Why Tech Business Branding Is Changing (and How You Can Change With It)
Image credit: Tangi Bertin
The bold imperative that you can see in the featured image above once belonged to Google. It wasn’t just a general motto that helped the company stand out and make for good PR coverage, it was also prominently featured in the company’s code of conduct. As recently as April 2018 (per the Wayback Machine), that code opened with the following paragraph:
“‘Don’t be evil.’ Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But ‘Don’t be evil’ is much more than that. Yes, it’s about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it’s also about doing the right thing more generally—following the law, acting honorably, and treating co-workers with courtesy and respect.”
Later in 2018, that motto was removed. So why exactly did this happen? Was it a clear concession to the forces of darkness—an indication that this massive company was ready to use its immense influence for nefarious purposes? Well, though it’s silly to think of any gigantic tech company being outright altruistic, it’s unreasonable to view this as a fundamental change.
Instead, it is the result of increasingly sophisticated branding. Tech businesses, in particular, have been driven to adapt their branding in recent years, and it’s an ongoing process. But what’s been prompting this shift? And if you’re running a tech company, how can you ensure that you don’t fall behind the branding curve? Here, we’ll consider these questions.
In the remote working era, cloud computing is a utility
Despite the massive expansion of consumer electronics, it’s difficult to describe things, such as smart TVs as essential. Their ubiquity doesn’t make them any less supplemental. So when companies built their brands around selling such things, they had some leeway in how they approached marketing. They could be reasonably relaxed, particularly when it came to customer support. After all, it could hardly be said to be an emergency if a TV didn’t work for a while.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered conventional office-based working non-viable for so many companies, providers of cloud processing services stepped in to steady the ship with collaboration tools—solidifying a change in how tech companies are viewed. Sure, we were already relying heavily on Google and Apple, but suddenly, finding that a short period of Google Docs downtime could devastate businesses everywhere was an eye-opener.
Due to this, today’s tech businesses aren’t seen as selling frivolities. Instead, they’re partially responsible for the foundations of daily life and must act accordingly. This is why they can’t talk in naive terms, such as “evil,” without attracting mockery. If they want to be staples of modern business, they need to take that responsibility seriously and soberly.
Public awareness of global issues continues to rise
Including such matters as climate change, financial inequality, and employee rights, there are various issues that have received more attention now than ever before. This is mostly a generational shift. More and more people today grew up with Internet access and were able to learn about events happening across the globe. This awareness has consequences for businesses.
In essence, it means that failing to acknowledge or address these issues (particularly at times of great public pressure) can make a tech business appear cold and indifferent. There are two major reasons why this is a concern: the number of tech companies with viable products and/or services keeps growing, and people are increasingly invested in supporting ethical businesses. Brands are adjusting their marketing accordingly (Wordstream has these examples).
Social media judgment can make or break brands
Social media is a boon and blight for bold brands. When you step into that arena, you can’t know for sure how it’ll impact your company. There are three possible scenarios: you’re largely overlooked, you earn a positive reception, or you attract searing criticism. Yet you can’t afford to ignore it. If you don’t maintain a social media presence, people will talk about your brand regardless, and you’ll be unable to steer that conversation.
Above all else, this means that tech companies need to be delicate. No longer can they coast on being technically-minded, producing content and commentary that’s dull at best and tone-deaf at worst. They need to learn how to talk to people from all backgrounds and how to clearly and usefully explain what their technologies bring to the table. This is why technical writing has become so important (Instructional Solutions has a good primer on this).
How you can adapt your business to survive
So, with all that said, what can you do to keep your brand moving with the times? You may have inferred some of this from the points we’ve covered, but here are some key tips:
- Invest heavily in content across myriad channels. Invaluable for detailing your value proposition and explaining what makes your company worthy of attention, content production demands a high place in your list of branding priorities. All the blog posts and infographics you create will allow you to define your overarching narrative.
What’s more, you can cultivate your expertise to support cross-industry partnerships and make you some money. After all, the monetization of digital content—largely in the form of training courses—offers exceptional return on investment (ROI). Create a training course, price it online, and then promote it, however you can. For hosting, consider Teachable. It’s one of the top platforms for digital courses, so read some Teachable reviews to see what you think.
- Mirror the speech and attitudes of your customers. So many tech brands blunder through offending or frustrating their customer bases. For instance, they might focus on features that customers never asked for while neglecting others that did. Most commonly, they try too hard to embrace meme culture in an effort to appeal to younger customers—but in doing so, they miss the context that makes such material work.
How you’d prefer to speak only matters slightly. Your job is ultimately to support your products and/or services, and you can only do that by building connections with your desired customers. That means meeting them where they are instead of expecting them to come to you. They’re not going to want to learn dry technical terms and seek you out.
When you reach out, be careful. If you fail to understand how your audience communicates, your efforts will come across as tasteless, crude, or even cynical or condescending. For the reasons we just went through, you can’t just offer a shallow approximation of how your customers speak. You need to understand it and then figure out the extent to which you can mimic it (and to what extent you shouldn’t try).
- Pursue a cause in addition to simple profit. Having the goal of making money is entirely understandable, and no one will hold it against you—but it can’t be the only thing driving your business. You also need some kind of grander goal. Something you hope to achieve that can also be considered a social good.
For example, this could include raising a certain amount of money for charity or ensuring that every young person has access to educational technology. The more targeted and specific you can make your goal, the better because that will make it appear more realistic. But even if you can only come up with a pie-in-the-sky objective, it’ll be far better than nothing at all, and you can use it as a source of content inspiration.
Wrapping up, tech branding is much more complicated today than it used to be. You can’t get away with sticking entirely to the technological details. You need to know how to communicate with people, how to explain the value of what you offer, and how to show that your company is worthy of support. Give these tips a try. Good luck!