Top 3 Branding Mistakes That Most Tech-Led Companies Make

Watch the talk above, download the slides or read about it below 🙂

Hello and welcome.

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.007Top 3 Branding Mistakes.007

So let’s start and for many Branding is chronically misunderstood.

From people thinking that branding can be “done” in an afternoon to companies just ignoring it altogether. It’s a key area that can make or break your tech business, especially in the long run.

Branding doesn’t evolve by itself. 

It’s a blueprint for how you want the world to see your business and blueprints are always planned and researched documents. So just for clarification a brand is not your logo. 

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.008Top 3 Branding Mistakes.008

“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”.

A great quote!

A strong brand increases customer loyalty, builds engagement and creates trust. It’s well known that consumers are more likely to buy from a company witha compelling brand story because it’s easier for them to build an emotional connection.A well-curated brand also improves perception of quality and that my friends means you can charge higher prices.

But as a consumer of tech products it can be very difficult to judge digital products until you’ve actually used them. That means that digital products can often suffer from being sold solely based on their technical specs and not by the problem they solve.

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.009Top 3 Branding Mistakes.009

So our first mistake to avoid is using too much jargon. 

Recently, I saw a set of brand guidelines for a multi-million pound technology company, based in Canada. It categorically said and I quote “We do not use Jargon. We do not abbreviate.” So brand guidelines for those that don’t know are essentially a set of instructions on how the design elements should be presented. From the tone of voice to the use of colours and fonts – brand guidelines are a must. So for this company not using jargon forms part of their brand voice and it explicitly sets out instructions on when it is or isn’t acceptable to use. When you have a team of people, setting ground rules like this is paramount to success. 

Everyone communicates the same message.

So let’s look at how using jargon could be a big mistake. 

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.010Top 3 Branding Mistakes.010

I’m also going to talk about Cognitive Fluency, which is how easily the brain can interpret what it’s seeing without thinking too much. 

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.011Top 3 Branding Mistakes.011

If you came upon the following value proposition, how likely is it that you’d understand it right away?

“Revenue-focused marketing automation & sales effectiveness solutions unleash collaboration throughout the revenue cycle”

What does it mean? Can you now explain what they do?

How about these examples from 2 different email service providers.

Which one is easier to understand? 

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.012Top 3 Branding Mistakes.012

Or this…..

Probably the second one. The first one is cluttered with buzzwords (‘truly dynamic,’ ‘maximize the performance,’ etc).

That’s not to say the first example isn’t effective – it could be very effective. But the second example, MailChimp, has much greater cognitive fluency. It’s easier to understand.

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.15Top 3 Branding Mistakes.15

Another example, if you take a look at Crawley – a tool for developers. You’d expect to get lost in a sea of technical jargon that you may or may not understand. Which is fine, because they’re targeting developers. It’s a specialised audience that deserves specialised copy.

But they’ve done a great job of using technical terms but in such a simple way that it’s still fairly easy to understand. They’re using specialty language, but still writing it as simply as possible…

The point is, even with technical audiences, you still want to make sure your readers are doing as little thinking as possible.

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.016Top 3 Branding Mistakes.016

Why is thinking dangerous? Basically, our brain has 2 modes. System 1 and System 2. When we’re browsing web pages we go along in autopilot (system 1) – here is the search where you’d expect it in the top right corner, here is the menu along the top.

What if something is not where we expect it? Like the menu down the side? Well then the second part of our brain is engaged, System 2. It’s slow and untrusting. 

Why is the menu here? This doesn’t feel right. 

We’re now not in autopilot and the brain doesn’t feel safe. It’s looking for cues, for reasons to move on.

There’s a reason why the changes of Amazon have been gradual. 

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.17Top 3 Branding Mistakes.17

And if you think about it their search and buy button are always in the same place. Because that’s where people expect to find them. Amazon don’t want to do anything that takes their customers out of autopilot.  Amazon 

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.018Top 3 Branding Mistakes.018

It’s the same with Jargon. Jargon makes us think – Our brain is going “Well what does that mean?, I don’t understand it, I shouldn’t be here, this isn’t for me.”

If you’re questioning whether your customers do use jargon or not there’s an easy way to find out. 

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.018Top 3 Branding Mistakes.018

Just have a conversation with them. 

  • If they don’t use the words you use
  • If their face scrunches up with confusion at any point
  • If they have to ask you to explain yourself

These are all clues that you’re talking in different languages. 

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.020Top 3 Branding Mistakes.020

Unnecessary jargon, when used to persuade is bad. Jargon as a whole, however, isn’t always a negative. Here are a few occasions when using technical jargon may be acceptable and even effective:

  • To give perception of Higher Value
  • Speciality language for a specialty audience (if you’re selling to developers, use words they use)
  • Filtering out leads you don’t want (“we’re not for you if…”)

If you’re talking about a complicated topic to share your position as a thought leader, then naturally you would have to use terms that are specific to your industry. 

Psychology tells us that if we want to build credibility and trust with potential clients, we need to be empathetic. The easiest way to show empathy in life is to mirror the behaviour and language of the person you’re talking to. We do it all the time, we copy each others behaviour. 

We often repeat each other’s words and phrases too. It demonstrates that we’re listening and understand their meaning. This sometimes perpetuates the use of jargon. Its completely acceptable within your circle, your colleagues use it all the time. 

However, as you shift back to speaking to your company’s target audience, it’s crucial to hit the reset button and remember that you’re building rapport with an entirely new group of people.

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.021Top 3 Branding Mistakes.021

That brings us onto Mistake 2 and that’s Not Staying Relevant.

You’ve spent ages creating an amazing and innovative piece of software. You launched it into the world to industry-wide delight. Your product is the toast of the town and you’re on top of the world.

Until the next new product comes along.

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.022Top 3 Branding Mistakes.022

In the fast-paced world of technology, The Next Big Thing comes around as often as Kim Kardashian takes a selfie. Finding new angles on the same old story can become time-consuming and boring.

However, the wonderful thing about technology is that it is constantly evolving. Developers are continually adding new features, which provides an opportunity to go back out into the market and get the conversation going again. 

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.023Top 3 Branding Mistakes.023

So it makes sense that every time you create a product, or add a new feature that you stop and consider:

  • Why are we creating this?
  • How will this help our customer in their lives?
  • How does this differ from before?
  • How will these new features make our customers feel?

This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen it over and over again. It’s so easy to get carried away with the detail of the new feature that it’s easily forgotten why it was created in the first place. 

Therefore the marketing message must highlight the benefits, not the features of a product.

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.024Top 3 Branding Mistakes.024

If in doubt always remember this: Benefits Sell, Features Tell

Top 3 Branding Mistakes.025Top 3 Branding Mistakes.025

Madonna is the undisputed queen of reinvention. She knows that the world changes and so she must change with it. Likewise, every time you add a feature to your software, it’s an opportunity for you to test whether your ideal buyer has changed.