We may live in the digital age, but it is also an age of fear – fear of the impact of technology on culture and society. From mainstream media to dystopian films and political commentary, Tech’s underling has darkened over the past few years. Today, the dominant narrative around technology is negative.
And there’s plenty of evidence of the effect it’s had on the way people think about technology. Recent studies show – fear of technology stealing our jobs, fear of technology stealing our privacy, fear of technology stealing our identities and even fear of deepfakes after recently stealing the show on “America’s Got Talent” .
Withdrawn from an increasingly negative narrative and coupled with the fact that technology is often intangible – how do you build strong brand equity? From tech brands, what’s needed is a more human-centric approach – one that creates brand associations that are emotional, not just functional.
Kantar defined “humanizing brands” as involving a brand re-examining its relationship with people, what that brand stands for, what they say, and how they behave. Tech brands now need to do this more than ever. If they want to be more “human”, they have to dial in a number of things, including relevance, distinctiveness, and resonance.
Here’s a breakdown of how it works –
Yes, it’s important to talk about features, functions, and facts, but it’s equally important to focus on the role your technology plays in your audience’s lives. It means thinking about technology in its social and cultural context. There are often powerful and emotional connections to be made between technology and people when looking through a socio-cultural lens. Think about what your technology challenges or changes? Think about the emerging social and cultural ideologies your technology addresses or aligns with? This is particularly fertile ground to explore for tech start-ups and disruptors that often respond to social or cultural change. Remember, it’s not about technology, it’s about what technology enables people to do.
For example, we recently worked with Bruin Biometrics. A health tech brand that has developed a wearable scanner that allows medical staff to detect pressure sores on all skin tones. Agnostic diagnosis of pressure ulcers these days is incredibly difficult to achieve using current methods. The technology is amazing – it cuts costs, time and eliminates diagnostic subjectivity. But the most powerful and emotional role this technology plays in our lives is creating a more equitable healthcare system. The Bruin Biometrics scanner challenges the white normativity that exists in much of medicine today and this ideology is powerful and emotive to surface as part of the brand’s story.
2. Distinctive character
Many tech brands are looking at category standards and presentation. Consider the corporate sea of blue associated with work tools. According to a recent study, 61% of tech companies use blue as their primary color in tech branding. Coupled with the use of functional names and even more functional slogans, there is a lack of distinctiveness and a missed opportunity to connect emotionally by focusing on the human experience rather than the nature of the product.
For example – in our recent work for Google’s AI For Social Good program, we thought very carefully about the visual and written language of AI. Semiotic analysis of the AI space shows that within the category – in both written and visual language – the role humans play in the creation and development of this technology is recessive. So, as part of our work, we’ve created a human-first visual identity – as far away as possible from the electric blues, robotic animations and imagery that dominate and perpetuate the sense that AI is scary and autonomous.
Resonance breeds mental availability and Kantar’s research shows that to be resonant you need to be meaningful to people – both functionally and emotionally. Tech brands can be more meaningful in their storytelling by understanding the different ways different people respond to technology.
It’s not just a matter of demographics, it’s also a matter of social and cultural nuances. The attitudes, interests and priorities of inner-city city dwellers and those beyond the M25, for example, are not the same and tech brands can be more resonant by building on this.
Remember that not everyone has the same relationship with technology.
One of my favorite examples is Spotify. The “There’s a Playlist for That” line flexes and taps into specific audience segments across life situations and relatable cultural nuances. It communicates that Spotify has playlists for its users no matter “where” and “when”. Their commercials resonate with audiences because they are not one size fits all – respecting and capturing how personal music is as well as the cultural nuances at play.
So there are three things to think about when working on tech branding and building the best relationships. Ultimately, the message here is simple: the best technology doesn’t change your mind, the best narrative will.