High-tech is a lot like high school, where everything is a popularity contest and everyone wants to be like the cool kids with the great parties, the fashionable outfits, and the hot cars (go to any high-tech company parking lot in Silicon Valley and tell me how many Ford Fiestas you find...thought not!). Being yourself usually isn't cool and those are the kids who end up being alone. A lot. It's much easier to join forces with other kids to be part of a clique. I think the only big difference between high school and high-tech is that in high-tech EVERYONE has a start-up of some sort and wants to be the next Stevie or Larry (more proof in this video)..but I digress.
In my daily work, I always hear companies trying to compare themselves to Apple or Google. Sure, they are market leaders, but it's definitely NOT the model for all tech companies worldwide. Branding a company is the same as branding yourself, or finding your own identity. Adults tend to do this when they see shrinks and life coaches or read a lot about how to get ahead. 16-year-olds typically model themselves after who they think is cool in class. I think we all know how that works out.
I thought it would be fun to breakdown the industry and some of the companies into which cliques they are in. If you disagree - feel free to pipe in and let me know.
The Popular Kids/The In-Crowd
Apple, Sony (in it's day - they are now like the prom queen girl who grew up, got married, gained 30 pounds, and had 5 kids with the football player who is now fat and bald. Playstation keeps this one going), LG, Philips, Samsung.
They have their unique quirks and all set trends, but generally are considered to be the innovators and the models for other companies. Sometimes they try to mirror the leader of the pack - Apple. (And I think Samsung knows how effective that is.)
The Jealous Girl
Microsoft is like the girl who wants to lead the popular pack of girls and is never quite able to do that. The girl who is pretty popular but always comes in second. Class vice-president. Runner up for homecoming queen. Runner up for prom queen. You get the picture.
The Bright Kids/National Honor Society
There are brands that aren't so sexy - but they have fairly reliable product and do ok on the market. These are the honor students - they create some products that are solid but not at the cutting edge of technology. You get them because you know you'll get something that looks ok but most especially works - kinda like what an honor student will do on a job. These kids will sometimes ask the Nerds for help (like Intel).
Their level of achievement is based on something beyond school and books. They rule the school, no doubt, but they are given more slack about academic performance (product performance). Facebook is like the C athlete - it's well known, does great on the field, but school performance (i.e. - as a product) - yeah. Google is like the A athlete - a smart quarterback that gets to date all of the girls in the In-crowd.
The New Kids
Amazon. Some of the new mobile phone companies or companies that deal with wireless technology.
There are those who changed - like Amazon - but essentially, they are new in high-tech. No one has really noticed them yet, and they have some time to get their own style or join one of the cliques. What great freedom!
The ones who wear the pocket protectors. They deal with the hard core issues and are marketed to the tech-heads. Their products typically perform well - and if they don't, they aren't around long (they get challenged by a fellow nerd and are either someone's man-servant or move to the loser category). They are also frequently asked by the jocks and the in-crowd for tutoring and help with class (partnerships).
The Artsy Ones
These kids make things beautiful - and have beautiful products (iPad, iPhone, Wii, XBox). Or they have products that make beautiful things (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.). They are the high-tech artists - and we all know it. And highly competitive (the rivalry between Adobe and Apple is now legendary, although they started as friends.).
I'm not that mean to give these companies the label that most would give them
Dell and another large tech company
For these companies - think the kid that has had a diet of cheetos for years, been playing too many video games, not going to class, and wondering why they aren't getting anywhere in life. Dell is pretty much having regular doctor visits to stay alive. Here's an overview of what's going on and some of the latest in the Dell drama.
The other company mentioned is undergoing a makeover for the prom - but honestly, that's just not enough. It needs a life change - I strongly suggest that it start going to the gym and stop snacking on those cheetos. Putting on better clothes, makeup, getting a nose job, and a stomach band won't fix severe weight gain and intestinal disorders. It has a pretty good report card for consumer and enterprise. It can go back to being in that in crowd, but seeing the results of hitting the gym and eating better takes time. But there is promise. Dell's lost - but this other company I'm thinking about may just make it.
There is room for everyone in the tech industry - but like in high school - the challenge is just being who you are. And honestly, what 16-year-old really does know himself? Maybe the industry just needs to grow up, become an adult and hire REAL life coaches (brand consultants) to help make these companies the men and women they need to be.