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In this post, we examine the third principle of branding technology firms, in our on-going series adapted from our chapter on building long-term value in a system-update world in the Brand Challenge.

The proliferation of all things digital has transformed technology from a nice-to-have to a must-have for consumers and companies alike. For B2B technology brands, the big change has been the decentralization of the buying decision, largely driven by the ubiquity of technology throughout the organization. In short: buying power is shifting away from the CIO. In fact, nearly every functional area of the modern enterprise has a role in major B2B technology decisions, including finance, marketing, human resources, operations, supply chain, manufacturing and product development.

What does all this mean for branding? It means that a B2B tech brand must have a value proposition that appeals to very different audiences. The CIO will want reassurance that the product or service will integrate smoothly with legacy systems. The CFO will want an appropriate return on investment. The department head – Chief Talent Officer, for example, or CMO – will demand the right functionality above all else. Because there’s no feasible way to create distinct, siloed brands for a single offering, the B2B technology brand must resonate strongly with each of these audiences.

And therein lies the challenge: identifying the pillars of a brand that support a complex, multidimensional value proposition. How can you create a brand that’s relevant to a broad group of decision makers while making it resonate powerfully – and specifically – with each individual?

In the B2B space, a technology purchase is a considered decision. With multiple voices driving and influencing a purchase decision, the sales cycle can takes months, sometimes even years, as products are evaluated and tested and contracts vetted and negotiated.

Considered decisions require brands that can withstand multiple layers of scrutiny. This means that creating a technology brand is more complex than finding a catch-phrase or tagline. It is bigger than a single campaign. The brand must attract attention at a high level but stand up to deeper and deeper levels of evaluation. Often, this means that the brand must be supported by messages that are carefully “mapped” to different audiences: the user, the influencer, the partner, and so on.

What’s more, the technology brand must address different levels of investigation, from the superficial (Is this a quality offering?) to the deep (Is this interoperable?). Product specs and detailed performance indicators will read as technobabble for many key influencers – but this information remains a vital part of the communications journey for the user. Importantly, all of these messages must foot back to a brand that can carry all of them to the right audiences at the right time in the decision-making journey.

In the rapidly changing technology industry marked by an increasingly disparate and complex buying environment, a well-crafted brand can play a powerful role in connecting with all key stakeholders and communicating a differentiated value proposition. Read more about the changing profile of the technology buyer – and how understanding each influencer and decision maker is crucial to developing a brand – in the Brand Challenge.

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