PR viewed as best hope in resuscitating tech brands

PALO ALTO, CA: The economic downturn has damaged technology brands,

but PR might be the best tool to tackle the problem: That is the

indication according to a survey conducted by Liquid Agency, a tech

brand-marketing agency.



Over 500 technology marketing professionals took part in the online

poll, which was conducted in association with Neale-May & Partners,

GlobalFluency, and The Sausalito Group. Most of the respondents, 83%,

were from corporations, with 17% from agencies.



Financial losses were judged to be the most important issue impacting

tech brands' reputations in 2001, followed by stock price declines and

industry hype.



When asked what the most effective way to market tech brands in bad

economic times is, most respondents answered, "A strong PR program."



That response was somewhat vexing to Donovan Neale-May, president of

Neale-May & Partners. He said that one of PR's problems is that it is

not brought into the brand mix during the good times.



"I would hope that in good times, PR would also be considered the most

important," he said. "My concern is that we can be seen just as a 'bad

times' investment."



But Neale-May also believes that the results signal some shift in that

attitude, even as PR has struggled in the downturn. "We may have a

dismal financial year in PR, but if this perception holds true, my

expectation is that we are going to be more valued than ever before," he

said.



Reinforcing relationships with best customers and delivering sharp and

consistent messaging were believed to be the most important strategies

for companies to sustain their brands.



The role of the CEO in branding was also evaluated. Most of those polled

stated that the best way for CEOs to build brand equity is to be an

effective spokesperson for the company. Increasing visibility with the

media was the second-most-popular response.



Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison were ranked

among the top three leaders who best personify their brands. But

ironically, both Gates and Ellison were among the three leaders who were

thought to have most compromised their brands in 2001. Carly Fiorina,

CEO of Hewlett-Packard, topped the table in the brand-damage

category.



"I think of it as being a double-edged sword," said Alfredo Nuccino,

creative director of Liquid Agency. "When you personify the brand

through the leader, there may be some negative implications through that

person's behavior that will then reflect negatively on the brand."



RESULTS OF TECH BRANDING SURVEY

What do you think are the three most effective ways to market and create

demand for a technology brand in a tight economy?

1 Strong PR program: 158

2 Customer Relationship Management: 141

3 Brand advertising: 43

In what ways can technology CEOs best build brand equity?

1 Be an effective spokesperson for the company: 113

2 Increase visibility with the media: 96

3 Build credibility and confidence on Wall Street: 84

What are the most critical elements of CEO branding at a technology

company?

1 Trust: 120

2 Market insight and vision: 101

3 Demonstrated leadership: 90

Which three leading technology companies have done the best to maintain

brand value in the past year?

1 Microsoft: 224

2 IBM: 153

3 Dell: 117

Which three technology companies have done the worst at maintaining

brand value in the past year?

1 HP: 96

2 Compaq: 92

3 Cisco: 56

Note: More than 500 technology marketing professionals were surveyed.

Source: Liquid Agency, in association with Neale-May & Partners,

GlobalFluency, and The Sausalito Group.



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