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February 22, 2016

Anna Ruth Williams



The cybersecurity world will soon descend on San Francisco for the 25th Annual RSA Conference. Those with roots tracing back to the cybersecurity industry’s early days have witnessed firsthand the event evolve from its origins as a simple “forum for cryptographers to gather and share the latest knowledge and advancements in the area of Internet security.” This year, more than 500 companies are confirmed to exhibit their products and services in addition to the numerous panel discussions, dozens of training sessions and high profile keynote speakers scheduled throughout the week.

Despite RSA’s popularity, many of the industry’s most seasoned veterans have begun to voice concerns over the lack of both perceived and actual competitive differentiation among the roster of cybersecurity vendors exhibiting. As KPCB’s Ted Schlein told Venturebeat in December 2015, “With the growth in the number of companies in this field (cybersecurity), a lot of them start to sound the same.” More than $7.6 billion has been invested in hundreds of cybersecurity companies since 2013.

From endpoint security, anomaly detection and email security to identity management, situational awareness and anti-virus to application security to cloud security, data security and virtualization, there is no shortage in distinction of cybersecurity products and services. However, many industry leaders, such as Mahendra Ramsinghani, the founder of Secure Octane, a cybersecurity seed fund, argue that product differentiation isn’t projecting into unique brand identity. As Ramsinghani told Techcrunch, “the security bazaar is noisier and messier than ever. Every company sounds exactly like the eight others, and lines get blurred. Those that thrive will do so on differentiation.”

With opportunity abound (Gartner projects the cybersecurity industry to surpass $170 billion worldwide by 2020), why do so many cybersecurity companies either struggle to build or devalue the importance of creating strong and memorable brand identities?

Unique Challenges of Building a Cybersecurity Brand

While cybersecurity companies would be well suited to pursue some of the branding strategies that help companies in other industries thrive, there are some unique challenges that complicate efforts. These include:

  1. Distrust of Marketers
    Cybersecurity leaders don’t always see eye-to-eye with marketing, especially in early stages in which engineers and developers are highly engaged in brand development.

  2. Difficult to Tell Customer Stories
    Most companies do not reveal details of attempted or successful cyber attacks. As such, it’s infinitely more complex to validate products and services, as marketers don’t have success stories to tell.

  3. Subject Matter is Inherently Fearful
    Branding to FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) has become the default strategy for most cybersecurity companies, limiting opportunities for competitive differentiation.

  4. Education Gap Between Companies and Customers
    Very few companies have more than a person or two that speaks the language of cybersecurity, challenging how marketers can showcase value and potential ROI.

  5. Competition Requires Expedience to Market
    $3.8 billion dollars was invested in cybersecurity companies in 2015, according to CB Insights. With funding breads competition and with competition requires an accelerated time to market. In doing so, the best practices of brand building are often ignored or pushed to the side.

  6. Perception of Highly Confidential Intellectual Property
    Cybersecurity pros are known for being paranoid about IP theft or product replication until patents are secured. As such, constraints, sometimes significant, are placed on marketers to ensure confidentiality.

10 Tips for Cybersecurity Brand Building

Although challenges to building cyber brands exist, there are some companies, like AlienVault, Digital Guardian, and Cylance, which have built memorable brands. For startups and growth stage cyber companies in need of establishing or refining their brand, here are 10 tips to consider.

  1. Don’t Devalue Messaging
    Messaging is one of the most important tactics of brand building. Companies must effectively, consistently and concisely talk to value proposition, key differentiators, and reasons to believe using language, which resonates among the target audience.

  2. Website Should Engage First, Educate Second
    Avoid too much industry jargon, overtly technical language or FUD on the homepage, as you have less than 15 seconds to connect with website visitors before they leave the site for good.

  3. Visual Identity Matters
    65% of people are visual learners, meaning your brand’s visual identify must convey the virtues of the value proposition. Recognize that some revenue may be tied to visual engagement.

  4. Fear the Overuse of “Fear”
    Don’t let your brand become synonymous with FUD. Differentiate by striking balance in the tone and style of your messaging and visual identity. Endpoint Security Company Barkly does a good job of keeping things positive.

  5. Don’t Hide from Media
    Even if your product requires “stealth,” there are plenty of opportunities to begin building awareness and perception. Write a contributed article for an industry trade or place commentary inside of news stories. Cyber Defense Magazine is very accepting of vendor-neutral contributions every month.

  6. Embrace Content Diversity
    Effective content comes in many different forms and is syndicated via many different channels. From customer playbooks and use cases to infographics, Vine videos and, of course, white papers, the opportunities available to your brand are endless.

  7. Digital Breeds ROI
    Discrediting digital and social media is outdated and detrimental to building brands – even in cybersecurity. Today, Tweets actually boost SEO, and 90 percent of journalists are on Linkedin. Furthermore, studies show that buyers, whether B2B or B2C, view a company’s social presence as a commitment to the consumer.

  8. Trust Your Marketing Team
    Essential to the development of any cyber brand is the company’s trust and support of its marketing team. Even if that team consists of just one person, empower him or her with the tools and resources that they need to thrive.

  9. Marketing Automation is Your Friend
    There are many tools available to help businesses automate marketing processes. Invest early and often in programs like Hubspot, Automational, or Sprout Social to help nurture leads and drive customer engagement and satisfaction.

  10. Try Something New Once Per Quarter
    Whether it’s a $50 sponsored ad on Linkedin, a short-term Google ad words campaign, or developing an infographic, try something new each quarter. Don’t forget what its like to not be afraid to fail in the face of the unknown.

Building a brand isn’t easy, but its especially challenging for cybersecurity companies in the midst of a supremely competitive and swiftly growing market. Want to know more about how Alloy helps build cybersecurity brands? Visit our website.