Thursday, March 7, 2013

Software Brand Building

Book review of Brand Warfare - 10 Rules for Building the Killer Brand by David F. D'Alessandro (published 2001 by McGraw-Hill).

D'Alessandro was the CEO of John Hancock, one of the largest insurance carriers in the United States. While D'Alessandro's focus is on branding in large enterprises, most of his ideas apply to small software development companies, too.

Small companies have to build brands if they expect to become larger companies. You can't just write an application, name it, and start marketing your software. You should be positioning your product and thinking about branding long before you begin writing your code.

Before becoming CEO of John Hancock, when D'Alessandro was working for a New York marketing firm, one of his first clients was Orville Redenbacher. Seeking to become the leading force in the popcorn industry, Redenbacher sought professional advice. D'Alessandro admits that he didn't even know that there was a popcorn industry.

Redenbacher was particularly proud of the hybrid corn that he had developed, and the popcorn that he manufactured. In an industry where it seemed that nothing could be more commoditized than popcorn, Redenbacher built a brand, and dominated his market.

More interesting for microISVs, Redenbacher was able to charge a premium for his popcorn that no competitor could match. Redenbacher gave a commodity a voice. Through his endearing public persona, he convinced consumers that his popcorn was worth buying, even at the premium price that he asked.

Consumers prefer branded products. And businesses like to offer well-established brands. A strong brand makes it easier for firms to issue stock and raise capital. Translated into the software development industry, good branding is good software marketing.

In 2000, the Interbrand brand consultancy firm named Coca-Cola as the number-one brand in the United States. Interbrand calculated that a little more than half of the company's value - more than $72 billion US dollars - could be attributed to the Coca-Cola company's brand. And that's why software developers need to take their brands seriously.

D'Alessandro believes that most enterprises don't know how to manage their brands, or how to take advantage of their brands' value. Too many business managers equate "brand" with "advertising". Brand is much deeper, D'Alessandro tells us.

The author defines brand as "whatever the consumer thinks of when he or she hears your company's name." It's not just your product or service. It's your customer service, and the things that people say about you on the Internet. It's everything associated with your software.

Your brand should drive your advertising, and not the other way around. D'Alessandro's 10 rules for building your brand fill the rest of this book with actionable ideas - good software marketing ideas that we can use in the software development business.

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