It's not about whether brands have value. It's about how to manage the value.
Twilight Of The Brands
In early 2014, our profession faced an existential crisis. The end was near, said James Surowiecki, in his New Yorker article, "Twilight Of The Brands." Look at Lululemon, he cried. The cult-like athletic wear brand was reeling from product failure and leadership indelicacies. And he referenced new research that said consumers were "supremely well informed," and did not need to "rely on logos" to determine value.
In The Pink Of Health
Turns out Surowiecki wasn't so well informed after all:
More is not better. It is true that the digital age brings with it more information about brands. More than many would care for, really. And therein lies the rub – this tsunami without filter or curation does little to clarify and more to confuse.
Brands signify more than information. The idea of brand as a signal of value is valid, although simplistic. More information may bridge quality and trustworthiness gaps, but a brand is much more. It conveys an emotional connection. Information plays no role in sipping a Coke or running in Nike.
Well, the 2016 US presidential race has begun in earnest. Every day a new candidate enters the race on the quest to headline the Republican or Democratic ticket. I am a bit of a political junkie: not because I am a policy wonk, but because I am a marketing wonk. I love (ok, sometimes hate) to watch the unfolding strategies to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the electorate. What interests me most is the struggle to stay ‘on message’. The candidate wants the dialogue to be about the ‘brand message’: “Don’t Swap Horses When Crossing Streams”, Lincoln, 1864; “Return to Normalcy”, Harding, 1920; “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago”, Reagan, 1980; and, of course, “Yes, We Can” Obama, 2008. But, it’s tough. Political discourse requires a political platform of messages on issues and topics that are targeted to micro-constituencies. Political operatives, surrogates and donors can get it all terribly muddled. And when they inevitably do, the damage control often rises to an art form.
It’s something any B2B marketing exec can relate to. Keeping everybody on message is never an easy task. Despite the hours spent in claustrophobic conference rooms discussing mission and vision and value propositions, key stakeholders just seem to go rogue when communicating in practice: the CEO wings it in press interviews; the SVP of engineering explores the nuances of fascinating, but irrelevant features with a prospective buyer; marketing managers write content that misaligns benefits and customer problems; agencies propose promotional taglines that are slick but won't stick; and sales reps create their own special spiel (and use it faithfully regardless of client context).
Have you seen the movie Birdman — the one that just won the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars? It’s about a middle-aged man who was once a popular movie star but has been criticized throughout his career and how he finally achieved a breakthrough performance and found great success in a Broadway production of the play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
The story of Microsoft Azure is similar. Microsoft was hugely popular in the age of the PC but has sailed into troubled waters in the cloud era. But now — a year after Azure’s commercial launch in China — CIOs and EA professionals must understand how and where Azure might impact their existing MSFT technology investments to achieve business transformation. Azure is one of the leading forces driving cloud adoption in China. We attribute this to the progress that Microsoft has made by:
Expanding product offerings.Microsoft Azure now has local products in four key categories: compute, network, data, and application. Beyond basic components like virtual machines, websites, storage, and content delivery networks, Azure also has advanced features that are important for Chinese customers to address their unique challenges, including mobile services for the rapid development of mobile apps to accommodate the massive shift to mobile; a service bus for integration to eliminate information silos in the cloud; and HDInsight for big data capabilities to gain the customer insights necessary to compete with digital disruption from local Internet companies.
With the holidays—and a whole lot of 2015 strategic planning activities—behind us, you’re probably have a few gifts you’d like to return and hopefully, a few gift cards you’d like to make use of. If you were really good last year,Santa left you the budget needed to develop or enhance that mobile insurance app or site you’ve wanted.
But how do you spend that budget so that the app or site that results doesn’t disappoint like those sea monkeys or x-ray glasses that you also once wanted?
It’s not hard to uncover this kind of disappointment in the mobile insurance marketplace: Mobile services that are little more than insurer bill boards, require too much data entry from users, and lack features that users have come to expect from banks, retailers, and airlines. To play catch- up with competitors and quell internal political concerns, many insurance eBusiness and technology management teams were put on the spot, rolling out mobile functionality without considering if it solved a problem for customers. While this approach addressed the business urgency, these hastily -built mobile insurance apps often fell short.
Here’s a riddle: What is it that almost every organization believes it needs, many organizations have, and few organizations use? The answer is an IT strategy.
CEOs and CFOs task new CIOs and old CIOs alike with developing an IT strategy. But despite the millions of dollars, pounds, euros, and yen spent on creating IT strategy every year, few of these strategies will be put to effective use. The IT strategy is the foundation upon which CIOs communicate the value of IT across the enterprise. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, only 18% of organizations have IT teams that communicate the value of IT effectively.
HP recently hosted its Asia Pacific (AP) and Japan analyst event in Singapore. The company presented its “New Style of IT” value proposition and how it intends to position a combined HP hardware, software and IT services stack to deliver client value. After the Boston event back in February, I was particularly interested to see how HP Enterprise Services (ES) is positioning itself as the tip of the spear of the “one HP” messaging and offering in Asia.
When assessing service providers’ relevance to customer needs, I focus on two major areas:
Red ocean offerings – where service providers need to help their clients build scalable, flexible, secure and cost efficient technology foundations around cloud, mobility and analytics.
Blue ocean offerings – where service providers need to help the CIO engage business stakeholders to drive better business outcomes in areas like customer experience, for instance.
Over the past 12 months, I’ve taken a number of client inquiries on globalization and multilingual strategies. But in all cases, it turned out that the challenge wasn’t really providing multilingual support. Instead, organizations are struggling to meet demand among customers, suppliers, partners, regulators and others for direct access to core enterprise systems from multiple regions, often through mobile devices or pervasive web applications. So the real question is: How are user engagement strategies affecting our ability to achieve a single, global business and technology platform that supports the increasingly pervasive use of mobile technologies?
This is now a top-of-mind consideration for many companies, especially as emerging markets are an increasingly important part of their global business strategies. The challenge is how best to tailor and adapt their products and services to capitalize on these emerging market opportunities without losing the benefits of economies of scale and the requirements for global transparency and compliance. And it’s not just about global IT service delivery; it’s about how technology can now serve the unique needs of both internal and external users, particularly where major differences may exist across language, culture, law, infrastructure, geography, value systems, and the economy.
Last week, Forrester hosted a breakfast roundtable in Sydney for approximately 20 tech vendors seeking to capitalize on current IT spending trends in Australia and New Zealand. With expected IT spending growth of nearly 4% in 2013, the A/NZ market is still going strong. However, this good health hides major shifts, including the increased role that business decision-makers (BDMs) are taking in direct IT purchasing in areas like staff, products, and services. As a matter of fact, Forrester expects the percentage of IT budgets that IT directly owns or controls to decrease by 2% to 5% between 2012 and 2014 in most A/NZ organizations.
Last Friday, we hosted our first roundtable in Singapore focusing on the IT services industry in Asia. The goal of these quarterly events is to create a community of services leaders who can network and exchange ideas on the growth opportunities and challenges in the region.
Senior leaders from 14 large services vendors gathered this morning to discuss how a perfect storm of technologies (including cloud, social, big data, and mobility) is transforming the way clients engage with service providers in Asia. Forrester analysts John McCarthy, Frederic Giron, and Dane Anderson brainstormed with business leaders from services vendors including Atos, BT, HCL, HP, and IBM around the four factors that are reshaping the IT services industry (see Figure 1):
The restructuring of the Asian economy. The economic uncertainty has now spread to emerging markets, and economic growth is expected to slow down significantly in India and China this year. Forrester has revised its IT services spending forecasts downward by two to four percentage points in these countries for 2012 and 2013. Participants corroborated this downgrade and mentioned they were seeing the process of making decisions on large transformation projects getting longer, especially in the manufacturing industry.