Posts Tagged ‘technology brands’
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.
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.
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?
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?
Ok, it goes without saying that every B2B company marvels and envies the “Intel inside” story. I can’t tell you how many times prospects and clients have referenced this B2B success, not to mention the numerous Intel employee stories and variations on how this success was created and achieved. It’s an OEM marketer’s dream to create such brand preference, demand and value. For B2B technology companies it is—– Brand Nirvana.
But somehow, throughout the 15 years since its conception, Intel’s brand strategy/architecture lost its way. The original idea of simplicity and value creation was lost in the multiple names and brands that squeaked their way into the primary brand’s strategy and positioning.
But Intel is not alone; this is a common problem that technology brands run into. Product managers and marketers think they have to have a name/sub-brand for every new product and platform they dream up. Then, all of a sudden they have brand confusion and dilution.
But why? Mostly because marketers don’t formalize their brand architecture strategy and give it the attention it deserves. Alan Brew, a colleague of mine wrote an article on this subject and nailed it perfectly.
“The problem with brand architecture is that it’s such a fuzzy term and every organization has its own meaning.” Or more frightening, no meaning at all.
This brings me back to the Intel Inside strategy. Recently Deborah Conrad, Vice President of Corporate Marketing has made changes to the strategy by reducing the number of brands and introducing “modifiers” into the core brand which signal different features and benefits. See Video
I applauded her intentions. It’s an interesting concept and you should check it out. But in my opinion, this has replaced complexity with a whole new set of issues. I’m a strong believer in simplicity and single thought. Trying to differentiate the company, the positioning of “Intel Inside”, and product differentiation might be too much for the audience to digest. In my experience, simple is better. People can only remember so much. Keep product positioning strategies separate and brand strategy pure. That being said, I’m sure Intel will do just fine. Who’s knows, maybe this is the first step towards getting back to the simplicity and originality of the idea that helped shape the company in the first place.
But that’s my opinion, what’s yours?