Building a great technology brand is about more than just solving a functional problem or simply making a profit.
Do you ever sit back and remind yourself why you’re doing what you do? Why dedicating and sacrificing so much to your technology company fulfils a greater need for achievement, money, bragging rights or simply self worth?
Why do you do it all? Why go through the stress, the setbacks, the pivots and the fundraising, whilst in the back of your mind, there is a nagging truth that it’s more than likely you will fail?
Why? Because you believe you have what it takes. You believe in your product. You believe in your advisors and your team. And for what’s its worth, when you get funded, it’s reassuring to know somebody else believes in you as well.
My question to you is simple: how far does that belief go? In your heart of hearts are you out to build a good technology company or a great one? Are you prepared to look beyond the basic rules of business to get there?
While there are many factors in play in the classic ‘Good to Great’ argument, one thing I’ve learned in my 20 years experience is that good technology companies use marketing as a tool to drive business growth whilst great technology companies use brand as a platform on which to inspire meaningful connections with customers and employees.
The difference, which might seem one of semantics, is in reality seismic in its application. The good to great argument has raged long and hard over the years and Jim Collins book of the same name, has been a great companion for many business leaders.
Brands like Samsung, Google and Salesforce have become household names not just because they made great products; but also because they know how to connect with their customers and employees on a higher level.
They know what it takes to create value beyond their products. They know how to connect on a human and personal level, to make their customers feel cool, smart and knowledgeable. Intel’s IT rock stars campaign is just one great example of how tech brands have tried to be more meaningful to their core IT audience.
The best tech brands also show us that they care about the wider issues of society and the planet at large. Marc Benioff is a pioneer of the ‘pay as you go’ philanthropy model and the Salesforce Foundation has donated over $100 million in grants to social entrepreneurs and nonprofits over the years.
Making these vital emotional connections is a core part of building a significant 21st century technology brand.
As a passionate believer in the power of brand I often get asked by sceptical CEOs to back up my beliefs with hard facts. To these non-believers a robust product, some operational smarts and a few bright people are all a company needs to be great. I would argue that’s all you need to be good. Greatness is on a whole other level.
The latest research from Havas tell us that brands that are deemed to be meaningful in the lives of their customers outperform the stock market by 133%, have a 44% increased share of wallet and yield a 100% better set of KPIs.
Pretty compelling stuff, even to the hard nosed CEO.
The real truth is that many tech leaders are happy with good. They are building for the short haul, looking for an exit and chasing the IPO. For others the journey is different. They are in it to build something they don’t want to sell. They believe in a better world and believe in legacy as much as profit.
Neither way is right or wrong. It’s just down to personal ambition and belief.
What’s reassuring to know for tech leaders, is that while customers are increasingly frustrated with many brands, technology companies specifically are on the rise. In the latest research from Havas, technology brands make up over 50% of the companies we deem to be meaningful. Brands like Samsung, Google, Apple, Amazon and Sony are lighting the way. However, as a word of caution it doesn’t disguise the alarming statistic that we wouldn’t care less if 93% of the worlds most popular brands didn’t exist.
I’ve picked out two of the top tech brands who made the list, to understand what they’re doing right. I’m not going to go through the entire strategy of each brand but instead I’ll pick out the interesting things that help them connect with the wider world.
Samsung tops the list of meaningful brands, and it’s not hard to understand how they’ve done this. Over the last few years, the company has started implementing its core purpose across all of its businesses: to be meaningful.
One effort, which has helped solidify them as a brand with a higher purpose, is their association with rugby. The company’s UK CMO Russell Taylor described the partnership as an effort to show people Samsung is ‘a brand that’s meaningful and plays a part in their lives.’ By aligning with rugby, something that so many people are passionate about, Samsung has positioned itself as a more relatable brand, which cares about the same passion points that many of you do. They do so in an organic and personal way, particularly by using comedian Jack Whitehall and injecting humour into their most recent campaign.
For me, the most meaningful thing about Google is their innovation. Instead of being a faceless tech behemoth, they use their resources and minds to help make the world a better place. Just think of the contact lenses they’ve patented, which can help diabetics monitor their glucose levels with ease.
Google give their engineers 20% free time to work on independent projects. This is a simple and brilliant practice on so many levels: not only does it foster goodwill among employees who get the time to focus on their passion projects, but it’s ultimately good for Google as these engineers are more likely to come up with innovative ideas that can change the world (whilst turning a profit).
Of course these are huge global brands, which might seem a bit remote from a startup point-of-view. However, both of these brands began small, and if you think about it, the likes of Google was only established in 1998. These companies can be used as inspiration for startups as examples of meaningful brands that are also deemed great.
Rooster Punk. Our place in a fu*ked up world
We’re a creative agency, but not a traditional one. We work with growth hungry companies, leaders and visionaries to build the next generation of iconic, meaningful and profitable brands. Get in touch if you feel inspired.
Post produced in partnership with Paul Cash, CEO at Rooster Punk.