Posts Tagged ‘successful technology’
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.
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.
Originally posted on B2BBrandDebate
If you were asked to randomly search 15-20 B2B technology brands online, you’d probably come to the same conclusion. Most are boring. But why? You’d think innovative companies would breathe innovation into their brands. But that’s not the case. Here’s my conclusion and most importantly a few ideas for technology executives and marketers to explore.
Peter Drucker said it best: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two, and only two, basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” Well, most successful technology companies get the innovation part down, but struggle with understanding the role and expectation of marketing/branding. Let’s be real, technology companies only really start thinking about branding and marketing when they have to. And it’s very difficult to educate a technologist on the importance of branding and marketing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “the leaders of the company don’t get it and don’t know what it costs.” The result: boring brands and uninteresting branding. So, what can we do about it? Here are a few things to consider:
1. Know your audience. Talk in their language.
First of all, you’re not selling branding, you’re selling hope and future business success. So, you need to find the hot buttons of the sponsor you are trying to educate. Start by identifying the benefits. CEOs need to hear about maximizing the corporate value (get the category and story right for increased profits). CMOs want to demonstrate preference for increased pricing (smart branding can drive market share). COOs need to understand how internal branding can align the organization (increased performance). And smart CFOs need to know how brand strategy can help during M&A (eliminate risk and maximize investment).
2. Demonstrate versus complicate.
Another way to help executives understand what great brands are made of is to find relevant examples that allow them to visualize themselves. For example, if you are in the B2B midmarket software space, go find examples of outstanding work they can relate to. But make sure you link it back to a clear business strategy/brand strategy and examples of fresh marketing. Excite you audience with what’s possible. Set the bar high.
3. Have a process. Get buy-in for the deliverables.
Two quick points here: follow a proven best practice process and make sure everyone has a clear understating of the deliverables. It’s critical to have your executives on board before the creation phase begins. Building a world class B2B brand starts at the top. Don’t think you create it in isolation and expect them to buy off. This just does not work. Remember you’re selling hope and imagination.
4. Be courageous.
Lastly, great brands are created by people with courage to try new things. Don’t resort to mimicking safe strategies. Find greatness and promote it fearlessly. Remember your job is to inspire and create. And if you do it right, you’ll be rewarded for the efforts and leave a wonderful legacy.
But that’s just my point of view. What’s yours?