Technology and the (new) Cool Factor: Cool is no longer just about products

tech-nowordsThe Technology industry is highly competitive, with firms fighting for market share, workers and investor mind share. It is a sector that is led by companies that are early adopters of both technology and business practices, leading to the perception of the tech industry as being cutting edge with a ‘cool factor’.

The technology sector has been driven by the ‘cool factor’ for decades – it’s this very sector that shows us the future in terms of what we can expect in our businesses and personal devices. Larger screens, faster throughput and longer battery life are all features that technology firms deploy to improve on their “coolness.” But here’s the catch – the definition of cool is ever changing. From records to cassette tapes to CDs to streaming – in the past, what was new seemed to fit so directly with what was cool.

Enter the millennial. This stakeholder group is shaking up the game and growing in importance in terms of volume and spending power. For millennials, it’s not just important that your products and services are cutting edge. They want you to be more than just a cool kid – they want you to be a good citizen. This shift in values has been the underpinnings of successful startups like Tom’s and Warby Parker, each of who donate products to underprivileged regions every time a purchase is made.

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Source: http://www.toms.com and http://www.warbyparker.com

An excellent example of this in the technology sector is the comparison of the corporate reputations of Samsung and Apple. Though Apple has a strong global reputation, it does not rank among the 100 most reputable US firms. In the United States, Apple consistently struggles in the three reputation dimensions of workplace, governance and citizenship. Apple is perceived as a brilliant, innovative, product-driven firm, but not as an open or transparent one. Compared to many other technology firms like Microsoft or Google, it has also not been perceived as a firm that has made environmental or social citizenship (although Tim Cook has spoken out on societal issues in his personal life) a priority, and still struggles to move past historic news coverage or poor working conditions at Apple facilities in Asia.

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RepTrak® tracks perceptions about your company’s ability to deliver in seven key Dimensions — Leadership, Performance, Products, Innovation, Workplace, Governance and Citizenship.

Conversely, Samsung continues to improve its marks across dimensions by delivering products and services that its stakeholders need, communicating their corporate values and then living up to those values in real life.

The key takeaway for Apple, or any organization looking to proactively manage their reputation, is that even if you win in a subset of reputation dimensions like products and services or innovation, the most reputable and successful firms consistently focus on both product AND corporate reputation attributes. While the historic focus of the technology sector has been to deliver great products, it has become increasingly important that the technology firms that stand behind their products are open and transparent with stakeholders, are perceived as having a fair and attractive workplace environment, and proactively drive positive societal and environmental change. Those that do will create strong emotional attachments with their stakeholders, which RI has proven also means you capture their loyalty, and their wallets.

The top 50 companies in US Technology in 2016 will be announced via live webinar on August 18. Join us to examine the scores of the top technology companies as well as examine cases like Apple, Samsung, HP, Alphabet, Amazon and more.

Discover insights from more than 83,000 ratings to uncover the strength of the emotional bond between the US general public and tech companies. See what you can you learn from these companies to support your own communication and reputation strategy.