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When tech-based brand strategy makes sense

By Magda Adamska / 23 November 2016 When tech-based brand strategy makes sense

As innovation continues to drive business growth, it has become more and more common for brands to include technology as part of their brand strategy. Even FMCG brands (fast-moving consumer goods), that sell things such as short shelf life consumables, have started to use technology in their brand strategies. It can vary though – while a lot of brands prioritise and thrive off the use of technology, others often downplay its role in their communication.

Below are examples of both types of brands, and how their approach to technology plays a part in both brand strategy and communication.

Brands which want to be perceived as “tech”

Understandably, in the 21st century, there are many brands which want to add “tech” aspects to their brand equity, with the intention of being perceived as modern, or hoping to stay relevant to the new generations. Even some of the world’s biggest food and drink brands, like Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, feel the need to prove their technological credentials. Professional services companies reposition themselves so that they can become technology partners to the Fortune 500, one of the examples being Accenture, which has a huge focus on technology in its strategy.

It’s not just individual companies that are increasing their technology-based branding, there is in fact a whole category of brands that are doing this. The financial services category went through a huge reputation downfall following the financial crisis in 2008, leading to companies in that group trying to distance themselves from the negative associations that have been built up by moving closer to the tech brands. Brands like Citi, Mastercard, and Visa are just a few examples. Citi has built up a focus on progress and innovation through communication and initiatives such as Citi Ventures, Mastercard is working on making cashless payments safer and simpler, and Visa stresses it’s not a bank but a “global payments technology company”.

Brands which don’t want to be tech anymore

On the other side of things, we have brands that are seen as technology companies, but don’t want to be perceived in this way. Tech positioning can sometimes be limiting, making it more difficult for this sort of brand to reach more mainstream audiences. There are two good examples of brands that have recently changed their brand and communication strategies to move themselves away from tech positioning.

Airbnb is an app (trying to become a travel brand) that allows people to rent out their residential property for short-term lodging. It revolutionised the way accommodation websites work, and as such, Airbnb is seen by many as a technology company. However, this isn’t the aim of the company. Airbnb wants to have a more human feel about it, with their brand being all about “belonging” and making people feel at home in any place in the world.

Another example is Spotify. Commonly seen as a tech brand, the company rebranded at the end of 2015, to shift the connotations of their company from tech to music and entertainment. They did this through changing their communication imagery, launching a new music-inspired style, as part of a new consistent brand experience. You can find out more about Spotify’s rebranding in our previous blog post.

Being perceived as a tech company can have both advantages and disadvantages, with the type of business of course being a key factor. For some companies, being seen as a tech company brings them forward to where they want to be, but for others it can be very limiting, forcing them into a corner away from key parts of the market that they want to be aiming for.

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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.

BrandStruck ithe only online database of brand strategy case studies.
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