Who can tell you about your brand, you or your customers?

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I sat in front of a CEO of a very well funded tech start-up discussing their new technology’s positioning. The business had over 120 very well paid employees, had just attracted one of the most well know  investors in the world to pump tens of millions into their big tech idea and she was brimming with optimism. But the warning signs were clear to me.

“So what are customers valuing” I asked? She looked at me as if I was mad. “Its the speed of our technology, that’s all it is. Ten times faster than our nearest competitor”. “If it’s that good, why are prospects so slow to convert” I retorted? Sub 10% conversion rates for a game changing technology suggested to me some other problem. “Were just not getting the ‘speed’ message across. I’m going to articulate what our brand means to customers this weekend” she said tartly and our meeting ended shortly after.

I think most businesses act like this. “I’ll tell you what my brand means to customers” is something I hear all the time. After all, new tech is hard to research. But she was wrong for two reasons. Firstly she operated in a highly competitive sector where the customer experience of the tech speeds they were promised by her competitors were appalling. So what ever rational argument she thought was important, she failed to grasp how the market would perceive her brand operating as it did in that sector. Secondly, a brand is only an idea of value in a customer’s head. Articulating what you think that is without any input from customers shows a breathtaking lack of understanding about how brands work. Worse, it cast her leadership skills in a poor light, something that had become clear when I spoke with her colleagues, as no one seemed to have a clear idea as to how to generate cash.

I do not predict happy times for her staff, her business or her investor.



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