Technology

The Battle of Brand vs Product II

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This article was contributed to TechCabal by Claudine Moore, managing director Africa Region for Allison + Partners; founder and former CEO, C. Moore Media International Public Relations.

I think we can safely say we have moved past the Pandemic. At the very least we can say we are learning to live with it. As I mentioned in part one of this two-part article, one of the many things the Pandemic taught us is that tech is the present and future of everything we do. It is now our societal, emotional, and operational backbone. 

As 2022 comes to an end, what continues is the steadfast march towards continued innovation in African tech against the backdrop of uncertainty regarding what 2023 will bring. This is especially the case as we see more and more African tech companies announcing reduced profits, a slow-down in production and/or new business activities and layoffs.  

Branding and PR in 2023 will continue to be synonymous with purpose, brand, and authenticity. B2B and consumer tech brands will be required to market their gadgets or services, as well as showcase their vision alongside a greater brand mission and purpose. Due to the changing sensibilities of stakeholders, they now need to adopt a different approach to how tech brands tell their stories. 

As introduced in part one, what is tech PR doing to rise to this challenge and prioritise the brand? The answer is that Tech PR is caught up in a storytelling tug-of-war between Brand vs Product PR and communications.  

In an Allison + Partners study  77% of tech marketing, branding and communications decision-makers surveyed across industries believe in the power of authentic, brand-first storytelling to showcase a company’s value, purpose and mission. Even more (88%) also believe their C-suite understands the value of storytelling. Interestingly, the data also showed that belief is not the same as reality. Only 58% of respondents say their company prioritises brand-focused campaigns. There’s clearly a disconnect here. 

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The truth about authenticity  

Below are some of the benefits of brand storytelling and some of the barriers. 

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Data originally published in A+P’s proprietary study “Technology PR’s Tug of War: The Battle of Brand vs Product”

When reviewing the above data, ask yourselves the following six questions about your African tech startup to decide if brand storytelling could be an essential part of your communications and what barriers you should look out for.

  1. Do we need to break through with media more than we currently are?
  2. Is our word-of-mouth chatter on fire?
  3. Is our sales pipeline robust? Is there room for significant growth?
  4. Do we have the capacity to maintain consistency across all our channels?
  5. Are we able to access customer or client testimonials?
  6. Is there an understanding of our audience’s needs and priorities?

If you answer yes to 4 or more of the above, you need to consider brand-focused Tech PR and communications for your startup and have a clear understanding of the challenges in order to be successful in the goals of your PR. 

Two Disparities

1. Only 13% of marketing decision-makers at international tech companies strongly believe their employer tells a consistent, brand-first story across all relevant markets. Remember 72% feel customers make more purchasing decisions based on the strength of the overall brand, and 88% feel their C-Suite understands the value of an authentic brand. So, can tech companies really afford to have so many respondents questioning—or even struggling with—brand consistency, goals and localisation? Simply put: No. 

2. Enter the title divide…again. In particular, CMOs (chief marketing officers) are the most likely to agree consistency lacks across their local markets (27%). On the flip side, director and manager-level marketers are more likely to feel their company does so (61%). Clearly, there’s a major disparity between the orchestrators and creators of the message and those on the frontlines who must deliver these messages locally. 

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One solution? Companies must have a consistent playbook and regional marketing kits that help them achieve their goals market by the market while ensuring they maintain consistency across Africa and globally if your startup also included global markets. 

Conclusion

Tech PR is evolving. The traditional days of hyper-focused comms around speeds, feeds, and services are waning. Media and core audiences want to know more than just what a company does. They want to know why you do it. 

Does that mean tech companies abandon all product marketing and PR to adopt a brand-only mindset? Absolutely not. Overcorrecting towards brand-first storytelling will present similar challenges. Products and services are what give companies credibility, establish trust, and provide C-Suites with thought leadership prowess. 

An either/or approach to brand vs product will lead to frustration and misalignment internally and externally, locally and regionally. Tech decision-marketers must strike a storytelling balance and end the exhausting—and at times, pointless—tug of war. 

This article is repurposed from A+P original report, “Technology PR’s Tug of War: The Battle of Brand vs Product”, which you can download here. You can follow Claudine on Twitter @ClaudineMoore.

Claudine Moore is an award-winning global PR leader specialising in Africa-focused PR and communications across multiple sectors, including tech. She is the managing partner Africa, Allison+Partners; and founder and former CEO of C. Moore Media International Public Relations. She also founded The Future is Female Mentorship Program, the first and only PR and communications initiative dedicated to African female tech founders. 

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