Why brand strategy is more important than ever for tech
If you’re a fast-growing tech company with a complex portfolio, you need a robust brand strategy to get your message across to the people that matter and shore up your business.
One of the biggest differences between the successful and not-so-successful technology companies of today is how they approach branding.
The people running the businesses that ‘get it’ understand good brand strategy and management is about creating an identity based on values that consumers can relate to and inspire loyalty. What you stand for and what you promise to deliver your customers is evident at every touchpoint, and in the way the product is developed, produced, sold, serviced and marketed.
In-the-know CEOs, CTOs, CMOs, etc, appreciate that it’s also about keeping your house in order so that as ventures flex and grow, who you are and what you represent doesn’t become confused or lost, in-house or externally. The brand – which forms part of the business’s DNA – is properly curated and builds over time. Team members are all on board, avenues of communication remain open and fluid, and consumers and stakeholders are in it for the long-haul.
Those who don’t ‘get it’ often persist in thinking about branding as an expensive add-on and a necessary evil. Something you have to do to stand out and shift units and services in a competitive market. To them, it’s all about logos and ad campaigns.
Part of the problem is the word ‘brand’ itself. It implies a stamp of some kind, a marque, a logo. It doesn’t give you a sense of the wider, deeper role that branding plays, and the advantages that it can bring when it’s done the right way. It might be more helpful to think of ‘brand’ as an umbrella term that encompasses logos, values, visuals, style guides, palettes, tone of voice, positioning, personality and expression.
Considering all these factors is especially important in the tech world, where products and services are often complex and, if not branded properly, can be off-putting and intimidating to people outside the sector – i.e. your customers.
It seems like an obvious statement, but it’s essential that potential target consumers understand you from the start and feel good about approaching you. Branding needs to be friendly, easy to access, not scary and shrouded in mystery (sometimes companies can lose sight of the outside world and forget who they’re talking to).
Because branding, in whatever sector, is about connecting people and things. And as technology continues to move at such a pace, keeping up with all the advancements and maintaining that connection is becoming ever more complex. Strong branding directs people through the maze, ensuring that the core message is heard, absorbed and understood.
Done well, it can create a universal language that people can engage with and enjoy. The brand designer’s role is to decode and translate, and then provide the mechanisms by which consumers can understand the information.
Businesses have a habit of growing at a pace in this particular sector, and they risk losing direction and become disparate. A big part of a brand agency’s job is to ensure that cohesion and focus is maintained across the visual language throughout this growth. Curating any sub-brands within an organisation, for example, so that everything remains unified and on-message, is essential if brands are to avoid losing their identity and, with it, a lot of their power.
Take semiconductor and software company Arm. It’s a large, growing organisation that specialises in producing some of the most complex tech on the planet. It has several sub-brands, each with dedicated teams that have a deep understanding of their sectors. As a branding partner, we bring an external fresh perspective that creates cohesion across the board, inside and out. Strong guidelines bring a sense of order and structure to the business practice, adding clarity to proceedings and presenting something cogent to the outside world.
We recently created a visual identity for Arm Sustainability – one of the sub-brands – that does a great job of bringing people and tech closer together. Rather than focusing on the complex technology that Arm facilitates to help people achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals, it highlights more of the people-focused outcomes that the tech achieves. Not only does it show the world what Arm tech is doing to improve things like child-vaccination programmes and climate change, it helps everyone within the organisation understand, too.
In an industry racing to define the future, the short-term rush of product marketing too often steals focus from the slower wheel of brand development. It’s easy to see why. The big picture, the deeper story, the overarching audience relationship feels less urgent by comparison. Less important.
But connecting people and products, and showing how those products make it possible for individuals to innovate and reach their own potential, should be the goal. Get that right and you’ll have a brand that is woven into daily life, and that continues to deliver long after the sale is made.
By Paul Ferry, co-founder and director of brand design studio ShopTalk
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”