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Insight: Becoming human - how to be a more meaningful technology brand


First published in Issue 5 of Feed Magazine

Close your eyes for a second or two and think of Google. What do you see? Maybe you see a easy to read logo with round, curvy characters; or bright, friendly, almost kindergarden colours; a search screen that is clean and clear of the pop-ups and banners that used to clutter other brands’ pages; or maybe it’s the other Google products that spring to mind – maps, music, mail? What you probably didn’t imagine was banks of programmers, acres of server farms or huge data pipes running beneath the land and the oceans – the stuff that Google actually does!
This is because Google has put great effort, resources and thought into creating what Apple, Amazon, Uber and Slack are all building - brands that relate to people. These brands don’t talk about processor speeds -  Giga Bytes or Terra Bytes or Peta Bytes, or even much about AI, they talk about how they can help; how their brands will enable, empower and set their users free to focus on what they really want to be doing.
And while none of us will ever achieve the scale of these companies, the principles of good branding apply to all of us, whatever our size.

VOD, OTT, DSLR – blah, blah, blah
Many broadcast companies are missing the chance to define aims and principles beyond thinking about the tech they provide.  This means they miss the opportunity to find ways to be authentically distinctive beyond the charisma of their founders or the short-term lead they have in technical innovations.
This matters for a number of reasons:

  • Firstly, because all companies are now technology enabled, talking about technology is no longer enough: competitors will catch up quickly and disruptors will innovate solutions that you haven’t yet begun to consider. So, in order to survive, your brand and your relationships have to go deeper.

  • Secondly, because talent and clients are expecting more.  People want to work for companies with ‘purpose’ because they want their work to be meaningful not just lucrative.   And clients want to work with firms which make them look good.

  • Thirdly, because broadcast firms are not standing-out.  Have a quick scan through the pages of this publication and you will see brands using near-identical language to describe near identical strategies and propositions.  Looking and sounding inter-changeable is bad business.  Differentiation – or more precisely meaningful differentiation and perceived ‘added value’ – is the basis of preference and advocacy.

Finally, because you should manage your own destiny. Firms need to react quickly to opportunity - but being agile is not a strategy.  Businesses which stay the course are those with deeply-held principles and a clear sense of their own identity.

Brands represent ideas not technologies
Many business and consumer brands take their name from technology solutions – IBM (International Business Machines) HTC (High-Tech Computer), Microsoft and Skype, for example.
Over time, the ‘authority’ of the technology is transferred into brand equity – a business-wide reputation for doing certain things in certain ways (aka brand positioning).  And brand positioning evolves to respond to new opportunities and challenges – to the point where the initial technology solutions or services are only part of the story which sets the brand apart and makes it outstanding.
In the broadcast world, personal relationships matter enormously and always will.  People do business with people.  But a brand which stands for ‘We’ not ‘Me’ (or even worse ‘That’) provides headroom for everybody.

Make your marque meaningful (and beautiful)
The opportunity to create valuable brands has never been greater.  Entrepreneurs abound.  Everybody wants to be a start-up or a disruptor.  There are deals to be done.  But to be in the game you need a distinctive, memorable and appealing brand that people take note of.
Defining your brand doesn’t (only) mean choosing a logo and a colour scheme.  It means determining what you stand for and what makes you distinctive.   That means digging deep into your fundamental belief systems to think about why you are in business – your purpose – and being tough-minded and focused on what makes your service distinctively valuable – your proposition.
And looking good helps a lot.  Google was successful because it was clean and uncluttered and friendly – its identity really is a projection of its personality. And this matters, because despite what we all tell ourselves, we actually make decisions based on subjective judgements like image and emotion.

Being human
Reflecting on your purpose, proposition and personality is a journey of discovery. It will help the business to align passions, resources and endeavors behind a shared vision.  It will energise the transition from technology to problem solver; from short-term transaction to long-term relationships and wider impacts; from opportunistic and reactive behaviours to focused strategic intent.

Ultimately, purpose and personality are human characteristics. They help firms to define what they are for and to come together as a distinctive, unified force.  Taking the time to define these will enable those firms that take it seriously to become outstanding.

Written by Simon Case and Alec Rattray, Chromatic Brands, September 2018