Let’s come right out and say it: technology branding strategies are undervalued.
In an industry racing to define the future, the short-term rush of product marketing too often steals focus from the slower wheel of brand development. It’s easy to see why. The big picture, the deeper story, the overarching audience relationship feels less urgent by comparison. Less important.
Major tech brands like Google, AT&T, and Microsoft would disagree.
“When I first started my career in high-tech B2B marketing, I didn’t know what branding was,” said Juliette Rizkallah, CMO at SailPoint. “I was trained in product management and product marketing, and in my mind if the product was good, that was all the company needed.”
The same mistake is common in Silicon Valley, where it’s easy to “think that the best product will beat out all of the competition,” said Samantha Warren, Experience Design Manager at Adobe Stock + Typekit. Problem is, the best products don’t always make the most successful companies, Warren said.
In fact, according to entrepreneur Larry Alton, “not having a brand” tops the list of mistakes that tech startups are prone to make.
Your technology branding strategy deserves at least as much attention as the evolution of your tech. Strategically, it’s the foundation that supports everything you aspire to do — so how to make it a good one?
To answer that question, let’s see what we can learn from some of the strongest technology branding strategies out there. Microsoft, Google, and AT&T are counted among the top 25 “biggest technology brands of the world.” They each invest significant energy in their branding, using it to unite many disparate offerings into a coherent family while expressing a focused emotional undercurrent that draws customers to their door.
There are many aspects of the example they set that we could highlight — but one secret they all have in common is simply this:
Their brand promise is unmistakably clear
A brand promise is one, at most two, core concepts that express your basic value proposition and sum up why your customers choose your brand.
- For Google, the promise is to organize the world’s information so it’s useful and accessible.
- For Microsoft Business, it’s to empower businesses to take advantage of a rapidly-developing world of digital technology.
- For AT&T, it’s to perfect customer experience and satisfaction.
These promises look simple, right? And so they should. A brand promise needs to represent a clear, simple idea that’s easy to wrap your mind around.
But defining a promise of your own is usually harder than it looks. Working with technology firms at the MAC, we’ve found that when you’re deep in the weeds in product development and internal company dynamics, it’s not easy to zoom in on the one true idea that effectively distills your identity into a few words — the core, unifying, emotionally-resonant promise that’s strong enough, important enough, and authentic enough to provide a lasting foundation for your brand.
Nonetheless, it’s a challenge that all technology branding strategies must overcome in order to succeed. Following are a few tips to get you moving in the right direction.
1. Your brand promise originates from your vision
Our client Shadowserver is a nonprofit organization working quietly behind the scenes to make the Internet more secure for everyone. Their vision of “a more secure Internet” provides focus for everything they do. Thanks to the altruism that drives it, Shadowserver has built credibility with cyber security teams across the globe and pioneered a radical shift toward collaboration and transparency in their field.
That’s the power of a vision. If you know what you’re aiming for and why, your tactical efforts can converge upon a goal that not only makes you more effective internally, but gives your external audiences a reason to rally with you.
Ask yourself this: how does your company vision benefit your audience? Articulate the answer, and you’ll be one step closer to a strong brand promise.
2. Your brand promise communicates your USP
What are you doing well, that no one else is doing at all?
Your unique selling proposition (or USP) is a fundamental component of your brand. It defines who your audience is and why they care about you: vital information when claiming your position in the heavily saturated technology market.
Defining your USP is a principal goal of our discovery process at the MAC. We unearth it through a thorough competitive analysis, informed by extensive interviews with internal and external stakeholders. Once we’ve defined your USP, we build on that with your visual identity and essential messaging components — not the least of which is your brand promise.
3. Your brand promise translates to a story
When a customer purchases your product, does it give them the power of a magician to transform reality? That’s the storyline behind the Apple brand, and it’s a good one.
Does it turn them into a rebel, subverting expectations and rewriting the rules? In past decades, Apple tried that story on for size, too.
Does it make your customer a creator who reenvisions the world around them? Sony told that story when advertising its cameras.
There are many ways to tell a compelling story with your brand. The point is, all great technology branding strategies tell one.
Think of it this way. If your brand story defines the relationship between your company and your audience (who are you to them? who do you help them become?), your brand promise drives the plot. It’s the kernel at the center, around which the rest of the story spins.
There’s a silver lining to the fact that technology firms tend to undervalue branding. It means that by defining yours, you can develop an edge on your competitors.
In that spirit, we encourage you to step back from the lemming rush on the short term, and pause for a moment to reflect on what you do and why (your vision). Identify what’s unique about your offerings, a quality not shared with anyone else in the world (your USP). Figure out why your customers care; then brainstorm who that makes you by extension (your story).
Out of these exercises, your brand promise will emerge.
Need a hand? We’ll be here for you.