Brand Your Company, Not Your Product
You are marketing your telephony products or services well, and you're generating sales. That's great. But how much are you concentrating on
building a strong brand name for your company? Branding is often forgotten, or at least
given low priority, in technology
marketing. Often, branding is something we associate with consumer products,
like electronics or toothpaste. Well, don't you want to be a multi-billion
dollar empire like Sony or Procter & Gamble?
Making An Example Of Lucent
Let's bring it closer to home. Lucent and Cisco brand themselves really
well and they're doing O.K., too. Their names by themselves mean little.
They are short and memorable and do not name a product or service. This
contrasts the common practice of naming
products after a company's name. Others do the reverse, and name their company after their
first or most popular product. This is the marketing equivalent of
painting yourself into a corner: What do you do when your technology is
surpassed or a new standard is adopted?
This leads me to the biggest benefit of branding. If your focus is on selling product,
you'll have to come with new reasons to sell me on your next product -- especially if
it's in a different product group. However, if you sell your company's quality,
reliability, and expertise to me instead (a continuous process
of educating and reminding me), then you can sell me many different products
more easily over
Let's pretend Lucent Technologies had called itself "Lucent
Messaging," or branded itself as the leading provider of voice cards.
It would require huge expenditures to market additional products as they
are added, such as fiber optics or carrier-class networking equipment. Since
Lucent chose to brand their company, not their product, we instead have a perception of
Lucent Technologies as an overall communications company; and we are not surprised or confused
when they purchase an optical networking developer. We understand that
that purchase is just another step
in their effort of providing quality communications
solutions. (I promise I'm not on Lucent's payroll -- it's
just an easy example to use.)
Begin Your Company's Branding Now
In fairness, many of us are not huge corporations. We often
have to start out with a primary focus on our product, especially if we
only have one. That should not stop you from having a plan to build your
brand name immediately, as you expand your product line into other areas.
Ask yourself: What does our company represent or stand for? What is the
"company way" of doing things? What do we believe with respect to how
our product innovations improve life for us
all? Branding must present your product or service as the only
possible solution to your customers' problem. Notice it is the emphasis
solving their challenges -- not your company -- that makes the difference.
Brand development is best discussed before writing your business plan,
but that doesn't mean you can't start building it today, even if you've
been in business for years. Your brand is critical. If you get it
wrong, everything your company does after may be less effective. The
products or services you chose to develop or companies you acquire may not
fit your brand strategy and may confuse your customers and
Your brand should create emotions that allow your prospects to buy
with confidence, backed up by the rationale of the features of your product or service. Because of this, many
confuse branding with advertising. Advertising is a means to communicate
what you've already designed as your brand strategy. Once the brand is created, it's advertising job to raise brand awareness.
That said, creating your own brand is not simple or easy. You know your
products and services better than anyone else does, but brands are about
your customers, not products and services. It is best to hire an expert
who knows your customers and has no political or emotional attachment to,
or investment in, your technology.
In the end, the true test of your brand's strength is if people are
willing to pay more for it. They recognize the value of your commitment to
whatever your company vision or mission might be. In our industry, that
mission is frequently about excellence or innovation -- but you can do better.
Remember that brand should be about your customers, and the deeper benefits they
will experience from your technology solution.
Branding is insurance. You'll benefit the most from proper branding
when the industry or the economy slows (or the NASDAQ plummets). Customers
with brand loyalty will remain focused on their relationship with you.
Where they have little or no loyalty, they will base all purchases on
price. An additional benefit comes if you sell your business -- excellent
branding will bring you a higher valuation because it's viewed as an asset
that retains your customer base.
This article just touches on the elusive concept of branding. I'll be discussing branding in future columns, and your case studies, comments,
and questions are more than welcome. Hint: One good way to build brand
recognition is to get yourself in the press more frequently.
Remember, selling products one at a time is expensive, tedious, and less
profitable. Selling your company and its brand over time means you can
sell me your entire product line. Happy branding!
Martin Wales is the eFounder and Chief Catcher at Customer
He welcomes your e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator focused
on maximum results with minimal risk using your existing resources.