February 5, 2021

For B2B Technology brand strategy, market context is (almost) everything.

The relationship between humans and machines has always been one fraught with tension, starting with a knee-jerk reaction of primal fear, reaching a plateau of efficiency and healthy dose of skepticism as it reaches mass adoption, and then a disillusionment of its benefits as it becomes pervasive and we in turn become either jaded by or complacent with the impact it has on our lives and our businesses.

As the relationship evolves over the adoption lifecycle of a new and emerging technology, so must the brand strategy….

  • In the innovators/early adopters phase, a B2B technology brand needs to adopt an EDUCATE, EMBOLDEN, and EMPOWER strategy.
  • In the majority phases, a brand needs to adopt a strategy of RADICAL DIFFERENTIATION through positioning that captures a true white space opportunity supported by category-defying VERBAL and VISUAL language.
  • In the late/laggards phases, a brand needs to adopt a CHALLENGER mindset.

EARLY ADOPTION PHASE

The problem to solve: You’re not just selling your product, you’re selling the industry

The challenge: Combatting fear of trying something new

The VSA approach: The 3 Es: Educate, Embolden, Empower with your brand’s Value Stack Assessment™

When a technology is in its nascent stage, a brand needs to do a lot of work in supporting the directionality of the market. It’s not just about selling your product, platform or service, you’re actually selling the entirety of the industry.

  1. EDUCATE not just your customers, but your whole industry by explaining what the technology is, does, and why it’s needed. — Enterprise leaders may not yet be convinced of the need for change, and change in highly regulated industries can be a risk that some conservative leaders are not willing to take on. Using the Value Stack Assessment™, you can start educating with the top of your pyramid, and selling the transformational benefits of your technology.
  2. Have confidence that can EMBOLDEN a prospect through an understanding that you’re dealing with the emotional headspace of fear. Therefore, you need to over-index on powerful, emotional brand moments. — Using a Value Stack Assessment™, layer your brand messaging on the emotional components of the brand. Assess every brand touchpoint against “how will this make them feel?” and ensure you’re meeting their fear with an equally powerful emotion. For example, if you show them that this technology will make them the leader in their own industry and provide them with a competitive advantage against their top players, you can turn the fear or potential negative consequences into the Fear of Missing Out.
  3. EMPOWER your salesforce with audience insights by using a deep understanding of nuanced buyer needs to segment messaging and pitches in a smart way. — You not only need to empower your salesforce with the right materials for clients and customers, you also need to ensure their immediate clients are equipped with the right messaging to then sell-in their unconvinced leadership. This tactic involves a clear understanding of each potential prospects’ immediate pain points, and targeting the final layer of your Value Stack Assessment™ with specific groupings of functional benefits that can immediately solve the pain points for each, making a long-term investment a short-term no brainer.

MASS ADOPTION PHASE

The problem to solve: Changing existing behaviors and perceptions

The challenge: A sea of sameness

The VSA approach: Radical differentiation through Promise2Performance™ white space opportunity identification

In the majority phases, a brand needs to adopt a strategy of RADICAL DIFFERENTIATION through positioning that captures a true white space opportunity supported by category-defying VERBAL and VISUAL language.

In a saturated market, it can be difficult to compete without getting into a ground game of advertising/marketing dollars that go head-to-head. Winning business often means stealing from your competition, but at this stage in the technology lifecycle, the category often appears to customers like a sea of sameness. There can be a tendency to try to flex the more, more, more muscle — more speed, more features, more power, more you-name-it. If you have all the money in the world to spend, perhaps you can win. But for those in a position trying to take on the leader in the category, you’ll need to adopt a strategy of radical differentiation.

  1. Uncover true white space opportunity through a positioning exercise that creates meaningful differentiations from your competitors (5 Ps: Product, Platform, Process, People, Purpose). You can do this through our Promise2Performance™ methodology that not only identifies the new category tablestakes, but also finds a white space opportunity by connecting unique customer needs with promises that are credible, differentiating, and ownable compared to your competitors.
  2. Be different in what you say and how you look by using words that are not just unique, but true to your positioning. Find ways to precisely describe your value at every level. Stay away from category jargon and strive to use language to further prospects' understanding of why you’re different than the others.

MATURE ADOPTION PHASE

The problem to solve: Breaking through

The challenge: Building credibility as a newcomer

The VSA approach: Challenge the marketplace through as a disruptor brand, focused on delivering Moments of Impact℠ in unexpected places

In the late/laggards phases, a brand needs to adopt a CHALLENGER mindset.

If you’re entering a category that is past the point of saturation, the chances are you see things differently than the incumbent leaders. You have a mission to change the way the category provides value to customers, and, in essence, you’re looking to redefine the category as we know it today. We call this a challenger brand mindset, one in which your ambitions are larger than the traditional means, and with a mission to disrupt a market in the favor of customers.

  1. Start a conversation by challenging the category truths, and take on historical category truths head-on with a tone of honesty and candor. — By contradicting the existing perceptions of their category, you’re able to create immediate resonance with the jaded mindset of your audience. While incumbents are spending money trying to be everything to everyone, a challenger focuses all efforts on a single message that can capture a broad mindset.
  2. Focus your offerings on underserved mindsets by being relentlessly focused on customers. Designing for unmet needs and talking like humans, you can capture and retain your audience’s attention. — As a challenger, you can’t just be better than your competitors, you need to be developing products in a way that is truly customer-centric and fulfilling an unmet need to be able to compete against legacy providers. While incumbents are spitting out their product benefits at rapid fire pace, a challenger is answering the question “what does it do for me?”
  3. Show up in unexpected places. You don’t win by going head-to-head—you find ways to garner attention by showing up in ways that others don’t. At VSA, we use a Meaningful Experience Model™ study to determine where to invest in designing an exceptional brand-led moment across your customers' journey. The study measures each moment against a potential to deliver best on a target audience’s needs, but also where is the biggest opportunity to exceed expectations in a way that builds long and short term brand value (a Moment of Impact℠, or MOI). We define brand value as the ability to create social capital, command a premium, and drive differentiation.
Fay Scott

Fay Scott

Strategy Director

Fay has over a decade of experience producing award-winning and commercially successful brands, products, and campaigns. She has worked with clients such as Google, Coca-Cola, IBM, PepsiCo, AT&T, Levi’s, Facebook, TD Bank, LVMH, and TELUS Communications. She thrives in the complexity of solving enterprise problems and lives for the thrill of elegantly designed systems and solutions.