The pace of technology innovation - from artificial intelligence (AI) platforms to open source software to cybersecurity - is happening at such a rate that standing still often implies you’re getting left behind. We read regularly about “legacy” companies taking unfortunate turns in market leadership due to their inability to keep up with the pace of said innovation. Companies like IBM and Oracle are often labeled “legacy” despite their large investments in new technologies and acquisitions.
Yet, the playing field is evening.
Startup funding is more selective these days and many of the legacy companies are displaying the ability to turn things around. Fortunately, from a branding perspective, the public is always open to a comeback story. It’s in our DNA to root for the underdog that has made the effort to transform its product, change its leadership and redirect its future.
So, what are the core elements of said comeback stories that media love? How can companies successfully rise above public perception to position - or reposition - themselves as a new breed of technology leader, regardless of the industry? We’ve done the dirty work, based on researching similar stories over the last two years in dozens of the top business and technology publications, and identified four elements of a comeback story:
- Put a name and face to the company's transformation story: To refocus and reconnect with potential buyers and key stakeholders, it’s imperative there is someone to reconnect with. Consider Microsoft’s Satya Nadella as part of their AI transformation. He has a clear “mobile first, cloud first” story with a direction and “purpose” for the first time in decades. Read this story for more insight.
- Transparency in admitting mistakes: Arguably one of the first steps to changing perception and mindshare is admitting when there has been a misstep. Did the company not make decisions fast enough? Not spend enough energy recruiting new talent? Not enough invested in R&D? Intel’s powerful message on chip speed is a perfect nod to this tactic where the company acknowledges “speed isn’t everything.” Knowing where public perception stands and then messaging directly to the new developments without hesitation will garner both trust and will quicken the pace at which audiences move beyond the mistakes.
- Demonstrate why you will be successful: There must be facts behind the comeback via the company’s holistic performance rather than the performance of one business unit, product line or executive hire. CISCO, for example, was on its way to a $1 trillion valuation, but the world changed on them and their technology became commoditized. They came back with a packaged story of acquisitions (Broadsoft, AppDynamics), a stock price increase (42 percent in one year) and proof of fundamental changes and successes via a strategic shift in focus to cybersecurity.
- Validate your new direction with external influence: A major tool in the PR and marketing toolbox is third-party validation, such as analyst reports and positive customer case studies where others talk about the value of your brand and its resurgence with more credibility than you can. IBM, thought to be losing market share to a new wave of technology leaders, like Amazon, utilizes customers like AT&T, in addition to the analyst community - both financial and industry - to validate their growth.
Keeping up with innovation today is multifaceted; organizational structure, talent acquisition and retention, access to data, and most critically - vision - will dictate whether a company is able to remain competitive. The bottom line is that comeback stories are possible when the right pieces of the puzzle not only exist, but are told to external audiences in the right way.