Innovation is not enough: how Australian startups and scale-ups are missing the message about branding

To succeed, scale-ups and ASX-listed technology brands must stop relying on product-centric functional marketing and embrace compelling brand messaging and communications.

This is one of the key findings of a groundbreaking study conducted by Hotwire and the University of Sydney Business School.

The study, Decode technical brandsexamined the use of semiotic codes within technical brands and examined brand patterns at different stages of business growth.

While the research provided numerous insights for startups, scale-ups and established tech companies, the research revealed that scale-up and ASX-listed tech brands often clash when it comes to creating memorable, meaningful and distinctive brands.

And the problem is innovation. Startups and scale-ups have become too dependent on innovation and the ‘newness’ of their products to do the heavy lifting in marketing. There was a time when this was all a startup needed, and many now established players have ridden this wave to success.

However, innovation is no longer enough. With technology as an established layer across all industries and sectors, startups need to do more to take their business to the next level. And the answers lie in brand marketing.

Stand out in a sea of ​​equality

One of the main issues that startups and scale-ups face is awareness. However, nearly half of all brands included in the survey adopted blue logos, resulting in a lack of differentiation, with many scale-ups drowning in a sea of ​​equality.

It’s not the most innovative move for an industry known for its innovation. Then add the functional and descriptive brand names, slogans and slogans that the tech industry likes to use, and it really gets challenging.

According to the survey, 70% of respondents could not remember or identify the scale-up brands included in the survey. Perhaps more challenging, a fictitious brand included in the survey had the second-highest awareness among respondents.

The survey also found that most scale-ups pay little attention to their brand outside of logo and brand name. It is clear that there is work to be done. The competition for people’s attention is fiercer than ever, but with such low brand recall among experts, scale-ups need to do more.

Creating emotional connections to build brands

The challenge for Australian scale-ups is to move beyond the product-centric and feature-based marketing that most startups create. This work is essential to creating awareness, but as companies mature from scale-ups to established players, they need to develop strong connections with consumers.

This is where the brand becomes hugely important. The world’s most successful technology brands invest in creating emotional connections with consumers to ensure they are memorable.

Tech brands need to move beyond product-centric communications to create customer-centric communications that provide the emotional reasons people need to choose one brand over another comparable alternative.

The research also found that emotional connection leads to greater intent to learn more – and this is of course paramount for startups and scale-ups trying to build traction in the market. The data pointed to a missed opportunity for scaleups to increase emotional connection scores by up to 20% using brand identity assets alone.

It can be challenging to justify the long-term brand building investment, especially when faced with the limited resources and short-term focus of startups and scale-ups; however, the research shows that long-term brand building benefits business outcomes.

In a technology-dominated world, products come and go, but brands are for the long haul. By building distinctive and meaningful connections with consumers, a company invests in its growth, longevity and success.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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