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Tech credentials do not perfectly protect leaders from upstarts

Tech credentials do not perfectly protect leaders from upstarts

Brand, emotional connection

will enhance perceived value

Nick Snowdon

Director, Technology



Many Tech brands have a rich heritage of innovation and technical expertise on which their success is based. Many are considered to be true experts, even pioneers in their fields, bringing out ever more ingenious and useful devices to solve challenges we as consumers didn’t even know we had! But in 2020 there’s now a problem with this model—the competition is catching up. They’re getting quicker, cheaper and, frankly, better at taking the original and ground-breaking tech from leading brands and replicating similar innovation in their own products and appliances just months later, and often at a lower price.

In fact, many brands are going further than this, “innovating” a whole host of specialist features and accessories, that although sometimes questionable in terms of their true long-term usefulness, add complexity to the range of new technology available to consumers. The risk is that the sheer scale and pace of new product developments will start to convince consumers that these brands are also strong, original innovators too.

This is why big tech brands that are serious about their innovation and tech credentials need a strategy to defend against these nimble upstarts. Brand building has to be a core part of this strategy—brands need to move beyond rational persuasion, functional triggers, and hero features, and communicate their role in addressing a deeper layer of human need. They need to connect with consumers emotively and instil a degree of pride that consumers feel towards owning their brand through enhanced meaning and perceived value.

This can be uncomfortable, touchy feeling territory for many tech brands, but in fact there are options open to most to humanize their brand through emotion in a way that avoids a shifting or softening their core brand and engineering values. And this doesn’t have to be a purely brand building exercise either—by enhancing hardware devices and appliances through connected apps tech brands have a route into innovation that will better serve consumers’ needs.

Humanizing with IoT and data

Indeed, in recent years we’ve noticed a clear trend in BrandZ about tech brands that have done well. The fastest risers and those that maintain their value best, are the brands like Haier that are either moving beyond their hardware offer and into the Internet of Things and apps, or the Googles, Apples and Microsofts of the world that either are coming from or have already built a strong services business and feel at ease with developing software. In some sectors cloud-based platforms like Google’s game streaming service Stadia now also pose a genuine (if admittedly long-term rather than immediate) threat to physical hardware like gaming consoles.

Tech manufacturer brands are also well-placed to capture and utilize usage data, but they’re being held back by a perpetual fear of the risks of being seen to misuse this resource. Yes of course this data comes with many perils and needs to be handled sensitively and transparently, but tech brands must not let their anxieties in handling personal data hold them back from working out ways to enhance their current devices through app-based infrastructure. You only have to look at how commonplace fitness and health apps are becoming to make the leap to how similar tools could enhance other devices as well.

Many of us might snigger at the prospect of an app that connects your vacuum and air conditioning appliances to a smartphone app that reports on your home health, but would we still be laughing if home and buildings insurance companies started to offer rewards or lower premiums for the healthiest homes?

For those tech brands that can overcome their initial reticence to move outside of their comfort zone in hardware there is a chance to further enhance their usefulness to consumers. Doing so will also help them fight the increasingly tough battle to stand out and maintain a price premium. Perhaps most importantly of all, an improved ability to humanize their offer and meet a deeper layer of user need could also provide a strong foundation for tech brands to talk more emotively about their brand and the way using it should make people feel.