Is your business in danger of falling into the innovation brand trap?

Is your business at rick from falling into the innovation brand trap?

It’s easy to understand why this is the case. After all, a quick check in the dictionary reveals that “innovation” is generally associated with originality, advanced capabilities and creativity; and who in business doesn’t want to be thought of in those terms?

However, are companies in danger of falling into a trap by relying on innovation to define their brand? The Authenticity Gap, a new study conducted by FleishmanHillard and LePere Analytics, suggests that could be the case.

Innovative Ennui

The study looks at five different categories within the technology sector. Its aim is to examine the gap between brand (what businesses say about themselves) and reputation (what other people say about them) by comparing consumers’ expectations with their actual experience of a company or brand.

The research identifies nine drivers that shape perceptions of a company including society outcomes such as employee care and community impact; management behaviours such as consistent performance and credible communications and lastly customer benefits such as innovation, customer care and better value.

Across the five technology categories, from wearable technology to internet security software, there was one finding that stood out: every sector was failing to meet customer expectations for innovation, often by a significant margin. This is particularly concerning when you consider that innovation was cited by customers as one of the most important factors influencing their purchasing decisions.

The Authenticity Gap

But, if innovation is so important to both businesses and consumers, why are brands failing to meet customer expectations?

One possible reason is that, when it comes to delivering innovation, brands may have raised customer expectations too high. Of course, every company wants to be seen as innovative and cutting-edge. Yet by claiming every new software update or product is innovative, are companies setting themselves up for failure?

In reality, even if a company does produce a genuinely innovative product or service we, as consumers, are often so blasé about the originality, creativity and technical skill behind these new devices or solutions that the innovation message simply doesn’t resonate.

So how can tech entrepreneurs and start-ups articulate their brand in a more engaging and compelling way?

Identify your USPs

There’s no doubt that the tech sector is producing some amazing ‘innovations’ (and I say that consciously and in all seriousness). But it’s important to consider how you communicate to existing and potential customers, rather than falling into the old ‘innovative solutions’ habit. Think carefully about the value your business brings and try to articulate that in a way that helps you stand out against the competition. It may seem basic but conducting a thorough Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analysis will help pinpoint your unique selling propositions (USPs) and show why you are different and better than your competitors.

For example if you sell to enterprises, do you offer personal, one-to-one customer support? Or if you produce consumer devices do you offer better value for money? Even having a strong CSR programme can help influence the perception a customer has about your brand. In fact, the results from our study reveal that consumers value those businesses that “do good” within their local communities above other companies.

Ultimately, innovation is only one factor in the purchasing decision. A customer will consider a wide array of details before they commit to a purchase so make sure your communications and brand strategy reflects all of your strengths.

Understand who your advocates are

The 2015 Authenticity Gap also threw up some interesting findings about where the purchasers of technology get their information from, and who they look to as advocates. There is a clear divide when it comes to B2B and B2C tech brands.

For business purchases, such as security software, customers are more likely to listen to vendor messaging when making decisions about which solution to buy, followed by analysts and other customers within the industry. The same was true of enterprise services.

However, for B2C industries – such as internet services, consumer devices or wearable technology – consumers are more likely to rely upon recommendations from personal contacts before committing to a purchase. Perhaps surprisingly, respondents did not consider celebrity endorsements to be a significant factor in purchasing decisions, although they can be a great way of raising general brand awareness.

Take a strategic approach

Overall, when making decisions about your brand and your business’ communications strategy, it is vital to articulate your company’s offering as a whole. Focusing too much on the ‘innovative’ nature of your offering risks fuelling the gap between expectations and experiences, so try to think – and talk – about yourself in a different way. By drilling down into exactly what makes you different and unique, and creating great content and stories to bring these benefits to life, you’ll be able to reach your target customers on their level and really show just why they need your product or service in their life.

Sophie Scott, Director and Senior Partner, FleishmanHillard