Are you drowning in a sea of cyber sameness?
- The cybersecurity market has grown 300% from 2018 to 2021.
- Security and IT leaders are overwhelmed by the number of vendors on the market – not helped by the fact that so many look and sound identical
- You need to find ways to stand out and differentiate your cybersecurity brand
- We talk about positioning, the human elements of brand, the importance of consistent branding, distinctive design, and why FUD is dated
Article by founder and director of Shaped By Nick Farrar.
Five ways to set your cybersecurity brand apart
2020 was a good year for cybersecurity start-ups, with a record $8.9bn invested globally. It looked like the grass in the fields of growth couldn’t be greener…until 2021, when that figure shot up again to a staggering $21bn, leading to over a 300% increase in cybersecurity firms on the market since 2018.
No wonder over two-thirds of security and IT leaders said they felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of vendors. I feel for them because the problem isn’t just the number of companies.
So many cybersecurity brands sound, look and feel virtually identical.
Every vertical has its language, visual traits, and familiar tropes. Occasionally these are important to adhere to. Customers expect it from brands.
But in my opinion, cybersecurity branding has gone too far this way. There are too many categories within it where, if you put each brand side-by-side, you struggle to distinguish one from another.
In any market, that’s a problem. Distinctiveness builds recognition. But it’s an especially big problem in a market as densely crowded as cybersecurity.
The good news? There are ample opportunities for cybersecurity companies to set themselves apart from competitors. Here are five important places to start…
Positioning and messaging
The trap that cybersecurity brands fall into here is one that many B2B tech brands struggle with.
They lead with something like: “We’ve built this great product. Let me tell you what it does. Let me tell you how it works. Let me tell you about all the great companies that use it. And let me do all that using complicated and technical jargon.”
There is a place for this information somewhere within your messaging framework. (Aside from the jargon part.) But the mistake that I often see is cybersecurity firms leading with it front and centre.
The opportunity to stand out here comes by flipping this approach around, and reverse-engineering this core messaging from your audience’s “why”:
- Why would my audience buy and use this?
- Why would it make their life easier and better?
- Why would they choose it over another product?
- Why does solving this problem really matter to them?
It’s a real opportunity for two reasons. Firstly, the chances are that if your competitors are doing this, they’re doing it rather half-heartedly. They may address the first point above by talking about “eliminating gaps”, “protecting endpoints” or “stopping breaches”. But they rarely take it that stage further by answering the other three.
It’s a real opportunity for two reasons. Firstly, the chances are that if your competitors are doing this, it’s rather half-heartedly. They may address the first point above by talking about “eliminating gaps”, “protecting endpoints” or “stopping breaches”. But they rarely take it that stage further by answering the other three.
Using human stories to cut through
Cybersecurity isn’t about technology – it’s about people. And every vendor or organisation within it has a unique and very human story to tell about the people they help. These stories are often highly inspiring ones of innovation, heroics, and positive impact on the world. But too often they are shouted down by endless foghorns blaring technical buzzwords and product features.
So where’s the best place to start? Your customers. Talking to them, relating to them and being obsessive about the problems you’re helping them to tackle – and the positive impact on them and the people around them.
Then it’s about having the conviction to build your core positioning and messaging around these stories.
Keep your cybersecurity branding consistent
This is a big one. There are so many audience touchpoints, and it’s essential to maintain consistency across all of them. People are very good at tuning out things, and you’ve only got a split second to draw them in or make them pause. While it’s so important to land a message, equally they need to know who it’s from. Consistent visual language is the most effective way to express your brand through design. Colour palettes, image styles, fonts, iconography, logos, and animation.
When you pull all this together in a deliberate way, it allows your audience to start identifying and associating each piece of your company with you. It strengthens your cybersecurity brand identity and gives you consistency.
In cybersecurity, visual language is where a lot of firms end up falling down a giant homogenous hole. These dark webs of data, server rooms, padlocks and mysterious code seem to be what we’ve decided cybersecurity must look like if we’re to attempt to visualise it:
Cybersecurity is largely invisible. Its products may have interfaces, but they aren’t tangible, physical objects like a car or a pair of sneakers. So visualising it can be challenging – but there’s no need to conform to the bleak and fear-inducing concepts above.
I truly feel that cybersecurity deserves a visual language that represents the hope, trust and optimism that binds the people who work within it.
Great design gives you distinction
Create distinction through design. A lot of cybersecurity brands pick blue as their primary colour. At the top end of the market, it’s a little more diverse. Zscaler is blue, Crowdstrike is red, Palo Alto Networks is dark orange, and Cloudflare is light orange. But further down, it’s largely a sea of blue.
This provides plenty of space to differentiate. Here are a few that are already doing it. Clockwise from the top left: Cybereason, Palo Alto Networks, Splunk and Netskope.
Cybereason’s use of yellow and brand characters is thoroughly un-cyber-like, which is why it immediately stands out. As for the others, my view is that all three are indeed seeking to present a more optimistic view of cybersecurity. The use of bold, bright colours like yellow, orange and even sky blue as opposed to dark blue. And in Palo Alto Networks’ case, the refreshingly alternative take on visualising the connective tissue of the cyber world.
Visual storytelling can help you stand out from the crowd. We worked with Rubrik to create a thought leadership platform for cybersecurity buyers called Rubrik Zero Labs. We designed the microsite creating a user experience that helped the story unfold with animation and motion to help people absorb the information and bring a punch to key points.
If you as a marketer or creative can bring more hope and optimism alive in your brand’s visual language, then you have a real chance of setting yourselves apart in a positive, human and authentic way.
FUD – Fear, uncertainty, and doubt is dated
The A huge portion of the cybersecurity industry leans into a fear-based tone to drive action, but it’s important not to overdo it. Creative Director at Rubrik, Ben Long emphasised the need to strike a balance, and convey assurance and support to give customers confidence in their solutions. “You don’t have to go too far connecting the dots. You’re dealing with people and individuals.”
Companies focus on the negative outcomes of not using their products, playing on the fear, uncertainty, and doubt trying to spook people into entering the market or switching vendors.
But this fear-based approach is outdated, and senior CISOs are unlikely to listen to it. Lindsey Jenkins, Director of Enterprise Security Group Marketing, Akamai said in our panel, “you don’t need to educate CISOs on the risks they are facing. The fear narrative is old, and senior CISOs won’t listen to that.”
There is an alternative to all this. You could adopt a more positive approach using language that resonates with customers and focuses on positive outcomes. Being frank with customers about the risks they face is important, raising the alarm without being alarmist is entirely possible.
The language used here is a breath of fresh air. Now I had to search hard for these. So that tells you just how scarce these kinds of narratives are.
It’s time for the cybersecurity industry to shift towards a more positive and optimistic tone. By adopting a more positive approach, businesses can stand out against competitors while also helping to build a better industry. People naturally lean towards positivity, and cybersecurity solutions ultimately lead to positive outcomes for real people.
It’s long overdue.
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