India is a very social country. People love talking, about everything under the sun from rocket science to global economy to what time the neighbour’s daughter returned home the previous night. We love to talk, gossip, discuss and debate with an authority that seems formidable on the subject but rarely has enough substance if tested. Just for example, last evening as I was returning home by the local I overheard two co-passengers discussing the about-to-start FIFA World Cup and how Real Madrid are the favourites having won the Champions Trophy! I did not bother pointing out the several flaws in each of his statements; he was just another brick in the wall.
But as we have evolved, so has our ability to consume data and information from everywhere around us, grasp the finer points and then make our conversation more relevant. We consume at an immense pace, keeping track of not only ours but pretty much the world’s activities through the virtual world that is wrapping us. Whether it be stalking a friend’s FB wall or following their thoughts via Twitter, we are everywhere consuming all kinds of information, and then happily spreading it around. Social collaboration is at its all-time high without an end in sight.
We just love being social!
But if all went smoothly, it would be easy and thus cease to be fun; hence the pain point - the rapid pace of technological advancement over the past few decades has left most of us too baffled to be able to grasp it all and a major chunk of this technology is as alien to most of us as Tamil is to a Punjabi – I am neither; nor am I trying to draw an analogy from Chetan Bhagat’s 2 states, but if you made the connection that just proves on how much information we are consuming and how adept we are at linking it to our advantage in everyday conversations.
Another painful personal experience induced by this technology divide is explaining an IT professional’s job profile to laymen. As someone who spent a couple of years working in the IT industry, I often faced the perils of explaining what I ACTUALLY did to people who didn’t really distinguish between flight simulations and Pacman as long as they both played side by side on the computer screen. Working for an MNC with little roots in India, it was another task to tell them what brand I was a part of! All I could say was it’s a big company, it’s a big brand and they used to leer – we have never heard of it, what kind of a Brand is that?
And it’s not that IT folks don’t do a lot of things, there is an immense lot that these people do in helping the world be a better place, whether it is helping build the next satellite along with DRDO or something as simple and relevant as overhauling the always hanging IRCTC website. IT and ITES have become such an intrinsic part of our lives that we have tuned out what they do, how they do just like we have tuned out the oodles of adverts and emails that keep jumping at us from every nook and cranny of our highly virtual lives. But because of this tuning out, don’t worry – it’s inevitable, most people don’t know you! They see you as a bunch of result oriented technophiles who get the important stuff done but that is pretty much all they know about you. Corporate Branding – evidently not the focal point of IT CMOs and other top honchos. The result driven, cut throat industry craves for tangible results for every marketing dollar spent and somehow Brand Equity’s true worth is yet to be fully realized in the IT and ITES space. Very surprising considering how the entire industry idolizes to be forward thinkers!
According to David A. Aaker, world’s most renowned authority on pretty much everything related to the word Brand - “The brand is a promise of the value you'll receive for the consideration you are paying for an offering.”
Does that sound like too much jargon? Precisely what a lot of people say right after having a conversation with someone from the IT/ITES industry!
Jargon is harsh to the unaware ears; they need a softer angle to identify with the organization.Thus if you want them to know you establish an identity first then spread the word to gain a place in your target audiences’ minds. If you’re not on the top of your consumer’s mind, you are losing on prospective business!
Corporate branding is the most efficient way to show potential customers what your business is about. It is reflected visually via the logo and company design elements as well as through verbiage in marketing materials, slogans and informational copy.An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. Especially the IT and ITES industry where the ocean is immense and yet overcrowded with millions of small fish and only a few giant whales. How does a customer tell one fish from another?
I’d mention Accenture as one of the smartest whales in this ocean. They have always positioned themselves in innovative ways to stand out! They utilized their branding to put them ahead of their competitors. How can you do this? Analyze what you do best and consider your target audience in doing so. Use graphics and word choices that clearly reflect your business to your target audience, hence your brand. Use your branding to deliver clear messages. Everything that your organization owns can potentially be converted into collateral for your branding, more on this in the DIY section below.
Talk to your Target Group!
Done correctly, your brand can assist you in getting a stronger foothold in your niche market whether you are a BPO, KPO LPO or a Technology provider. Define your unique selling position and consider methods to communicate key messages to your desired audience. Use specific images or phrases to encourage the feel of inclusivity. Let them know the reason your company exists and how it can fulfil their needs. Connect with your target audience, engage them and you will feel your company’s presence snowball quickly in this highly interconnected social space of the digital world. From being a nondescript small offshoot of the French conglomerate Cognizant, the Indian branch now has approximately 35% of its global workforce and delivers about 80% of revenue (source ET), the huge spike achieved in the shortest of time spans courtesy their appropriate communication with their target group.
Internal Branding – Kill two birds with one stone
Branding is more than creating a pretty image – it’s more about living the brand! Why I am blaring the horn of branding is because I know of too many organizations who really fail to connect with their own people, perhaps a prime reason for the highest attrition rates across service sector industry. With rapid handing over of the baton in the IT and ITES industry, recruitment becomes a major concern for organizations. Getting and retaining the right talent is directly related to how much one identifies with the organization, whether it be a campus hiring or a lateral one – recruitment is one of the better places to stamp the brand of the organization on a prospective asset and internal branding can help establish a culture that is very specific to your company making it the organization everyone wants to work for – a one stop shop to cure all recruitment and attrition hassles.
And it’s tangible too!
Brand Equity has a direct influence on the share value of the organization; that is why Brand evaluation of your organization is so important. If you don’t know your own worth, how can you convince your customer of its magnitude? Remember the $19 bn takeover of Whatsapp by Facebook? Or the $12 bn offer to Snapchat? Just goes on to reflect HOW much contribution is played by Brand Equity in calculating the company’s overall value!
So if you have decided to take the first step to become global, build investor trust and do not wish to remain just another pebble along the shore here’s a DIY, Corporate Branding Basics tailored for you:
• Get a great logo. Place it everywhere.
• Spread the word. What are the key messages you want to communicate about your brand? Every employee should be aware of your brand attributes. Harmonize your internal brand.
• Integrate your brand. Branding extends to every aspect of your business--how you answer your phones, what you or your salespeople wear on sales calls, your e-mail signature, everything.
• Create a "voice" for your company that reflects your brand. This voice should be applied to all written communication and incorporated in the visual imagery of all materials, online and off. Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it too technical? Use less jargon. You get the drift?
• Develop a tagline. Write a memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand.
• Design templates and create brand standards for your marketing materials. Use the same color scheme, logo placement, look and feel throughout. You don't need to be fancy, just consistent.
• Be true to your brand. Customers won't return to you--or refer you to someone else--if you don't deliver on your brand promise.
• Be consistent. I placed this point last only because it involves all of the above and is the most important tip I can give you.
These are pro tips, yes, but not everything works everywhere. But you do these right and you’re better placed on the success stairway. But do not expect overnight results, Coke and Apple did not become world’s most valuable brands overnight, it’s a time consuming process involving patience, dedication and evolution in the brand essence implementation. The wise have said patience is a virtue so behold it while you step into the brave new world of branding your organization. I assure to be just around the corner with more tips and tricks, just holler in the comments section. For those who like the more DIY approach, there’s always Google. :)
Integrated Corporate Practice