If you’re a startup CEO/Founder/Marketer, you might have read that headline and thought, “What do you mean I shouldn’t care about the Magic Quadrant? I’ll take a Vendor Briefing call on vacation if I have to!”
Sure, tech companies strive for a mention in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant—or better yet—placement in the top right corner as a “Leader”. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant will tell you who’s product sits on the cutting edge of the technology, identify the ankle biters, show who’s falling behind, and identify the leaders in a category. That recognition matters as you develop your product.
But, the Magic Quadrant should not guide your brand.
We get it. Placement in the Magic Quadrant means PR, recognition, and—hopefully—bragging rights. But if you focus building your brand on winning the Magic Quadrant, you will miss many opportunities to develop a truly unique and compelling brand.
Here’s the thing. Gartner rates companies on their “ability to execute” and “completeness of vision”. These are product and company measurements. As we’ve written about before, product marketing is not brand marketing. Product marketing focuses on features and benefits, speeds and feeds, and even ROI.
Branding, on the other hand, describes how your company makes a name for itself. It starts with positioning. This is the phase where you carve out your space in the market. Great positioning communicates the one thing you want people to know about your brand and explains how you are truly differentiated, relevant, and singular in nature. Brand marketing, done right, gives people something to believe in. And when done properly, is tightly connected to your product.
By its nature, brand positioning can’t happen in a vacuum. That’s why when we develop a company’s brand strategy, we consider players in their competitive set. But when we compare all competitors, we don’t just do so in terms of technology, we compare it at a brand level.
We look at each company’s implied positioning, category, brand messaging, and voice/personality. We decipher what the brand says it does, how it does it, and when we can—why it matters. Of course, we don’t get an inside look at their brand platform. We can, however, get a sense of how they want to be understood by the market.
Once we’ve audited all competitors, including companies that play in adjacent markets, we map them. Not surprisingly, we see most companies’ brand positioning gravitates towards product benefits. For instance, we recently worked with a startup introducing AI for network management—one that advanced an older, on-prem solution. A majority of their competitors focus on product functionality. They claim to ”prevent outages” and “increase visibility”, several explain how they “facilitate integration” and help ”manage digital transformation” and “movement to the cloud”. A few spoke about how they bring “innovation” and “category reinvention” and others mentioned NetOps “empowerment”. But none of them expressed themselves at a brand level.
We, however, had visions beyond functional benefits. And the area where we hoped to own, we confirmed, was white space in the market. This is where the company will focus its positioning. Not only will they appeal to their customers’ emotions but they will also stake a claim as the first company that connects their brand to real business outcomes.
So the next time you’re thinking about brand recognition, let the Magic Quadrant be an input to your work, not the end game. Looking at your competitors’ brands, not functionality will allow you to find white space in the market. From there, you’ll develop a compelling, ownable brand that stands the test of time, regardless of what features you add in the future.
Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency in Oakland, California.