By Tom Dougherty
No Sacred Cows Allowed When Branding Technologies
Some “branding firms” and companies, for that matter, believe that branding is all about changing a logo, name, website, or collateral material. However, developing brand strategies for companies that are designed to significantly grow market share requires our strategists to dig deeply into the business model as well as other marketing disciplines.
Clients, who engage our services, come to us because they want to win by doing more than changing their “corporate appearance” and it is our pledge to them that we will find a way for them to do exactly that. This means that everything MUST be on the table. “Sacred cows” are the enemy of stealing market share. They represent a passion for the past and an unwillingness to seize the present…let alone the future.
Case In Point
A major manufacturer of box fans that relied on distribution rather than strategic execution of their brand to build share had its only advertisements on the very boxes in which they shipped their fans. Regardless of any brand insight we might bring, we were told in no uncertain terms that “made in the America” was to remain the prominent feature of those boxes.
After conducting a nationwide, quantitative research study, the findings indicated that such a claim was of major importance to only 3% of their target market and of minor importance to an additional 5%. For 92% of their market, the country of manufacturing origin did not factor at all in their purchase decisions. In other words, a box emblazoned with an American flag and festooned with “made in America” did not influence preference equation.
It was a sacred cow important only to the manufacturer — what we call an inside-out view of the marketplace. Although the research clearly showed that this “sacred cow” was only “sacred” to those executives within the halls of the fan manufacturer, the company has continued their strategy of building their brand through distribution and competing solely by being economy priced. Their own sacred cow is aggressively feeding on their own margins and ultimate success.
The Goal of Technology Branding: Don’t Be Process Driven
The technology sector has its own sacred cows feeding on its potential success. For the most part, technology companies are in love with the technology and believe that the technology can and should drive all preference and purchase decisions. At Stealing Share we call this attitude “process driven” meaning that it is in love with the process and it eventually becomes more important to the company than the purpose it serves or the precepts that rule both purpose and process.
It is precisely this fault that gave rise to a couple of the great fables in the brand business. One is about a man in 1900 that had an idea. He noticed carpenters and builders struggling with hand drills. He thought it would be an amazing invention to connect an electric motor to a hand drill and create the world’s first electric drill. He set about to do just that and in 5 years he had a rather compact (by the day’s standards) working model. New technology in tow, he went to market.
It is easy to imagine that his invention changed the world of construction. If you were told his name was Mr. Black or Mr. Decker, you would not be surprised. However, his name is lost in history and he died a poor man. He was never able to sell his invention to any satisfaction because he thought he was selling drills (a process) when in fact all he was ever selling was holes (purpose). Another story, even more telling, takes place in a railroad office at about the same time.
A young kid, after seeing an airplane flying overhead (an unusual site in those days), burst into his boss’s office, pointed through the window to the airplane and exclaimed…”Boss, Boss… we need to get some of those!” His boss puts down his cigar and replies “get out of here kid. We’re a railroad” (process). Had he recognized that his business was in fact a fulfiller of PURPOSE (transportation) we might by flying internationally today with the B&O Airlines.
You Are More Than A Technology
Understanding the difference between process, purpose (see our explanation of the Preceptive Behavioral Model) and more importantly precept is the key to success in the technology sector. The marketplace is littered with companies that were so in love with the technology that they followed the process into the grave.
AB Dick saw themselves as a mimeograph company and therefore missed the boat on the digital revolution (they have since tried to reinvent themselves a bit) and KODAK thought they were a film company. Apple computer languished for years as a computer company and only when they saw their brand as much more than “computers” were they free to bring us the iPod, which, subsequently, even grew their core business. At my local computer store, the poster out front now reads… “The New MacBook Pro, from the makers of iPod.” What does this all mean?
While your process or technology might be the cornerstone of your business model, your customer never buys process; they buy more efficient solutions to their purposes. But, consider that even though the relationship between process and purpose is powerful, it is dwarfed by the power of the relationship between their purposes and their precepts.
Use The Laws Of Physics
Think about precepts like voids, holes if you will. These “holes” seek to be filled with any purpose that satiates them. In many ways, they are small areas of vacuum that not only exist in the market but also, because they are a vacuum, are drawn to solutions or draw solutions to themselves.
Each and every purpose that your customer owns was created by their precepts (beliefs). We can say, with great confidence, that what your customers believe to be truths in their lives controls the purposes that they seek to fulfill. It is these precepts that form the foundation of a brand that steals share.
Identifying those beliefs in your brand communications attracts customers and creates a covetous relationship between them and your brand. It protects and grows your margins and promises a preference over your competition. Not because your process is better but because your brand is stronger. Couple that with a better process and you will have the strongest of combinations and a brand built to steal market share.