group involved throughout the process. Basically they need to commit to a few meetings and an hour-long, in-depth interview.
A typical brand development assignment of this nature generally takes around 90 days from start to presentation of final recommendations. Our brand consultants suggest getting brand strategy going with a simple kickoff meeting to familiarize the group with the process, expected outcome and their roles in the project. Fundamentally you and your selected technology brand experts need to guide the group through the assessment and discovery phase.
Here are the core pieces of the research. Make sure you not only roll up the findings into insights, but also suggest what the research will mean to the project.
1. Internal Insights: Personal interview with executives and survey of management and employees to capture strengths/weakness/gaps
2. External Insights: Customer/Prospects and industry experts (like Gartner) perceptions and driving influences
3. Competitive Review: Mapping of competitors positioning and brand strategy
4. Market Dynamics: Clear understanding of the current dynamics and future considerations/influences
Once armed with this insightful information you are fully prepared to discuss the strategic paths to developing a well-defined category definition and brand position for differentiation and growth.
In the final installment of this series, we will explore what it takes to develop winning positioning and how to build a technology brand for optimal performance.
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.
“What’s the biggest challenge to creating a successful B2B brand?” I am often asked this question, and without a doubt it’s the decision of what not to be— let me explain. So often, companies want to try and be everything to their customers. Does this sound familiar? Many times when we are working with a client to find their sustainable point of differentiation they will say that it’s many things and not just one; “We’re innovative but have great service at a value price.” Does this sound familiar? There in-lies the challenge. Yes, companies may have differentiation at many different levels, but customers and consumers think differently than businesses do. Your customer’s brain is wired to retain information that is new and different or important to decisions that they are making—everything else gets lost in the sea of sameness. And most importantly, buyers immediately categorize brands based upon their first impression, which means you better be prepared to understand what you can own in the marketplace and what’s most relevant. And that’s where most companies struggle. So often, corporations don’t spend enough time to really understand what makes them different in the minds of their buyers. They resort to value propositions that are confusing, uninteresting, and lacking in singularity for maximum intention—“One Thing”. Trying to build a brand on everything will leave you with nothing.
So if you are in the process of developing a brand position, here are two critical things to consider:
1. Get the brand strategy right.
If the strategy and value proposition has not been created or agreed upon, how can you create a successful brand? Finding the “One Thing” is really a strategic exercise more than anything else. It cannot just be delegated to the marketing department. It needs to be developed with the brain trust of your organization. Only then can the brand team go to work on developing a long lasting, successful brand and delivery strategy.
2. Be the Brand voice of reason. Take the test.
As you begin the strategic branding development process consider using these three elements to make sure you are building a lasting brand strategy.
a. Is it relevant? If what you are saying does not resonate with your buyer, go back to the drawing board. Ask yourself the question, “Will they care?”. Remember , if your customer is not ecstatic over the promise or doesn’t get it, you will be building a promise on a false foundation. And remember, focus on “One Thing”.
b. Is it believable? If you can’t come up with strong reasons to believe, you need to start over. In most cases your employees can tell you immediately if your value proposition will fly. The last thing you want to do is announce a new positioning that people cannot believe. Do yourself a favor, always test your future brand promise with both employees and customers. If it’s not resonating with them and if it’s not credible, you’re in for a rough ride. And remember, focus on “One Thing”.
c. Is it defendable? You need to step back and look at your ecosystem and determine if your new position is defendable. So often, companies build brand promises that are short lived because they did not do the proper homework to understand the competitive environment and market dynamics. The last thing you want is to introduce a brand position that someone can knock down or will become irrelevant in short order. And remember, focus on “One Thing.”
If you start with a clear strategy that’s agreed upon by your executive team and use this criteria to develop brand, you’ll be in great shape to create a long lasting successful brand. And remember, focus on “One thing”. If you try to be known for many things, you‘ll be remembered for nothing. But that’s just my opinion, what’s yours?
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?