I’ve worked with a lot of technology companies over the years, and I have to say if there is one common unifying problem that persists among them it is the challenge they have with brand strategy.
In fact, I recently reviewed the brand positioning of 25 technology companies in various sectors in preparation for a speaking event. Of those 25, only 3 (3!), had attempted to create a brand positioning that wasn’t based purely on the technology features.
Technologies are, well, technologies. And the problem is that if you use the features and benefits of the technology as your high-level brand positioning, another company can match or deliver better features and benefits—making your brand positioning irrelevant.
Your brand positioning must stay a level above this.
Let’s start with the basics. Most technologies, regardless of the industry or whether they are B2B or B2C, are designed to do one or all of the following:
- Create efficiencies
- Save time
- Save money
- Provide data for analytics
Do you see the common thread in the first three? They are essentially the same thing, and it’s based on these how companies often attempt to position their brand based on these benefits.
It just won’t work, and here's why: Those will always be points of parity for a technology brand. It’s why we have technology in the first place.
The last one, data for analytics, is the “growing” side of almost all technologies. This can be seen in everything from B2B technologies to wearables. Data, or aggregate data, can be extremely beneficial for trends, planning and user experiences.
But none of that has a direct link to brand strategy. Brand strategy sits above these so-called benefits, and should represent the real value that the technology is bringing to the users and their lives.
So how do you nail technology brand positioning?
Like most business challenges, it’s always best to start with the voice of the end user. Talk to your users to find out how they perceive your technology. While creating efficiencies might be the way you look at it, I’m pretty sure those terms won’t come out of your users’ mouths. They don’t think in terms of “efficiencies,” they think of in terms of what specific benefit is created for them by that newfound efficiency.
This is a key point: brand strategy, especially for technology, can’t be created from the viewpoint of the company selling the technology. It must come from the end-user’s perspective. I would like to think that sounds rather obvious but, based on how most technology companies brand themselves, I’m gathering it’s not.
For example, keeping with the same benefit of creating efficiency, this is only the middle step. Think of it as a bridge that spans a broad river—it’s what’s on the other side of that bridge that is the true benefit.
One basic and useful way to look at it is by talking to your customers and probing them to answer this question: “Our technology creates efficiencies that enable you to better do _____________.” Keep at it, and don’t just settle for the first thing they tell you. Dig deeper and ask “what else?” They will state the obvious things first, but as you probe more deeply you’ll typically find the real underlying benefits will start coming out.
Now take this one step further and tag that question with: “Because of this benefit, it makes me feel _____________.” This second part is important because it’s the emotional side of the coin that is the really important brand positioning.
It’s only through this process that you can develop the deep insights that will help you better position your brand. From these insights you can then start piecing together a story that sits above the “what” and the “how” of the technology, and answer the question that often gets left out: the “why.”