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How Tech Brands Avoid Being Boring

Recent posts have discussed adding personality and communicating visually. Those ideas are applicable here, but let's dig deeper into how your brand can stand out or overcome a boring image.

When I first worked in a Silicon Valley PR agency, most people wanted to work on consumer accounts with companies that had cool products. Hey, who wouldn't want to be in on promoting the latest, most attractive products you can buy? But I was assigned to B2B accounts to help promote chip- and board-level test equipment.

Next, I got some semiconductor companies added to my portfolio. Others at the agency thought those were awful and boring. What they didn't realize is that IC design and manufacturing was driving the technology revolution. It was and remains the raw material for what's next. It wasn't and isn't boring.

Zzzzzzzzzz….

Focusing too much on the feeds and speeds of your technology  will do this to your audience, even if they're engineers.

Focusing too much on the feeds and speeds of your technology
will do this to your audience, even if they're engineers.

A bigger story
True, you and I as consumers can't use a device or a software application by itself. But in a system, it allows designers or integrators to make a huge difference to millions. Connecting new hardware and software developments with how they enable people is the far bigger story. What are the human implications of your technology? Does it make products more affordable, safer, quieter, smaller, longer lasting, greener, or cleaner? What's the angle? That's not boring.

When AMD introduced its first RISC microprocessor, it allowed a whole new generation of printers to run much faster than anything that had come before. Explaining reduced instruction set computing to the mainstream news media was not the story. Major publications, including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, wrote about AMD's breakthrough because it meant computer peripherals were about to start running much, much faster. Oh, and no other chip company had that technology ready to use at the time. That was the business angle. AMD's clear competitive advantage over Intel and Motorola was more interesting than the new device.

Information about how technology works (rather than what it does for people) bores many people. Engineers who run technology companies are in love with their inventions and are sometimes blind to the stories about their products' implications. That's where the broader story is often found and where good pitches to broader news channels can originate. What can your technology do for people? Those in the technology news media want to know what designers can do with a new device, not just the specs.

Get interesting
Generically, any brand (tech-related or not) can become interesting by connecting what it does or makes to a larger trend. Even a connection with a fad will work, but trends are much better. Most would agree that Apple has done this rather well. Being conscious of what currently interests people or anticipating major behavior shifts can help brands join in the conversation, if they have something relevant to say. That gets into thought leadership — another strategy for not being boring. Being intelligently outspoken in your market sector can certainly help prevent being labeled boring.

Getting competent PR pros on the job early also makes a difference. (See: Creating Effective Tech PR Strategies.) Effective PR people are curious and creative and will develop a range of ideas to help erase the boring factor. If your PR team isn't regularly coming up with more good ideas than you can use, it's time to get better help.

Most companies, in fact, have very interesting stories. They're just often not immediately obvious. Someone needs to be curious enough to dig them out. Sometimes marketing folks only want to push product, which in many cases can be boring. Going beyond product promotion is a great strategy for not being boring.

The human element
Recognizing human contributions can also help your brand rise above the boring product story. People are inherently more interesting to other people than things. The human angle will help drag interest in the brand or product along with it. Are there remarkable people doing interesting things in your company? Probably. Recognizing them and adding their stories to your company's market conversation can help you overcome being boring.

Often the people creating, making, marketing, selling, and using your products are where the interesting stories are waiting to be discovered. Do you tell stories about your customers' successes with your products or services? Are you doing it visually? That's not boring.

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5 comments on “How Tech Brands Avoid Being Boring

  1. t.alex
    May 2, 2013

    'Boring' itself is not the same from person to person actually. Consumer products like iPhones, Android tablets are easily exciting. But when it comes to stuff like enterprise product, some engineers may find it interesting while others may not. 

     

     

  2. Ford Kanzler
    May 2, 2013

    Agree, some product categories may be mundane or boring but the brand doesn't have to be. We're talking about a company's image, how it communicates, how its perceived, how interesting it is to prospects and customers in comparison to its competitors, not just the stuff it makes or sells. What does it project? Many brands have overcome apparent staid sameness by doing things which engage their market that are not boring.

  3. Ariella
    May 2, 2013

    @Ford that's true, and brands have to be willing to change their approach to meet the needs of the time, which is why just about any brand that has endured for decades keeps its marketing fresh. That's well illustrated by this history of Kleenex. It started out pushing its product as a means for taking off cold cream in the 20s and evolved to promoting it for use for colds, which made it a product for men and children, as well as women to use. Advertising approaches changed with the times.  

  4. FLYINGSCOT
    May 3, 2013

    I agree that is is very important to find the human angle in PR.  It is like the old addage of never taking photos unless someone you know is in the frame.  Looking at stuff is boring.  Looking at people is interesting.

  5. Ford Kanzler
    May 3, 2013

    Yes. The human interest side is generaly where boring can be overcome. Digging into an organiation and learning about what people are doing can create all kinds of interest opportunities for shining a brand's light in ways that engages prospects and customers. Unfortunately that's missed by companies fccused only on revenue, growth and their stock price rather than delighting their customers.

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