Understanding what creates a brand, and a good one, is simple. It’s not easy! There are however some indicative cues…
The best definition I’ve heard of “brand” is, ‘that single notion one holds in the mind of an audience’. It could be positive or negative. The goal of any marketer is therefore – to build this notion on distinguishable qualities that set it apart, so as to create a platform for sales, or in the case of government agencies or not-for-profits, an appetite to engage.
There are companies that get it, and those that don’t. More interestingly though, there are sectors that get it and others that don’t. You need only look at the brand studies of the last few years to see that the top places are almost always occupied by technology companies. The question then is, why? What are they doing differently?
With the exception of Coca-Cola, Interbrand says the top brands globally are Apple, Microsoft, IBM and Google. You could make lots of arguments, for and against, about the merits of this ranking, but nonetheless they are globally recognised. Here are four commonalities I see:
They constantly evolve: Apple was once a niche computer company popular with Designers. It’s now more common than not, having revolutionised the music industry by changing the way we think about Mobile. Microsoft began with an operating system, and while it still drives significant revenue for the company, it has used this money to diversify into other areas, like Gaming. IBM once built PCs, but now it creates middleware and has a huge services business. And Google, while still in its relative infancy, has grown from internet search, to space exploration. The mantra is very much, adapt, advance or die.
They create need: There was never an innate need for a computer. Take them away and the world would be very different, but the sun would still rise in the east and set in the west. We don’t need technology to rest, to eat, or to converse. Of course, it now aids these things, but this need was created, not embedded in us. Having this as an ethos however is incredibly desirable to consumers and consequently brands.
They get consistency: Ones and zeros in Australia are the same as they are in Kyrgyzstan. Essential in the creation of any technology are standards. What tech companies do well is ensure these attitudinal traits extend beyond R&D into the behavioural cortex of the remaining organisation. Brands and technology are built on consistent practices! Consistency is the foundation of brand resonance.
They lead with a vision: They understand the power of storytelling. Their visions allow people to dream with them and this trait fuels customer and staff engagement. It’s an emotional connection. If we can agree the basis of technologies’ success is that it has created a need, we can reasonably believe that need would not exist except for the perception it (technology) has improved someone’s life. This enhancement of the quality of life, perceived or not, makes a world of difference! It’s the secret sauce and the essence of advocacy.