From the telecom company that powers your cable to your favorite airline to your parcel delivery service – enterprises across the globe are racing to recast their legacy, corporate brands into “innovative” ones.

It makes sense that an auto manufacturer or a lighting company would want to be recognized as high-tech, right? But this trend is sweeping up all sorts of enterprises…even Carlsberg beer. Yes, your stein of lager is now being revolutionized by artificial intelligence. 

Humor aside (and I seriously did chuckle out loud when I first saw this commercial), Fortune 500s are increasingly turning to their corporate communications departments and asking “How can we be perceived as fresher, younger and more innovative?” There are a few dynamics driving this wave:

  1. Talent War. With less than 4% unemployment, corporations are pulling out all the stops to stay competitive in the talent pool. Combine this with the fact that Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, and it’s no wonder that HR departments are increasingly turning to their PR teams for brand image help. Moreover, as corporate innovation and digital transformation initiatives take hold, many enterprises are hiring for positions that they’ve never had to fill before. Or if they did have a couple of robotics engineers and database architects, now they need entire teams of them.
    This demand for younger, tech-proficient talent is the primary driver for many enterprise brand refreshes today. For example, in 2017 insurance giant Acuity expanded its Wisconsin headquarters, complete with an indoor ferris wheel. Its goal? To make the brand “unique among employers.”
  2. Younger Upstarts. The Third Industrial Revolution has both potential employees and potential customers seeking something cutting-edge in the marketplace. For talent, it might be radically progressive HR policies. For B2B buyers, it might be the lure of working with a company based in Silicon Valley. Bottom line, legacy corporations are much slower at advancing large change compared to the startups and growth-stage companies that are nipping at their heels. As a result, young upstarts are siphoning talent and customers from their much bigger, older competitors.
    To combat this dynamic, many corporations are heavily promoting their partnerships with startups, launching intrapreneurship programs and even starting their own incubators. For example, Comcast NBCUniversal’s Atlanta campus recently opened The Farm, a 12-week accelerator that runs twice per year. Comcast executives serve as mentors, and the corporation event invests seed capital in each startup.
  3. Public Trust. In just one year, American’s trust in businesses fell by 10%. However, technology-enabled companies are salvaging public trust better than others. In fact, Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer noted year-over-year increases in trust in technology companies, with tech remaining the most-trusted sector overall. So, it’s no wonder that Fortune 500s in sectors such as CPG and manufacturing are trying to spin a tech-first narrative.

If your corporate PR team is grappling with these challenges, here are a few strategies to consider when developing a brand identity plan:

  1. Brand messaging. Your current corporate messaging must tell your organization’s journey and give bonafide credibility of your innovation.
  2. Awards programs. Ensure your awards program encompasses everything from recruitment (e.g., Best Places to Work) to executive visibility (e.g., Top 100 CIOs) to your actual products (e.g., Best in Design).
  3. Executive positioning. Your company will only be as “disruptive” as your leadership team is. Put your SMEs on stage, on social media, on blogs and on camera. Moreover, give them something provocative to talk about.
  4. Influencer & partner marketing. The trick to being perceived as innovative is to be seen alongside brands and people more innovative than you. Hint: That’s why Carlsberg beer partnered with Microsoft. 

As a top tech PR firm, ARPR helps corporations from Delta to Cartoon Network to publicly traded hardware and software giants transform their brands into modern, trusted organizations that are respected by recruits, buyers and communities across the world. Read this case study about our work on behalf of Cartoon Network at a recent Fast Company Innovation Festival.

From business development to finance to HR, Anna Ruth wears many hats as CEO. But her first love is working with tech companies to guide their marketing and PR strategies.