Posts Tagged ‘technology branding’
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.
Welcome back to the conversation about tech brand audit. Last time we talked about the important (and difficult) strategic questions that a tech brand audit answers:
• How do customers, employees, investors and prospects really see us?
• Which brand attributes and personality do we and our competitors ‘own’?
• How much ‘permission’ does our brand(s) have to offer new products or enter new markets?
• How cohesive and compelling is our brand story and promise?
• What internal and external challenges do we face in developing and strengthening our brand to drive our business forward?
• Which touchpoints have the most impact for building our brand?
To answer these questions, usually an outside company undertakes a number of key pieces of analysis. So let’s talk about the analyses that typically comprise a brand audit, and how they help answer the strategic questions above.
Keep in mind: the ultimate purpose of tech branding is not answering tough questions or pretty logos and websites. It’s about revenue deriving from the sale of your technology/products. Revenue is driven by:
1. More people being aware of you, or increasing brand awareness.
2. The trial period of people trying your product or service.
3. Consumers preferring you and then coming back for more, or brand preference and brand loyalty.
That’s it. Period, end of story.
So what key pieces of information need to be identified to accomplish this feat? There are at least three key analyses that typically comprise a tech brand audit:
1. Competitive analysis: what competing technology providers are offering and/or copying?
2. Customer insights: how do customers think about and buy your services/technology?
3. Communications audit: how are you presenting your technology and company to the world?
I should mention here that the most critical part of brand strategy work, one almost always overlooked, is a rigorous analysis of business strategy. Brand strategy development without this critical and often difficult analysis ends up being flimsy and incomplete, even if it covers other internal, competitor and customer insights well. A thorough brand audit will highlight the specific business strategy issues that senior management needs to iron out before working on the brand.
For the purpose of this blog I’ll focus on communications audit (point number 3 above), which includes reviews of the following brand communication components:
• Data Sheets
• Case Studies
• White Papers
• Annual Reports
• Stationery/Business Cards/other branded 2D items
• Social Media
- Tradeshow Booth: Interior/exterior
- Product nomenclature/architecture
- Brand guidelines
Each of these components is reviewed with the following questions in mind:
• How cohesive and compelling is our brand story and promise?
• How effective and relevant are these pieces in communicating our unique value to the world?
• Do these support our business now?
• Do these support our plans for the future?
If any answers to these four questions are not a resounding “Yes!”, then this piece of a brand audit has done its job. Namely, highlighting areas of the brand, and possibly business strategy as well, that need rigorous and thoughtful development and execution.
Next time, I’ll give some insight into the first of two points relating to a tech brand audit: customer insights and competitive analysis.
If you have any questions or comments about a brand audit please do not be shy, I’ll be quick to respond and happy to assist your efforts.
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.
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.
Part 2: How a strong tech brand can help with inevitable mistakes
Last time, we talked about Google and how its huge brand (valued at $32 Billion in 2009) helped it to move into new categories completely separate from search. But a strong brand also helps with when a company makes a mistake, and Google has certainly had their fair share of them.
Here are a few of Google’s notable technical and/or market failures, none of which has damaged its brand.
1. Google X (Mac OS Dock-inspired search bar)
Google X was a project released by Google in March 15, 2005 and was rescinded a day later. It consisted of the traditional Google search bar, but it was made to look like the Dock interface feature of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system. Google never released an official statement as to why the project was shut down.
2. Google Answers (online knowledge market)
Google Answers was an online knowledge market offered by Google that allowed users to post bounties for well researched answers to their queries. Asker-accepted answers cost $2 to $200. Google retained 25% of the researcher’s reward and a 50 cent fee per question. In addition to the researcher’s fees, a client who was satisfied with the answer could also leave a tip of up to $100. In late November 2006, Google reported that it planned to permanently shut down the service, and it was fully closed to new activity by late December 2006, although its archives remain available.
3. Orkut (social media tool)
Although not a failure per se, Google’s Orkut is not a roaring success either, at least in the US. It’s a social networking website designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships. The website is named after its creator, Google employee Orkut Büyükkökten.
Although Orkut is less popular in the United States than competitors Facebook and MySpace, it is one of the most visited websites in India and Brazil. In fact, as of December 2009, 51.09% of Orkut’s users are from Brazil, followed by India with 20.02% and United States with 17.28%.
Originally announced in 2002 as Froogle, now called Google Product search (please notice the re-branding under the Google masterbrand), is a price comparison service launched by Google Inc. It is currently in beta test stage. It was invented by Craig Nevill-Manning. Its interface provides an HTML form field into which a user can type product queries to return lists of vendors selling a particular product, as well as pricing information. Product Search is only available for selected countries at this point.
Google Product Search is different from most other price comparison services in that it neither charges any fees for listings, nor accepts payment for products to show up first. Also, it makes no commission on sales. Any company can submit individual product information via Google Base or can bulk submit items for inclusion. Google sells advertising through AdWords to be displayed in Product Search results adjacent to the unpaid results.
With all of these missteps, because they are Google, and all they represent, the Google brand can act as Teflon to protect them from the usual damage that strategic missteps can sometimes bring about.
Brand-building has defensive as well as offensive benefits. Toyota’s recent battles over potentially faulty acceleration and shifting features shows that even a strong brand can face devastating blows to its image, however true the allegations and/or perceptions prove to be.
So what’s the lesson in this? Even if you aren’t aiming to launch new products or take over new geographies, it pays to continue to invest in, and prove out, your unique promise to the world. That investment and hard work will be a cache of goodwill and positive associations, ready to help fend off any brand damage that might occur, whether it’s deserved or not.
Do you agree? What do YOU think?
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.
Part 1: How building your brand helps you enter (or bulldoze your way into) new products, categories and geographies.
Why invest your brand? Especially a B2B brand? Because it pays off. Handsomely. Let’s look at Google, a brand worth $32 Billion in 2009 according to BusinessWeek. (Yes, that just the brand, not the hard assets. More on brand valuation in an upcoming Brand Valuation blog piece.) Google started off in 1998 as a search engine, competing with a slew of other search providers: Yahoo, Magellan, InfoSeek, AltaVista and a slew of other now irrelevant search brands. Yahoo is the only remaining search competitor worth mentioning, with 14% share of search as of 2/20/2010. That’s 14% compared to Google’s 78%. As a result, I believe, Yahoo decided to turn its brand and business ship toward “personalizing the internet experience” and away from pure search (watch for an upcoming blog on that soon).
Google’s stated mission from the outset was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” and it has certainly succeeded. In pursuing that objective, the company held two beliefs they bet their life on: 1) “The user is in charge.” And 2.) “If users come, so will revenue.”
Both of those beliefs served to be right. Google quickly monetized their leadership in the space by starting AdWords, their flagship advertising product and main source of revenue ($23.7 Billion in 2009). And then used the power of their brand and reach to enter (or bulldoze into) new categories.
1. Online productivity software, including email and documents (where Yahoo was the clear leader at the time, and still is: 3.8% share vs. 0.8%)
2. Desktop apps (GoogleWave)
3. The Chrome browser
4. Picasa photo editing and organization
5. GoogleTalk instant messaging
6. SketchUp 3D modeling
7. The incredible and comprehensive GoogleEarth
8. And most recently, mobile phones and operating systems: Google Phone and Android.
I would suggest that these entries would have only a tenth of their current buzz and value if they were coming from an unknown brand, even if that unknown company were better qualified in the category.
So how can Google’s story help you with your business? The first thing it says is to set an inspiring and badly needed vision/mission for your business, however large or small it may be. Make sure people really want what you’re offering them. Then, become better at delivering it than your competitors, because they will try to copy you.
Then, build your brand:
Create a compelling promise that asserts your leadership
Design it beautifully verbally and visually
Work diligently to deliver on your promise. Emphasis on the word “work”. Brands don’t become great because of beautiful design or catchy phrasing. They become great because companies DELIVER great product and service experiences that live up to their brand promise: their cause, you might say.
If you let people down on your promise, you’ll be worse off.
Once you’ve delivered great experiences, you will have earned the right to branch into other categories and geographies. You’ll be afforded product and/or service trial (and even forgiveness if you stumble) where before, you wouldn’t even be considered.
Does this happen overnight? No. Does great branding replace great business strategy and value delivery? No. But it does take great companies to new heights. And gives them a huge club to walk around with.
What do YOU think?
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?
Do you know what predicts your brand’s success? Most marketing metrics only measure what has happened, using what could be called “lagging indicators.” But imagine the effectiveness of your marketing program if you could identify the “leading indicators” for your brand; the activities, buyer behaviors, and measurements that actually lead to sales and profits.
Progressive marketers and their agencies are exploring this brave new frontier. Instead of just looking in the rear view mirror at historical measurements like sales and market share, they are attempting to look ahead at predictive measures that are the actual precursors of business success. Most “leading indicators” never appear on a financial statement, but they can – and should – be identified, tested, and tracked.
|Transactional||Attitudinal and behavioral|
|A measurement||A measurement tied to a hypothesis|
Identifying the real causes of brand health is vital to successful brand management. For example, most brands with call centers, which includes a lot of B2B brands, commonly measure such things as time on hold and minutes per call. But these metrics don’t measure or predict real customer satisfaction. Research by Convergys shows that customer satisfaction is predicted by two things: 1) Is the customer service representative knowledgeable? and 2) Is the problem resolved on the first call? (Convergys 2008 U.S. Customer Scorecard.)
An important difference
Lagging indicators are simply a measurement. Leading indicators are a measurement tied to a hypothesis, which can be tested and refined, in order to explain or predict behavior. Imagine six friends getting together every Friday night to play poker. Over the course of a year, on person wins 60% of the time – the other players win much less often. These statistics are all lagging indicators; they tell us what has happened. But they don’t tell us why. You might be inclined to think the 60% winner cheats, but in fact he wins so often because everybody else in the group has such a poor poker face. The point is that you learn nothing by observing the result – only by understanding the process that leads to the result.
For example, If you reverse engineer most successful marketing programs, you’ll find that they center around a hypothesis based on a powerful insight into buyer behavior. That hypothesis can almost always be considered a leading indicator.
All measures are not created equal
While predictive is better than historical, this isn’t to say there isn’t a place for lagging indicators in marketing measurement. Some lagging indicators – such as incremental profits generated from a campaign – are important and relevant measures of marketing success. The same is true with lagging indicators like brand penetration and average price per unit.
But many traditional measures of success are the result of historical practices rather than a careful study of cause and effect. Correlation is not the same thing as causation.
For example, while sales is the most common “hard” metric of success, campaigns that focus on reducing price sensitivity are more effective than those that focus on building volume or market share. In other words, we’ve learned that value share more important than volume share.
As Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
Brand health as human health
It’s critically important to measure B2B brand success using a combination of both leading and lagging indicators. You can think of the health of a brand in the same way we think about the health of a human body. A physician would never attempt to diagnose a serious problem merely based on a few outward symptoms. He or she would also likely measure temperature, blood pressure, organ functions, and other things that would give a more complete picture of health. Diagnosing and monitoring the health of a brand involves the same dynamics. Sales and market share alone only tell us the brand is healthy or sick, but don’t tell us why.
Two Different Kinds of Indicators of B2B Brand Success
|Market share||Search engine rankings|
|Market penetration||Online mentions|
|Incremental profit||Positive online reviews|
|Stock price||Customer satisfaction ratings|
|Cost per lead||Brand buzz|
|Cost per click||Website page views|
|Marketing cost per unit||Brand likeability|
|Gross impressions||Brand fame|
|Cost per impression||Emotional attachment to brand|
|Customer acquisition cost||Would recommend to friend|
|Customer retention cost||Would pay price premium|
|Average transaction value||Customer compliments and complaints|
At a time when marketers are looking to prove the value of every marketing dollar spent, their agencies have an opportunity to provide an immensely important new dimension of value by helping their clients develop and test leading indicators of brand success. Far too many agency-client relationships begin only with a “scope of work” instead of an understanding of “scope of value,” a clear distillation of the desired outcomes that combines both lagging and leading success metrics.
Knowing the metrics that matter should be part of the intellectual capital an agency brings to the relationship it has with its clients. By measuring what matters, brands can make limited marketing dollars go much further in these economically challenging times.