IoT and Brand Management

With the Internet of Things, the advantage of doing something first can't come at the cost of doing something foolish.
By Paul Hanson
Mar 15, 2016

Large corporations have brands to grow and protect, marketing and distribution systems that need product, and the ability to invest in new product. The challenge for a well-established brand is to find the balance between staying fresh and relevant, while avoiding jumping on trends. And it's hard to find a bigger trend these days than the Internet of Things.

But what is the potential impact of the IoT on brands? And what impact could embracing the IoT have on a brand? To answer those questions, we need to understand what the Internet of Things is really all about. To me, it comes down to the convergence of three trends:

• Cheap, low-power microprocessors and radios
• Ubiquitous networks and access points
• Low-cost rapid prototyping tools

The early hype has been all about small companies and entrepreneurs coming up with new gadget ideas by adding a microprocessor, a radio, and a battery to a "thing" and voilà—an article appears on some website about a new IoT gadget. Add crowdfunding to the mix, and it has never been easier to get a new product from idea to first sale. However, anyone who has created a significant product or brand will know that it is not this easy.

Major brands have the ability to invest in new feature development, and they have the marketing and distribution systems to get IoT features into the hands of business and consumers. This is what will put the IoT into our everyday lives.

Brands are tricky. If they don't grow, they shrivel—but they need to be protected because they rely on a stable perception by their audience. This requires balance and consideration before new features or trends are baked into products related to a brand. Jumping on a technology trend too early often results in compatibility issues and angry customers. Failing to understand how a technology will add real value has resulted in some pretty idiotic products—only the user benefitting from the technology can create value.

Worse, it can make the company look stupid. Embarrassing security failures with early so-called smart appliances were appallingly predictable. The combination of a major brand and a security or design failure is news, and we have entire communities dedicated to discovering and publicizing these weaknesses.

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