Software and Electronic Games as Brand Architecture
Know What You Sell
Brand development in software and electronic gaming seems like it should be a no-brainer. It is all about brand architecture. After all, what software developers are really selling is intellectual property, not real estate, and as such, they are better positioned to understand that customers are not buying a three dimensional product but rather an idea of value.
Certainly there are innovations in software and games that get a great boost from a critical review that credits it with product superiority and efficacy. However, the reason to invest in the brand is to protect you (developers) from those most common occasions when you do not have an innovative product and a competitors offering has a few more bells and whistles or a new feature.
Branded House vs House of Brands
There are two basic brand strategies in the software marketplace, the “branded house,” and the “house of brands.” Both have advantages and both have disadvantages. From a share-stealing perspective, a branded house is preferred because it allows the brand equity to “grease the skids” as it were. However, it requires greater planning and a larger initial investment. Microsoft is a perfect example of a branded house.
Their Office Suite proclaims that the software is Microsoft’s Excel and not, for example, “Word’s Excel Spread Sheet”. Such an investment allows the brand equity of Microsoft to carry new product offers. Most electronic gaming companies are a house of brands with the possible exception of EA. Gamers may prefer an EA game but they will purchase another brand when the individual title gains repute.
Build a Branded House
In order to build a branded house, you must identify your brand position in the market that demonstrates both your value and difference to the market. For example, Intuit (manufacturers of the well accepted Quicken brand) sees itself as a branded house and that has a long litany of product offerings that carries the equity of the parent brand. The success of Quicken provides an advantage for TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Eclipse. Each new product offering builds the brand and increases broad preference within the financial software and business software category.
Success Does Not Happen By Chance
It does require an initial investment in the parent brand and a strong desire to make sure that the product brand receives “support” from the parent brand. This does not happen by accident and, in order to make it work successfully, both the product and the parent brand need to have important meaning associated with it. The genius of Intuit is found in the root of their brand name — to “inuit,” to know by intuition. This did not happen by accident as the brand created a trademark that identifies their core competency.
They promise the buyer of the software an intuitive experience that anticipates their needs. Find your brand’s permission by looking beyond your category and product offering. As always, the questions you ask will define the value of your answers. If you are a software company, look beyond your product offering (i.e. graphic design, word processor, or enterprise software) and discover what it is about your parent brand that guides the development of your product brands.
Look from the outside-in and ask yourself — If I was the customer, how would I feel about myself when I use it?” Am I smarter? Am I a person who values simplicity and ease of use? Am I a person who recognizes excellence in design?
These questions will help define your parent brand, will lead the way to becoming a branded house and will ultimately increase both your preference and margins.
Planning Is Better Than Luck
If you are lucky enough to have a substantial successful product brand in your stable of offerings, use it to build the parent brand and then leverage the equity across all of your product lines.