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Technology Brand Development Essentials

Brand strategy has to be differentiated and relevant to target markets

Having created and shaped several successful brands over the past decade, including FrontBridge (acquired by Microsoft) and FileNet (acquired by IBM), there are a few fundamentals that are key to successful brand development. It has to start at the top with the CEO supporting an investment in branding and disciplined brand management. Without that, it’s a non-starter. Given technology companies are continuously innovating and changing products, the brand strategy has to be differentiated and relevant to target markets and the executional guidelines have to be consistently applied in order for brand equity to be built over time

Brand Manifesto
A good place for marketers to start is to have a branding manifesto, i.e., what’s the purpose of building a brand and what difference will it make? Here’s what I wrote at FileNet:. “A brand is much more than a logo. It’s the tangible product and services delivered to the market, plus the intangible values, associations, and expectations attached to FileNet by our customers and prospects. It’s also what people think and feel about our capabilities, our products, our people, and our aspirations. Brands dictate how companies and products are perceived in the marketplace. Strong brands enjoy greater consideration, sales and profits. Thus, everything we say, do, communicate and deliver in some way shapes perceptions of the FileNet brand – and in so doing, either enhances or diminishes our brand equity. To ensure we maximize our collective ability to increase FileNet’s brand power, it’s critical that everyone in the organization truly understands, embraces and lives the FileNet brand.”

Brand Foundation
A properly articulated brand strategy has brand elements or anchors that inform and guide everything about the brand. At FileNet, we expressed these elements as the 4 Ps of the Brand Foundation, Brand Promise, Brand Positioning, Brand Pillars, and Brand Personality.  “Our Brand Promise (the business value we deliver to our customers) was we help companies make better decisions, faster which improves operational efficiency and results.” Our Brand Positioning Statement (how we are different and why people should care) was we enable the world’s leading companies and governments to streamline and automate their processes, access and manage all forms of content and ensure compliance. Our Brand Pillars (the underlying ideas/concepts that permeate our communications were Content, Process, and Connectivity. And our Brand Personality (traits that define who we are) were: Essential, Undaunted, Driven and Real World..“ This foundation was part of a complete Brand Guide.

Brand Guide
The FileNet Brand Guide, that was delivered electronically worldwide, served as the compass for all brand communications by delineating proper usage of the FileNet brand in both written and visual expressions. The intro on how to use the guide stated: “Our goal is to focus customer, prospect, investor, press, analyst, partner and employee messaging on FileNet’s ECM market leadership, company strength, as well as the FileNet platform and our broad range of ECM solutions. By emphasizing our solutions approach, we can align ourselves closer to the customer through understanding their needs and clearly demonstrating how FileNet delivers compelling business value and significant return on investment. This does not mean that we will not feature product capabilities in our communications; however, we should continually strive to communicate FileNet’s ability to deliver solutions that meet our customers’ needs.

Brand Success
Once you’ve done the essential work to get your brand in shape and on track to continuous improvement, how do you know if you’re succeeding? There are several measurements of brand strength, from traditional measures, such as brand familiarity and preference, to more dynamic measures such as customer willingness to recommend (i.e. “net promoter”). In the Web 2.0 world, measuring brand perception across a variety of social media forums can also be an important gauge to determine whether you are gaining – or losing – momentum in the cloud. One of the more clever measures I’ve seen for technology brands was a methodology utilized by IDG termed the “spine index.” In a multi-client study in the 90’s, IDG measured how hard an influencer/decision maker would fight to keep or switch to a particular brand, i.e. how strong was his/her spine. This brand loyalty/preference measure had a very strong correlation to brand strength. Another important consideration is the internal understanding of and alignment around your brand, e.g., what it means to employees, how they express it to customers, colleagues, prospects and partners, etc. Some refer to this as employer branding. Whatever form of measurements a company uses, it’s important to baseline the current state of the brand prior to making significant changes, and then to institute some level of regular measurements, or tracking studies, to gain insights into what’s working and what’s not, where fine tuning or revisions are needed, and when to stay the course.

There’s a lot more to successful brand building than these key considerations; regardless of where you start, however, having a well thought out strategy and comprehensive plan will certainly increase the likelihood that your company’s brand strength is heading in the right direction. What are your thoughts?

More Stories By Grant Johnson

A dynamic, senior-level technology executive with a proven track record building businesses on a global basis. As Chief Marketing Officer for Pegasystems in Cambridge, MA Johnson is responsible for worldwide marketing strategy and execution. He oversees corporate marketing, field marketing, industry marketing, product marketing, marketing programs, marketing communications, analyst and public relations, and global web strategy. Previously, Johnson was the Vice President of Marketing at Guidance Software (GUID) and Vice President of Marketing and served as an officer for FileNet Corp., a $400+ million enterprise software vendor acquired by IBM in 2006. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Marketing for FrontBridge, an email management vendor acquired by Microsoft. Johnson led the company’s re-naming and re-launch, built the marketing team and delivered integrated marketing programs to support significant and sustained revenue growth. He has also served as Director of Marketing for Symantec, with worldwide responsibility for the Norton brand, and as Senior Vice President of Marketing at Ethentica, an enterprise security vendor. Johnson received his bachelor of arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his master’s in business administration from Pepperdine University. He has also published several articles on best practices in high tech marketing and co-authored the book, PowerBranding™

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