Posts Tagged ‘technology market’
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.
I recently read an article in BusinessWeek entitled, “Tech: The Return of Risk Taking”, it’s one of the most positive technology outlooks I’ve seen in a very long time. Basically Spencer E. Ante says, the worst of the recession is over, and it’s time to prepare for better times. Mark M. Zandi chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com predicts 4% growth for 2010 and 10% in 2011 for IT spending. Although I love the optimism, I’m not sure these outlooks are fully in tune with the entire market, especially the mid and small segments.
So, the good news is that something is finally happening. Dell’s deal for Perot Systems, eBay’s sale of Skype and Adobe’s purchase of Omniture are certainly big events for the technology sector. When the big brands start to excite the market with M&A activity, the middle market and smaller entrepreneurs will follow, but that’s going to take a while. Mid and small markets were hit the hardest and are still in operational reduction mode or stabilization mode to say the least.
But if history is any indication, America’s “Challenger Brand” mentality will prevail, especially in the technology market. I personally believe America’s brand reputation is tied not only to our technological competitive advantage but also to new and ever changing communication technology. American brands must continue to reinvent themselves to remain competitive. Lets face it, the days of leading the global economy with automobiles, electronics and commodity products are over. New rules have taken over old business models. Now, it will take courageous companies that are willing to create new categories, competitive advantages, and most importantly to take “Risk”. Yes, Risk.
This brings me to a discussion that’s happening in most every board room these days. When should we begin to reinvest in gaining market share and presence? Whether you drive your organization from an intuition based philosophy or calculated strategic risk mentality, one thing history can prove is that companies that get out into the market first reap the rewards. You’ve heard all the case studies, but do you really buy into the concept and are you willing to bet your reputation on it?
Bottom line, executives and marketers must be ready for recovery and smart ones will take risks to get ahead quicker. Nothing like a recent history lesson to validate a concept; As the 2001 recession began to rebound, the tech marketing investment (around 6%) outpaced the growth which ended up close to 5%.
That said, I have put together a quick check list of things for you to consider in your 2010 planning.
1. Create multi-tiered strategies with quarterly triggers:
Face it, the days of creating three to five year plans are a thing of the past. New rules dictate visibility of 24 months with a clear picture of Risk/Rewards scenarios on a quarterly basis. Build strategies that err on the aggressive side but are sound enough to back off slightly (no, not stop) if your budget gets squeezed.
2. Stay away from the “start and stop” syndrome.
Don’t put your company in jeopardy by starting and stopping your programs. You send mixed messages to the market and employees. It’s critical to maintain confidence in the leadership team during these uncertain times. Changing your mind frequently is not a strategy.
3. Get the story right. Bring it to life.
Remember, somebody has hit the restart button. Most markets have changed. Be realistic. You must have a clear picture of your current value proposition and competitive advantage. Don’t put your company in jeopardy by investing in a tired or irrelevant message. Stop, reset and validate your brand strategy. Maybe it’s time to rebrand?
4. Try something new. Nothing risked is nothing gained.
If there was ever a time to try something new, it’s now. Consider the change in customer behavior. The social media explosion has brought the customer smack dab into the middle of the conversation and influence. Traditional media ideas have left the building. Every statistic you read says digital media budgets are replacing traditional spending. If you have not built a new customer acquisition strategy/plan with digital media as a primary consideration, now is the time. The risk of not trying is greater than the risk of getting out there.
5. Re-Energize your staff.
It goes without saying, these are tough times for the American workforce. Your employees are under incredible pressure to deliver. Most organizations look radically different than they did a year ago. Take time to fully engage employees in your strategy and align them with the key initiatives. (Alan’s engaging employees slide deck). You can’t afford the risk of having employees standing on the side lines. Celebrate every positive win possible and remember when business was fun.
So, as 2010 approaches, what’s your risk strategy? What will you be doing differently? I’d love to hear?