Perhaps it’s playing to the cliché to suggest that technology companies focus more on developing products than developing their own brands. It isn’t surprising, though: Most of them — large or small, established or startup — were founded by coders or engineers or developers — not marketers. For a tech company, branding is typically not a top priority.
But this lesser emphasis on branding may become a liability as a tech company pivots. A powerful brand generates confidence in investors and best positions the company in comparison to its competitors. And when it’s deployed across the suite of software or hardware products, the brand is a key part of user experience.
In this category, it sometimes takes a major business shift, like a merger, acquisition, repositioning, or IPO, for a company to pay closer attention to its brand. Tech companies often have significant business rationale for pursuing these opportunities, whether it’s shifting into new markets, extending a product line, consolidating with a competitor, or gaining investment dollars. Carefully considering the new entity’s brand and implementing the rebrand in a strategic way are the keys to unlocking the full value in the underlying deal.
Often led by a team with an entrepreneurial mindset, technology companies believe they can take on any challenge, including the execution of a comprehensive rebrand. But they may lack the resources and experience to properly execute the implementation. First, small and nimble organizations may not have a full-scale marketing team in place with enough hands on deck to manage the roll-out. And secondly, even tech companies with large marketing departments may not include staffers who’ve previously managed the unique process that is a rebrand.
Reinventing a tech company brand: what’s involved?
For executives who aren’t immersed in the minutiae of brand management, a rebrand may reveal a mind-boggling array of elements that need to be produced or updated. There’s just so much “stuff,” from the logo adorning buildings and employee ID badges to digital marketing collateral and Day One launch materials.
And then there are the user-facing branded assets, including hardware and packaging, and software and the user experience. And especially if the organization has back-burnered marketing in the past, this is the opportunity to consider all the assets that create a full brand experience for employees, investors, consumers, and other stakeholders.
Some of these branded assets —signage, environments, and hardware products, for example — have a long runway for production. So, it’s not ideal to begin working on the rebrand implementation only after you’ve announced and launched the new brand. Don’t underestimate how much planning and lead time it takes to create or re-create branded assets.
And then there’s the cost of a rebrand implementation. Even veteran marketers may not fully account for all expenses, so it’s essential for tech companies — especially those, like HP, with a global presence and thousands of products — to accurately scope the rebranding project at the very beginning.
What internal resources are required?
No matter the industry, Marketing needs a seat at the table during a rebranding initiative. That’s especially true in tech, where C-suite executives may be less marketing-minded than their counterparts in other industries.
This massive coordinated effort involving hundreds of branded touchpoints, products, locations, and employees may be something the organization has never before undertaken. While day-to-day business remains focused on the tech product, the rebrand touches on all aspects of the business. And it requires a specialized approach.
You will need to figure out who will handle day-to-day oversight and management of the rebranding initiative. With thousands of branded assets to convert to the new identity, the project requires you to identify and manage scores of internal players and inter-dependencies so that all your workstreams come together by launch date. Delivering an on-time, on-budget rebranding is major cross-functional initiative requiring specialized knowledge and skills.
Because branding isn’t often top of mind for tech companies, senior leadership needs to communicate why the rebrand is happening and why it’s important. Their support needs to be visible. Brand champions across the organization can reinforce the message and coordinate efforts among their peers.
What outside resources are needed?
You’ll likely be outsourcing a lot of the brand work, with a small internal marketing or design team to shepherd the project. Not only will you turn to a brand development agency, but you’ll also want to enlist support from a rebrand implementation specialist. Too, you’ll need to identify and contract with the right types of vendors to produce branded assets on time and on budget.
Marketing is not the raison d’etre for most technology companies. But a business opportunity like M&A or a repositioning elevates its importance. So, the organization needs to quickly develop a core competency in branding, and align with the right internal and external resources to make the most of a rebranding opportunity.