Fall Conference: Technology And Branding No Longer Strangers

Marketer and futurist Jim Taylor says technology executives must learn to articulate their value proposition in new ways in order to create enduring brands.
The concept of the brand is somewhat new to the technology world. Before PCs and the Internet became ubiquitous, technology operated in a niche that made establishing a brand relatively unnecessary. Not any more, says marketer and futurist Jim Taylor, principal of Taylor Associates.

Speaking Tuesday at InformationWeek's Fall Conference in Tucson, Ariz., Taylor told IT executives that with the commoditization of technology has come a need for technology companies to understand how a strong brand is built, and it's not through expensive Super Bowl ads and highly publicized mascots. Rather, it's by consistently delivering on a company's value proposition, thereby instilling long-term confidence, that an enduring brand is created. "It's about becoming important to those who are loyal to you," Taylor said. Companies that have achieved such status are tough to displace: Of the 22 leading brands in 1925, 19 are still market leaders, he said, whereas 60% of the Fortune 500 companies from 1970 no longer are in business.

Often, Taylor said, brand is as much a matter of perception as reality. A shining example of this is Montblanc pens. Lacking any significant advantages in functionality compared with Bic, he said, Montblanc has created an aura of exclusiveness that allows it to charge $100 or more for its pens, resulting in a 195,000% advantage in margins over Bic.

It's also possible for IT departments to brand themselves within their companies, Taylor said, by articulating what an IT organization can truly deliver, relating what's important about what it delivers, and overcoming its negative heritage by operating with personality. His suggestion for a good starting point: stating things with simple business language rather than complex technospeak.