December 14, 2011
"Branding & rebranding" is rising fast on the list of priorities for tech marketers in 2012.
Over the past few months, my colleagues and I in the Tech Marketing Council have been engaging in a rising number of client discussions around the topic of “brand.” These conversations with our CMO and VP of marketing clients have come in a few different flavors:
- Branding for Emerging Firms. Small, but not startup, vendors seeking to create better brand position and differentiation to take on the established sector players. (e.g., David and Goliath)
- Rebrand for Maturing Firms. Midsize growing tech companies ($250M+) with designs on being the next $1B+ firm in their sector. (e.g., “Good to Great”)
- Post M&A Brand Integration. Both emerging and large tech firms are working to integrate newly acquired companies, personnel and products. (e.g., House of Many Brands)
To help our members better address these branding challenges, we reached out and talked with Jason Cieslak, managing director of Siegel+Gale’s West Coast operations. He has extensive experience working in technology. Here’s some advice we were able to glean from an interview with him:
Steve: When it comes to emerging vendors looking to “punch up” their product and brand differentiation, where should they spend their time?
Jason: Beyond the fundamental brand assessment activities (e.g., customer, employee and market research), I’d advise tech marketers to first spend time understanding what the company and its products do not do. It may sound counterintuitive, but this exercise will help the company focus the brand message on the true value of the company and its offerings. Second, make the right bets, meaning focus on big enhancements to the brand rather than on every new incremental release. Finally, ensure your messages are clear and simple as possible and stay away from the industry’s jargon. This last point seems obvious, but so many tech marketers still tend to complicate messages more than they simplify them.
Steve: Before embarking on a rebranding exercise, what questions do tech marketers need to ask themselves?
Jason: How serious are the senior leaders of the company with this initiative? And, is the company ready to support it in years 2 and 3 after the relaunch of the company/brand? Senior leaders in growth and maturing firms need to be fully committed because brand building is a journey, not a project. It isn’t over once the brand equity needle begins to show some uptick.
Steve: For line and corporate tech CMOs dealing with “post M&A brand integration,” what specific advice would you give them?
Jason: First, don’t jump to sunset, rename, or realign products/brands until you’ve done the analysis on your people, processes, brands, technologies, and customers. Next, make the hard decisions on the future, communicate the rationale behind them, and make it clear that these are final decisions. Last, have a clear vision on how the integration will happen and communicate it constantly and consistently to employees and the marketplace. In an acquisition, you’re buying people, not just code or software. No one likes confusion. Clarity must drown out ambiguity.
Steve: Last question, when it comes to great tech brands, what B2B company should they look toward for a solid brand strategy?
Jason: Besides Apple, look to Amazon. It has built the standard for online retail, introduced a very viable consumer device (Kindle) and it has become one of the leaders when it comes to cloud computing. The company maintained its strong brand equity, extended the brand to the B2B technology market and retained what its original customers love about them.
Where does a branding or rebranding initiative land on your list of priorities for 2012? Let me/us know – we'd love to hear from you.
Stay tuned for more in the B2B tech branding space. The results of the Tech Marketing Council's 2012 topic survey are coming in and "brand and thought leadership strategies" are among the top priorities for our members in the coming year.