Discussing branding for technology, we’ve seen earlier what makes a brand — the idea of brand promise and lessons from FMCG branding for technology branding. In this article, we elaborate on brand concepts and suggest some specific steps senior managers can take to move their companies from a product-centric to a promise-centric, brand-driven business.
Let’s consider how the buyers and sellers of technology participate in the sales cycle and perceive branding,
From a tech buyers perspective: When B2B consumers of technology especially information technology weigh the merits of a vendor’s bid, they weigh not just how well the vendor’s products and services complement their own business and technological environment but also how the purchase decision looks to others. They are just as concerned with the image of the product as they are with the technical merits. Therefore while it is meant to be a rational decision that maximizes value, it is based on objective or subjective data. That is where a technology brand comes in.
From a tech marketers perspective: Conversely managers in high-tech businesses find brand management concepts interesting but see no merit in moving from a product-centric to a brand-centric model. The common refrain is “it doesn’t apply here”. This argument is based on what they believe to be unique characteristics of high-tech products and markets, mainly fast-changing technology and high levels of uncertainty.
As we’ve seen in the previous 2 chapters it is precisely this expectation gap that a technology brand solves. Indeed when things change quickly, buyers face great uncertainty and they want to deal with a company they perceive has a vision of their needs.
Challenges in high-tech branding are the same as others businesses in formulating distinctive and credible promises of value. However, in high-tech markets, offering a distinctive value proposition is especially difficult since competitors match one another’s clearly defined performance characteristics. There isn’t a great deal of trust between customers and companies in high-tech markets simply because there are many and frequent new entrants, and most have not had the time or the wisdom to build a promise of value that goes beyond price-performance.
For technology branding in the first place it important that before defining a brand for the company to define where it is and where it wants to go. In the first instance: what’s the brand promise? Google stands for discovery. Apple stands for quality and innovation. What’s yours? Aspiration? Trust? What should the customer feel each time they think about the company or use the product. This emotion is what needs to be built into the brand.
In the second place, the process involved in the development of a branding strategy requires us to review the purpose of the company, its reason to be. “Why we do what we do” is much more important than “what we do” and “how we do it”. What do customers, prospects, partners, investors, reporters, analysts, even competitors think? Bridging the gap between the two with messaging, positioning, and a visual language is the branding.
7 steps to creating a powerful technology brand
Price – Performance in branding
“Price” and “performance,” for example, may mean different things to different people. Does price mean initial cost or life cycle cost? Does performance mean microprocessor speed, the speed of delivery of services, the product’s ability to keep pace with the market? Does performance include presale and post-sale service and support? High-tech companies can make it clear exactly which aspects of their offerings’ price and performance benefit their customers through branding.
Developing the brand promise
The promise of value must be relevant to the people or businesses a company wants to have as its customers; no business can promise everything for everyone. But it is possible to tailor a promise to meet the desires of a specific subgroup of customers, as long as that promise can be kept and as long as it doesn’t confuse anyone. That’s why a company must consider its own capabilities and its target customer segments before developing its brand message.
Branding on Benefits
Many high-tech managers are most comfortable a brand as a set of tangible, verifiable product characteristics. However, high-tech purchases involve not just technologists but also business managers and end users, who are far more interested in what a technology product does for them than in how it works. As high-tech managers come to understand this, many start changing the way they speak of their offerings. Instead of selling “products,” they sell “solutions” or “benefits.” Such a shift in thinking is not enough. A company needs to decide it wants to be in the space of product competition or brand competition. Competitors can continually match and leapfrog over one another by offering better and more features and by identifying the benefits of their products for customers.
Brand promises need to be enduring
While a brand needs to make an enduring promise. Making and keeping a promise, and keeping it consistently, can be a powerful source of competitive advantage. However making too many promises, or changing them frequently, raises uncertainty and erodes brand value. There’s a high probability that truly strong brands will continue to be leaders because they make and keep a promise of value over successive generations of technologies. True, newer technologies can eclipse older ones but an enduring promise of value can buy time for a brand in the face of new technology even the face of serious lapses in product quality.
Market share is not brand promise
Companies sometimes think that a leadership position in a market is a promise. However, market share, even overwhelming market share is not, a promise of value. Brand equity will distort customer perception of size and value very quickly and there is no way that a company can stay immune to if the competition focuses on it.
Brands provide emotional rewards
It is very difficult for many high-tech managers to acknowledge, the idea that emotions can be so important to a company’s success. But goods and services that reside in that third level are indeed developed and positioned as a way of fulfilling a promise of value to selected customers, not simply as technologies in search of a market. How do customers feel when experiencing the benefits of the brand? Do they feel confident? Productive? Innovative? Caring? Responsible? Successful?
Brands have personality
Brands have deeper values — such things as conservative values, family values, achievement-oriented values. These are characteristics the brand would have if it had human qualities: friendly, warm, caring, confident, decisive, aggressive, or the like. They attract a customer set they are focused on and are the differentiating characteristics of the brand.
Brand Performance should be measured
Too often the only yardstick of performance is awards or 3rd party rankings – both of which may not be adequate -markers of brand performance. For high-tech companies, it is important to track how customers perceive the brand relative to its competition over time. It is also important to monitor the health of key dimensions of a brand’s promise of value. Even the most benchmarked aspect of customer satisfaction managers need to determine if satisfaction is leading to loyalty.
A company cannot expect to build broader acceptance simply by making a promise of value in advertising. It must first know what promise to make and to whom. That requires the ability to assess the potential of relevant technologies and to anticipate its customers’ current and future needs—even before customers can articulate those needs. It must also ensure that the promise of value is understood and fulfilled as the company manages complex networks of value-adding partners, ranging from consulting firms to systems integrators, from independent software vendors to resellers.
Entrepreneur, TEDx speaker, Philanthropist, Rakesh Shukla is a 1996 MBA graduate and 1993 BTech. Rakesh Shukla is the Founder & CEO of TWB_ which is the partner for technology & business content for Fortune 500 leaders worldwide. A motivational speaker he speaks on creating success from professional and personal failure. He divides time between his 2 homes in Bangalore and is called the ‘dog-father’ for being papa to the 750 rescued dogs that live with him at the VOSD Dog Sanctuary. Rakesh has featured in 100+ interviews on the BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, CNN-IBN, NDTV, India’s national dailies, and at TEDx talks.
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