The name for your company, big or small, could make or break you. And how you name your products and services could help or hinder your ability to grow. Picking a name for a business / product / service can be the most challenging yet exciting thing you do. But how do you know if your name is right?
First, let’s talk about brand. When deciding on a name for your company, think about your company’s brand. Does that name fit your company’s goals? Attitudes? Values? Business Plan? Mission? Vision?
As Certified Brand Strategists, we believe a company’s brand should be defined by what makes that company unique. A company’s uniqueness could be its employees, services, products, etc. It is about who you are, not just about what you do. Products change and so does your company’s focus, so make sure that your name can grow with the organization.
Create a list and begin to rate them against each other. Here are some quick questions to ask:
- Does it relate to your uniqueness or products?
- Does it sound and look good?
- Does it separate your company from your competitors?
- Does is celebrate your mission?
- Can you explain it easily and is it memorable?
- Does it inspire and create connections?
- Does it establish value?
Your name should differentiate your company in the marketplace, celebrate your uniqueness and begin to build your brand. The right name can help you connect with customers, and set you up for success. Therefore, choosing the right name to build your brand around is extremely vital and a huge step in creating a successful business.
Your name is the first step in building your brand, it is your personality and you have to embrace it fully so that your can fearlessly live your brand every day.
Naming doesn’t stop there. How do you begin to name your products and services?
First, your business and brand strategy have to align. You could name your products like Apple: iPhone, iPad, iMac or like P&G: Tide, Swiffer, Crest. And there are many other types of architecture. Each has its merits but both align themselves to the business and brand strategy of the parent company.
Apple’s products all support the overarching Apple brand. All the products live the central brand experience of Apple. iPhone can not stand by itself but needs the Apple brand to be relevant.
P&G and it’s family of brands is set up differently. Each brand stands on its own. Each brand supports the portfolio of P&G but it’s allows each brand to establish specific and targeted audiences separate from the overarching brand. P&G can buy, create or sell brands in it’s portfolio to make it’s business stronger.
These are questions you have to ask. Should each product have it’s own brand? Should they be generic names? How close should they relate to the company name? The solution? A strong brand strategy founded on the uniqueness of each product and a well-defined brand architecture that provided clarity, leveraged brand equity and made a meaningful connection with customers and stakeholders.
How do you get there? Start by asking these questions:
- What differentiates each of your products – what are its unique value propositions and the evidence to support your claims?
- Are the different brands and sub-brands in your portfolio sufficiently differentiated from one another?
- Do your customers understand the differentiation?
- How does each of your products relate to and support each other?
- How does each product relate to the corporate brand?
- How does each product support the company’s goals?
- How well do the existing brands support the corporate positioning and company name?
- Is your brand portfolio greater than the sum of its parts?
Since brands and their strategies can’t be developed in a vacuum, use consumer research and insights, competitive analyses, market insights and your understanding of your company’s business goals when you think about your responses. Remember, it all starts with discovering your differentiation. That’s the foundation for all of your brand strategies and architecture – and the messaging and creative tactics that follow.
Darcy Zehe is a Certified Brand Strategist and Chief Operating Officer and Matthew Blazer is a Certified Brand Strategist and Chief Creative Officer at BrandPivot. He leads a team to develop brand strategy, direction and creative execution, and she oversees the client’s projects and directs the agency operations.
The answer is – employee satisfaction. Just ask Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna. While recovering from a near-death neck injury, Mark learned that recovery is a state of mind. “If your mind is in the right place, you can do anything,” he shared during a CBS news interview. Bertolini found healing in yoga and meditation to deal with the pain of his injury, and that inspired him to bring a new mindset to Aetna.
He pointed out that employee engagement is everything in a service economy, so he reimagined a workplace that could improve the health and mindset of his employees. His concept includes fair pay, work-life balance, onsite doctors, exam rooms, massage therapists, healthy food options, nutritious Meals To Go, and a fitness center where employees have permission to exercise any time of the day. Aetna also offers yoga classes and virtual classes in mindfulness like Managing Activities to Prevent Burnout all creating a more compassionate workplace.
“Companies should invest time into having a brand that extends beyond their external recognition- Their brand should be deeply rooted internally as well.
Aetna invests in its people to get them engaged every day, Mark explained. And, since 60% of Aetna’s operating infrastructure is people, why not invest in them? This type of investment is okay with investors too because it not only affects the bottom line, it impacts the sustainability of the business over time.
As a result of Bertolini’s ideas, Aetna employees reported a 28% decrease in stress levels and 20% improvement in sleep quality. Employees also claim that this employee-focused way of doing business has saved marriages, and even lives. A happier workplace is a more productive workplace, so imagine the effect of 50,000 employees being more productive and inspired. That might explain the steady rise in Aetna’s stock price over the past five years from $29.16 per share (May 2010) to $110.08 per share (May 2015).
Just like all good brands, Aetna is guided by principles that provide clarity and focus:
Integrity – Do the right thing for the right reason.
Excellence – We strive to deliver the highest quality and value possible through simple, easy and relevant solutions.
Caring – We listen to and respect our customers and each other so we can act with insight, understanding and compassion.
Inspiration – We inspire each other to explore ideas that can make the world a better place.
As a Certified Brand Strategist through The Brand Establishment, I help brands identify ways to engage employees so they can embrace the brand as it relates to job function and the greater good. While many organizations have guiding principles, Aetna got it right by aligning its business and brand and making the commitment to help its employees live the brand every day. And that creates one big, happy family!
Michelle Taglialatela is Tag’s brand strategist, one of 35 nationally who is certified by The Brand Establishment.
Michelle applies Tag’s proprietary process to create one-of-a-kind brand strategies that transform cultures and improve the bottom line. Tag has brand depth rivaled by few; and has been working with clients for more than a decade helping them exceed their objectives and stand out!
Clients often approach us for their tactical touchpoints, otherwise known as “the stuff.” They want websites, marketing collateral, a video or a campaign. Of course we are happy to fulfill the project needs they have, but they often forget to tell their employees what they are working on.
Case in point: I went to my credit union to test this theory. They had been doing a lot of external consumer advertising for a new program they were unveiling. They sent information in statements, it was promoted on their website, they had signage in the bank and even large pop-up banners in the drive-through to communicate the program. I give them an A+ on the External Communication touchpoints. The only problem… the employees in the bank could not offer one piece of knowledge as to what the program was or how I could get involved. When I asked about the program, the bank teller told me “You’ll probably need to call corporate, they don’t tell us anything!” To which I thought, “Aren’t you, they?” Internal Communication grade = F.
According to the Bernard Hodes Group study regarding “The Growing Power of Employee Brands”, HR is responsible for 51% of your organizations Brand Culture (see graph below). Yet, the marketing and human resources departments are notorious for not communicating well. Frankly, we just speak different languages, so at times we avoid each other all together.
It’s a tough conversation to have with the rest of your organization, because at times other departments think of it as just marketing “fluff.” Don’t give up though… they will start to live it if you are consistent. There are various degrees of support for change within an organization as it relates to driving the brand/employee relationship:
- SUPERFICIAL – The “Hearing it” Phase
- CONCEPTUAL – The “Believing it” Phase
- Ready to Defend
- EMOTIONAL & PERSONAL – The “Living it” Phase
- Ready to Promote
- Utilize and Internalize
- Cultural Experience
- Passionate Advocacy
As a certified brand strategist, we are taught (and we teach) that it is critically important to think about the internal communication touchpoints and everyone in your company before jumping to the “fun consumer projects.” Ask yourself, “What can I do to make sure all of my employees understand what our brand stands for and how can I make it easy for them to communicate it to our customers?” This way you can avoid hearing the word “they” when employees are talking about other co-workers.
Lindsey Hurr is a Principal of Immotion Studios in Fort Worth, Texas. She is also a Certified Brand Strategist and became a member of the The Brand Establishment in February 2010.
Recently an associate of mine passed along an article to me from one of my favorite thought leaders – Jim Collins, of Good to Great fame. In this Harvard business review article titled Building Your Company’s Vision (which he co-authored with Jerry Porras back in Sept. 1996), the authors describe the two components of any lasting vision: core ideology and an envisioned future. They state that “enduring companies have clear plans for how they will advance into an uncertain future”. The article put forth a profound insight that “while a company’s practices and strategies should change continually, its core ideology should not”. Collins and Porras define core ideology as “a company’s timeless character – the glue that holds the enterprise together when everything else is up for grabs”. They go on to share that “core ideology is something you discover — by looking inside. It’s not something you can invent.” (Those of us who are brand strategists certified through the Brand Establishment wholeheartedly echo this truth. We call looking inside “Turning the Telescope™”).
Core purpose is defined by the authors as “an organization’s most fundamental reason for being”. Simon Sinek, renown TedTalk speaker (The Golden Circle) and author of Start with Why, refers to this fundamental reason for being as a company’s “WHY”… its purpose, its cause, its reason to exist. He reveals that people don’t buy (or buy into) what we do or how we do it; they buy into why we do it and what we believe. If you haven’t yet viewed Simon’s TedTalk or read his book, I consider them a must-see and a must-read, and highly recommend that you do so.
In my experience as a consulting brand strategist, working with companies of all shapes and sizes, I find that most, if not all, entrepreneurs, business owners, and company leaders truly want to develop a vision that will stand the test of time and make a significant difference. It comes with being a leader, because for those who lead, status quo is unacceptable, intolerable, unimaginable, and…. well, you get the point. Leadership is about leading your organization to a higher, loftier, and better place. This journey begins with a strong and compelling vision – one that can be painted verbally and visually.
In Collin’s article, he states: “Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. While many company leaders readily embrace the need to build their company’s vision, they struggle in the science of how to do it. They have been challenged in taking their organizations to an inspiring place, a place that will rally the troops, drive and sustain their behavior, and garnish their whole-heartedly given blood, sweat and tears to complete the journey.”
As I absorbed the insights of this article, I was struck by the obvious and essential relationship that exists between developing an organization’s Master Brand and the development of the company’s envisioned future. Your Master Brand is the essential ingredient necessary to develop the right lasting vision to carry the company forward towards sustained success. Your Master Brand is your organization’s DNA. It’s how you roll – what you stand for – and who you are. It’s the heart and sole of your organization and definitely includes your core ideology and core purpose, as well as your unique value propositions and your “why”. It is defined as your competitive evidence of distinction.
Let’s look at some elements that make up your master brand.
- Your why
- Your company’s evidence of distinction – revealed and built from the inside out
- The powerful and crystalline articulation of your distinction and its associated promises
- Your internal audiences (employees, managers, C-suite leadership, and stakeholders) now emotionally hardwired into the brand in heart, mind and behavior
- Your external audiences (customers, prospects, your marketplace and community) adopting and embracing your brand and its promise
A classic example is the United States Marine Corps; their Master brand is voiced in their tagline: “THE FEW… THE PROUD… THE MARINES.” Their famous brand is steadfast and never changing. It embodies their organization’s core ideals and core purpose, coupled with their evidence of distinction. Who they were and who they remain today came before their tagline was developed. Finally, their brand charts the direction for whatever vision they set for themselves to drive and ensure their continued success and esprit de corps.
I’ll close with one last insight from Collins and Porras: “Vision provides guidance about what core to preserve and what future to stimulate progress toward”. As your Master Brand remains steadfast and fixed, your strategies can and will change and evolve as situations and times dictate – but now your strategies will be on point and rooted in something that empowers and compels – Your Brand! Definitely something to consider developing as you work to build your own company’s lasting and compelling vision.
Let’s go Fire Up our brands!
Richard Gripp is a member of the Brand Establishment and is the only certified brand strategist in Northeast Indiana. He is a recognized expert on building brands that sustain and elevate companies, a keynote speaker on the subject, and is founding president of Ignite, LLC, a brand consultancy group.
These five steps are absolutely vital for the successful rebrand of a company or organization. If you aren’t willing to do these five steps, then save your money…because the rebrand will most likely fail!
A winning brand strategy is one that is integrated into a company’s overall business strategy. There are a lot of reasons why, as I explained in my first blog, “Top Five Reasons For Growing Brand Value.” But brand strategy won’t work unless its approach and methodology is correct, and that includes starting from the CEO on down and with clearly defined objectives. It’s very common to see companies make grand mistakes that render a brand literally ineffective, accomplishing few, if any, of the original business objectives for the rebrand. Here are a few tips before engaging on your company’s rebrand.
It starts with the CEO –
Brand development is a strategic initiative – and therefore has to be driven by the CEO. The CEO is the only executive in a leadership position who can truly set the vision for both the company and the brand. The CEO has to live and breathe the brand passionately or the employees won’t adopt the brand. Employees crave authenticity. Your people have to feel the CEO deems the brand a vital component of why the organization is here. Otherwise, the employees will simply relegate the activity to just another marketing tactic. Of course, an effective brand development process includes input from the management team and a cross-section of employees. But, at the end of the day, the CEO makes the final strategic decisions and has to be the No. 1 champion of the brand.
Manage your assets –
Folks often think once they go through a rebrand, their work is done. Beware! This will create the need for another rebrand in time — and all those dollars, resources and time will have to be replicated again! Brand value is an asset to be managed, and therefore is an investment that should be amortized over time. If done correctly, the value of your brand will grow steadily over time, making it your greatest investment without ever needing to replicate the process to remain relevant. Create concrete brand metrics, review them regularly, and actively make adjustments to ensure a clear, consistent and ever-relevant company brand. Engage in annual brand planning to determine where the brand needs are. Make decisions through your brand lens, then continue to invest in your brand. It is a most important asset and will pay big dividends over time.
Do your homework –
Research and validation must be done to ensure the brand can indeed be adopted. Start with a gap analysis internally within the organization to determine the brand pulse of the company. Get a baseline of external perceptions of your brand in the marketplace. Do a competitive landscape and know the opportunities available within your playing field. Know your audience. Then, after you have delved into the brand process, validate it with your audience and make adjustments as necessary. Skipping your homework can be very costly in the long run.
Take your time –
Leadership gets excited when brand work starts coming together. They want to get out there and show their new identity, often burrowing deep into the tactics to communicate the new positioning. However, this is a danger zone. If you get out there in the marketplace before your own people have totally bought into the new brand positioning, the target audience will most likely experience brand failure at the point of purchase, vowing never to return. Your audience no longer believes what you are saying when you communicate through marketing tactics. And you never get another chance to make a first impression. Take the time to get your people engaged and excited about the brand and the vision of where the company is headed. Don’t just have one launch event. Create adoption workshops to help them understand how they can deliver on the brand promise —no matter what their role is within the organization. When the internal work is done, only then do you launch your new brand externally.
Allocate your dollars wisely –
You cannot skimp on the allocation of dollars for the employees’ internal adoption of your brand. Nor can you shortchange the annual brand planning efforts to ensure your brand is still on course. And, for heaven’s sakes, don’t take it out of the existing marketing budget! Marketing budgets should be in line with your annual operating budget. Brand development and brand building activities should have their own budget, and that budget includes some essential HR activities. The bottom line—you need both. Marketing is immediate. It brings customers to your door. However, it may not get them to buy. If you shortchange your marketing budget, no one will know about your business…few, if any, will come to your door. Brand building is more long term, but it communicates the value proposition of your offering. If you shortchange your brand budget, you may find your brand relatively worthless in a valuation. And, if you are a good steward of your brand, you may find your marketing expenditures drop because of the strength of the brand. How much money do you have to spend? Southwest Airlines has been known to allocate as much as 50 percent of its marketing budget on its people strategy. More often, budgets for brand development and brand building range from 6-20 percent of company revenues. Whatever budget you determine fits your needs, make sure it is an amount capable of growing your brand over time.
With communications and consulting expertise spanning two decades, Jennifer Holland builds a client’s brand into an innovative, unique signature for its products and services. As part of The Brand Establishment, Jennifer has deep roots in award-winning design and interactive marketing. She is one of only 32 Certified Brand Strategists in the U.S. and is the only marketing consultant in Northeast Florida with this elite status.
Jennifer and partner Jackie Weathers developed a proven methodology that grows business—the Holland Helix®. This model integrates a business+brand+people strategy, enhancing a company’s brand persona and engaging employees to live the brand. These efforts were published internationally in the Journal of Brand Strategy in 2013. Their Build Your Brand DIY Workshop® curriculum teaches the model to growth-oriented entrepreneurs. Licensed in 2014, these workshops now appear in six U.S. and Canadian markets and were selected for the SBDC Scale Up America grant in Jacksonville, Florida.
Jennifer is a top-rated presenter and national speaker on branding. She is an Expert Resource Speaker for Vistage International and consistently secures speaking engagements for national conferences and private corporations. Additionally, she was named as the 2015 Women in Business Established Entrepreneur of the Year and as one of the 2015 Women of Influence by the Jacksonville Business Journal.
Over the past few years, we have come to enjoy an outing for lunch where we visit one of two food truck destinations in Fort Worth. It’s quite a fun experience where we all order from different trucks and then enjoy our food together. Many times the conversations involve the food we’re eating and the folks that prepared it for us. And chef-prepared food at a fair price is always better than a simple sandwich and soup at the local eatery. But is there room for brand development when people just come for the food? Or do they?
So I got to thinking about how one food truck finds its distinction. In the brand development process, we capitalize on distinctions. But a distinction without a difference may be only rhetoric in the highly competitive world of food trucks. Can you imagine competing in an industry where everyone has a great product? In fact, the next formidable competitor just drove up beside you and is befriending your customers while they stand in line to do business with you. OMG… what a competitive world the food truck business must be. Right! How do we find distinction for a food truck client among the 100’s of food trucks competing for the same connection with customers? How might a BE member address the evidence of distinction for a food truck?
As brand developers, we think in terms of achieving an emotional connection with our customers through our employees, products and overall experience. We look for ways to interact with our market on that level because it’s the emotional connection that establishes the distinction in the minds of sophisticated consumers. So what was it our grandmas used to tell their daughters and granddaughters… the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?
The BE is a roster of operational brand development managers that are not afraid to open the hood of operations and discover how the product delivers on the brand. We practice a method where operations, human resources and marketing have to work together to deliver the experience in product, people and environment to achieve the connection. Applying these brand tools to the food truck, the first line of brand development has to be in the food. We would challenge our chef to create meals that deliver on a unique and meaningful difference. The meals should have a distinguishable purpose from the other food trucks even if the cuisine is the same. And, the meal has to be delivered by associates that want to create an experience with the meals and environment in which it is served.
Food trucks are not your grandfather’s rolling roach coach anymore. No one can argue that food trucks are not big business in the United States. But what’s so popular about owning a food truck? (Short answer please). Relatively low cost of entry and high self-expression in a time where everyone desires to be a unique individual. So how would a BE member create a brand (i.e. emotional connection) with our customer such they remember our food truck brand and want to come back for more… no matter who is parked beside us.
1. Clear brand identify – What is our brand theme? Here are some that I have seen around Fort Worth: spicy, organic, Texan, Mexican, low costs, high costs, local grown, BBQ, sweet, desert. The point is that the theme of the brand can be discovered in many lines of inquiry.
2. Memorable graphics – Let’s face it. Pictures are worth a thousand words and good (eye-candied) graphics that get the double look add to the opportunity to distinguish your brand from others.
3. Color Scheme – While not separate and apart from good graphics, I think a color scheme is a visual instruction that ties to our brand identity. So while the color scheme and graphics are usually considered in concert, I believe the color must be aligned with the theme. When food truck customers start making their decision on who they’ll buy their next meal from perhaps long before they know what the graphics say… just the memorable color may make the difference.
4. Positioning Statement – Curry in a Hurry is more memorable then Indian Food Sold here. And when it’s good, I just want to visit Curry in a Hurry and not just buy food. Curry in a Hurry finds its way to an emotional connection with foodies on the run.
5. The food truck associates – How are they being used to be part of the experience. What do they wear, what do they say? Are they aligned with our theme and ready to deliver the experience we have contemplated in our theme?
The purpose of this article was to show how the brand development process can be used in a fiercely competitive business like food trucks where uniqueness and distinction is the entry to play the game. But remember, above all, the food has to be good too.
Randy Hurr is a Principal of Immotion Studios in Fort Worth, Texas. He is also a Certified Brand Strategist and became a member of The Brand Establishment in February 2010.
If you’ve ever broken an object and relied on glue to combine the broken pieces, you’re familiar with the power of cohesion. Once united, the object is whole again.
Similarly, brand strength relies on cohesion, or maintaining a positive image that “sticks” with customers. To strengthen your brand, you must remain consistent. And to do that, you should focus on these six things.
Your voice is the language and tone you use when describing your brand. When you talk about your brand—whether on social media accounts, in person, or on your website—you should always use the same tone.
This is your mission statement. Keep this as simple, concise, and clear as possible. The more clear and consistent your message—i.e. the more cohesive—the stronger your brand.
Your brand identity is who you say you are, who you actually are, and who your customers say you are. Good reputations depend on the unity of these three. In other words, what you say about your brand should match what your customers say.
COLORS AND FONTS:
You want your colors to match, no matter what you are designing. Keep everything consistent – your website, your ads, your business cards and your shoes – maybe not your shoes, but that’s strong commitment to your brand, and that’s what we like to see.
All the images, buttons, forms and content on your website should match your colors, font and tone. Have these carefully selected and custom designed to remain consistent.
Last but definitely not least, you’ll want a professional logo. This is the face of your brand. Have an original logo created that best expresses your brand identity, a logo that people will remember.
If all this information overwhelms you, no sweat. We excel in Brand Development. With the help of our brand development team, you’ll achieve a cohesive brand that “glues” your identity and image together. Check Kelsey Advertising‘s website for additional information and more offers.
Brant Kelsey is principal and founder of Kelsey Advertising & Design, a brand marketing and strategy firm in LaGrange, Georgia. He is a Certified Brand Strategist through the Brand Establishment. You can find Brant on Google+ and Twitter.
Customers, partners, and prospects come in contact with your brand on a daily basis in dozens of different ways. These areas of contact are called ‘brand touchpoints’ and should be managed as aggressively as you would manage any other marketing tactic – this is the process of brand development.
Because there are literally dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of points of interaction for your business (both internally and externally), capturing them all on paper can be a daunting task. However, it is paramount to the success of your brand that you take special care in analyzing both current and potential touchpoints. It’s not a quick journey by any means, but you can get through it by following these four steps.
1. Internal Touchpoint Review
The internal review of your brand touchpoints should involve employees from every department of your company – sales, accounting, customer service, management, HR, etc. By including these individuals from the beginning, you’ll get better understanding, “buy-in”, and assistance when it comes time to implement your plan.
Sit down with the department representatives and ask about their processes and how they come in contact with other people on the job, keeping in mind to consider both internal and external transactions. For instance, if you are sitting down with a person from the accounting department, you may ask questions like:
- How do we bill our clients?
- How long does it take?
- How do we accept payments?
- What do our invoices look like?
- How do we handle billing discrepancies?
- How do we handle vendor relationships?
- How do we work with the sales department?
At first glance these may seem to be purely operational in nature and bear no effect on your overall brand, but each one of these processes leads to the perception of your company, and may help/hinder your ability to deliver your brand promise. By reviewing every touchpoint, department by department, we can become acutely aware of these interactions and make educated decisions regarding their importance and priority in our brand development plan.
2. External Touchpoint Review
In this step, ask your prospects, loyal customers and lost customers what is important to them. Finding out what matters to each of these groups helps you further refine your touchpoint plan.
- From loyal customers, you can find out what won them over and keeps them coming back.
- From future customers, you find out what factors they are considering while choosing a brand – this includes things that your competition is doing.
- From lost prospects, you gain insight into the things you are doing wrong that made them choose against your brand.
3. Touchpoint Priority Chart
Once the touchpoints have been collected from the first two steps, you should begin the prioritization process. Rank each of the touchpoints in four main areas – your ability to improve, cost, amount of improvement needed, and level of importance to the overall business objectives.
4. Plan & Execution
By now you know what touchpoints your company has, and what level of importance they hold in your current and future business goals. The key now is to determine a plan of action.
- Don’t try to act on every touchpoint at once; It’s an impossible task. Pick a few that you can easily manage, measuring your progress before, during and after your work.
- Delegate the appropriate parts of the plan to the members of your cross-functional team you assembled during the internal review. These people understand what you are doing, and can help you sell and implement your changes to their co-workers.
If you follow this process diligently and thoughtfully, your customers will notice significant differences in your efforts to better serve them before, during and after the sale…and that may just result in more ringing of the cash register!
Brant Kelsey is principal and founder of Kelsey Advertising & Design, a brand marketing and strategy firm in LaGrange, Georgia. He is a Certified Brand Strategist through the Brand Establishment. You can find Brant on Google+ and Twitter.
Whether your technology company is a startup or a global powerhouse, your brand will grow if you can consistently communicate the story behind it. One of the most difficult concepts for technology innovators to move beyond is the notion that their science, engineering or technology is their brand. It’s not. Engineers often have an especially hard time coming to terms with this fact. So I’ll spell it out.
“Great technology brands arise from the dreams their technology inspires.”
The only way your technology will ever inspire such dreams is for someone—you or perhaps a Certified Brand Strategist—to develop your story. This story is the essence of your brand, and it takes skill and experience to put into words what your technology does, how it’s different, and why it’s better. We once worked with the head of a technology group for a global manufacturing company to put together a presentation for her CEO and his executive team.
We began by meeting with the team of lead engineers to discuss their needs. They referred to the upcoming event as a walk-through. “Our executive team will fly in, and we’ll present the key tech initiatives we’re working on. They’ll be in and out in four hours and we need to make a big impression.” They were planning four hours of densely packed slides in their conference room , but we worked with them to deliver a dynamic walk-about—tightly scripted and choreographed to showcase their engineering teams—as each explained and demonstrated their individual technologies. We helped them focus on and clarify the future impact of their work, rather than getting bogged down with technical details.
During the final demonstration, one of the executives leaned over to another and whispered, “I’ve heard all this before, but this time I actually understand it!”
That is a highly desirable outcome in so many ways …
As technology brand strategists certified by The Brand Establishment, this is just one of many brand challenges we have faced during twenty years of working with technology companies.
Here’s a proven method for crafting your story:
1. Articulate your technology so non-technical people can understand what it does, how it’s different, and why they should care.
2. Demonstrate your technology using a planned, choreographed script that proves to potential customers that what you’ve already told them, is in fact accurate and true.
3. Replicate your demonstration for different scenarios, applications, and different industries for which your technology is applicable.
4. Scale your demonstration to showcase the benefits of one instance of your technology—then compare it to the benefits of a million instances!
Remember, the story behind your technology comes from you and your people. It will take patience, hard work and some trial and error, but learning to tell your story and show it in action is the essence of your brand.
Larret Wright, Technology Brand Strategist, Roundtable
Larret Wright is a Certified Brand Strategist and an early adopter with an affinity for all things tech. When he’s not helping clients increase the value of their brands, you might find him at the iMax telling the manager how to tweak the audio or he might be on the golf course trying to find his one true swing.
Our agency recently had the opportunity to work with a client from years ago on a new branding project. Our client’s intent? Elevating its brand to the next level by developing an entirely new entity to act as the holding company for their entire organization. This bigger brand would ultimately (in the client’s eyes) become the brand for the organization as a whole.
When we did our original work for the organization back in 2008, we helped create a brand and brand position that allowed the firm to grow and become the leading manufacturer in its category. Over time, they did indeed grow. Thanks to many acquisitions and other efforts, they increased their customers, employees and market share. While these acquisitions were strategic and aligned with the organization’s value proposition, customers of the individual companies didn’t necessarily know those companies—they did know the main organization.
The client felt that if we could elevate all the service offerings they provide and make their capabilities visible to their customers and prospects, market share for all entities would grow.
The Advantages of One Organization:
The goal was for all customers to clearly see the organization as acting
in customers’ best interests by seeing that the one organization:
– Brings together the strengths of each acquired company to streamline manufacturing challenges
– Has a track record of tackling projects that nobody else will touch
– Is driven by challenges and opportunities to make things better
– Is able to solve problems while saving money by utilizing processes and technologies to keep costs down
– Eliminates efforts by integrating teams and processes
Bigger Brands for Economies of Scale:
Creating the bigger brand allows the client to bring economies of scale
to work in the following ways:
– Advertising and marketing can promote the entire offering of services and allow the bigger brand to emerge.
– Sales can work holistically, allowing a seamless sales process from concept through final completed product.
– Accounting can generate one invoice for all completed services.
– Purchasing can source products for the entire organization.
A Bit of Empathy:
This client had our empathy, too, since this branding process was similar to what our agency took on a year ago: we went from several individual agencies (i.e., HatlingFlint) to an all-encompassing Flint Group. It allows us to operate more efficiently and promote the bigger brand. So far, this has been a successful move for us, and some of our own experiences enriched our ability to help our client through a similar process.
For the right client and the right circumstances, the bigger brand can be a win-win for organizations that have outgrown their original brands.
Bill Hatling is the managing partner leading the St. Cloud office of Flint Group and is one of only a handful of brand consultants in the United States to earn the title Certified Brand Strategist. He helps organizations and businesses identify unique features and communicate those messages to customers and prospects. See more at Flint-Group.com