B2B brand management has come a long way from its roots in consumer packaged goods and has gradually branched out to play an equally central role in B2B markets. B2B CMOs are just as invested in bettering their brands as B2C. No longer relegated to industry rags and trade shows, B2B marketing is entering a new age, with firms like CA Technologies, General Electric, and IBM in the vanguard. At a Forrester event, General Electric CMO Linda Boff remarked that GE is often the first brand —not just the first B2B brand —on platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat, and Vine.
But are most B2B brands successful in following in the footsteps of these trail blazers? Forrester research with over 1,000 B2B and B2C decision-makers reveals mixed results. Here's the good news: B2B CMOs include Brand in their top three priorities and consider Brand Management to be the strongest skill set in the department. But here's where it gets ugly: 25% of B2B CMOs consider Brand Awareness an important marketing metric; only 15% believe Brand Equity is important.
This chasm between awareness and equity, which also exists for B2C brands, can prove particularly vexing and stubborn for B2B because of some commonly held misconceptions:
Brand matters more for B2C (a lingering notion despite being soundly dispelled)
The role of brand (in a traditional sales-driven culture) is to drive awareness and fill the mouth of the funnel (the reality points to a vital role in securing choice and loyalty)
Brand Equity is amorphous, eludes specification, and hence best avoided (there exist many robust quantitatively-specified equity models)
There are plenty of good brands. And some great ones. But few can arouse the intensity of emotions that make them inseparable. Brands achieve resonance at the point of inflection where the interaction transforms from transaction to relationship. And like any relationship, resonance occurs in intensifying layers, with the best brands being able to trigger an enduring and self-amplifying relationship.
Patagonia has practically written the book on how to do this right. Newer brands like Spanx and Dollar Shave Club have built a loyal following by rewriting the rules. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and CrossFit have built communities that thrive on shared experiences. And “legacy” brands like USAA and Delta Air Lines have effectively engaged their communities to strengthen their bond.
If you deliver a great customer experience, you’re halfway to building an amazing brand. Now, ramp up on emotional connections — they are much stickier than functional excellence.
An engaged community will do the heavy lifting around building brand and salience for you — if you give them a reason to. Create the right environment and the context for your brand communities to thrive.
Black Friday approaches. I should be breathless with anticipation. You see, I’m a brand strategist. To me, the prospect of millions of people reveling in thousands of brands and turning the bottom line from red to black is brand nirvana. It’s like Christmas came early. Which it does, in a way, on Black Friday.
Yet, the tendrils of self-doubt infiltrate my exuberance. Must a weekend so treasured for time spent with friends and family be ruined by being pepper-sprayed at Walmart, by being gored in the Pamplona bull run down the aisles at Best Buy to save 50 bucks on a TV I don’t need? Do we really need to spend any more time glued to our devices buying more clutter?
Maybe you feel this way, and maybe you don’t. But you would expect brands to be cheerleaders for Black Friday, right? Wrong.
Black Friday 2011: Patagonia buys a full-page ad in the New York Times and instructs readers not to buy its jackets. That’s right, they pay good money to tell folks not to buy their stuff. Citing the “astonishing” environmental cost of making jackets, they encourage people to reuse and recycle. Fast forward to Black Friday 2016. This year, Patagonia is donating 100% of Black Friday sales to grass roots organizations "working to create positive change for the planet in their own backyards." Yes, you did read that correctly. 100%. And sales, not profit.
Black Friday, 2015: REI decides to remain closed that day and give all its employees a paid day off. No, their P&L does not self-combust. Instead, they choose to close shop again for Black Friday 2016. REI’s CEO says that this “reinforces both REI’s culture with employees and the message that resonates with the company’s core customer base.” About 2 million people plan to #OptOutside with REI.
A powerful brand not only has to be extremely relevant to prospects, it has to make itself an invaluable and inextricable part of customers' lives as well. In the recent Forrester report called Navigate Your Brand To Resonance: Four Milestones To Brand Building, I outline a road map for CMOs with four clear stops, from salience to resonance, on the road to building a powerful brand. This journey is a must-take road trip for CMOs looking to assess the state of their brand and craft a strategy for taking it to the next step. The milestones are shown in the figure below:
The roadmap traces a deepening connection between brand and consumer built on a foundation of customer-obsessed experience delivery and powerful emotional connections. Good brands succeed in being salient, inducing trial, creating memorable experiences, and forming emotional bonds. Amazing brands do more – they energize the entire brand-consumer relationship in a way that creates a resonant and enduring bond. Brands that achieve this resonance are twice blessed - they reap the rewards of loyalty with existing customers and also set in motion a powerful recommendation engine which feeds the awareness and salience funnel. As Forrester research has consistently shown, word of mouth and recommendations are far more credible than brand-generated paid and earned media.
In the report, I provide several best practices of brands on this journey from salience to resonance; here are a few:
Ben Schlappig doesn’t have a home. He lives on planes and in hotel rooms. And he’s a big reason why Chase’s new credit card has generated unprecedented hysteria.
The credit card business is not where you go to get a brand fix. Most of the brands in this category tread water in the sea of sameness, inspiring little passion and much aggravation by inundating mailboxes with junk mail. And then there's the new Chase Sapphire Reserve:
The card was so wildly popular that, upon launch, Chase ran through 12 months of metal stock in three weeks.
Unboxing videos popped up all over YouTube, clocking tens of thousands of views (yes you read that right, the nail-biting action of a credit card reveal).
Chase reported an unexpectedly large number of applications from millennials, a group that so far has been generally indifferent about card brands.
Bloomberg Business Week put the new Chase Sapphire Reserve on its cover.
Here’s why this should have never happened:
As an extension of the existing Sapphire franchise, there was a fairly docile product extension
At a $450 annual fee, it severely limited relevance in a category awash with no-fee cards
The card sweetened, but did not fundamentally alter the basic formula of perks and points. Nothing earth-shatteringly innovative here.
Advertising and promotion leading up to the launch? Zero.
This general election season, as the two major candidates for the United States presidency vie for supremacy in the Rust Belt, the rhetoric on job growth is hot and heavy. Much of the polemic is directed against corporations fleeing offshore in search of cheaper labor, and remedies lean toward cracking down on these companies, penalizing them for leaving. What if, instead, companies wanted to manufacture in the US? What if companies built strong American brands that commanded premium pricing to offset the cost disadvantage? What if branding could make America great again?
Baseball and Apple Pie Never Looked This Good Before
The best brands create and sustain themes of resonance. There is no one-size-fits-all panacea; some of the best emerging brands have dramtically changed the conversation between brands and their audiences. One of the shifts in the conversation has been from bigger is better to small is beautiful. The hipster holy trinity of local, artisanal, and small batch has gone mainstream. Take beer for example – local microbrews now proliferate grocery and convenience store shelves, forcing an embittered Budweiser to launch a baffling campaign lauding itself as a “macro beer.”
Here are three brands that trumpet their made-in-America story as vital ingredients of their brand personality:
Allen Edmonds couples a rich heritage with an updated offering that is as relevant to millennials as it is to “suits.” 100 sets of American hands caress the leather on its 212-step journey to footwear bliss.
American Giant makes what Slate calls “the greatest sweatshirt known to man” in the United States, choosing to limit spend on distribution and marketing and focusing on the product. The result: "Great product, made here, sold at prices that make sense."
Wally Ollins, of Wolf Ollins fame and a legend of sorts in the branding world, didn’t look too kindly upon brand measurement. "There are too many people," he said "... who are fed the rubbish that if you can't analyze it - if you can't chew it up into numbers - it doesn't exist." Not one to mince words, he continued, "I deeply reject all that and find it to be a contemporary version of witchcraft." It's hard to argue with Wally; somewhere along the way doctrine and data have dulled the notion that brand is, to quote JetBlue's CEO, "the way we feel."
The Inevitability Of Measurement
David Aaker is a legend of sorts as well in the branding world, and a lot of his work centers on brand equity. David writes of brand as an asset. And as an asset, it is must withstand financial scrutiny and ROI justification. CMOs may know it in their hearts, but CEOs and CFOs must see it on paper. That leaves us with the unenviable task of calculating the incalculable. Many have rushed forward to meet this challenge. I describe various measurement techniques in detail in my new report for Forrester clients: Branding Never Sleeps; a brief summary appears below.
Four Measurement Streams
The nitty gritty of brand performance is relatively easy to measure using survey, operational, and transactional data
Near-real time brandsentiment can be captured by social listening, although skewed samples and lack of established frameworks muddy the water
Perception can be surveyed, but traditional ask-and-tell tracking of emotions is fraught with problems; neuromarketing offers some emerging and exciting avenues
It's not about whether brands have value. It's about how to manage the value.
Twilight Of The Brands
In early 2014, our profession faced an existential crisis. The end was near, said James Surowiecki, in his New Yorker article, "Twilight Of The Brands." Look at Lululemon, he cried. The cult-like athletic wear brand was reeling from product failure and leadership indelicacies. And he referenced new research that said consumers were "supremely well informed," and did not need to "rely on logos" to determine value.
In The Pink Of Health
Turns out Surowiecki wasn't so well informed after all:
More is not better. It is true that the digital age brings with it more information about brands. More than many would care for, really. And therein lies the rub – this tsunami without filter or curation does little to clarify and more to confuse.
Brands signify more than information. The idea of brand as a signal of value is valid, although simplistic. More information may bridge quality and trustworthiness gaps, but a brand is much more. It conveys an emotional connection. Information plays no role in sipping a Coke or running in Nike.
As all organizations operating in Australia understand, the line between brand, marketing, and customer experience (CX) disciplines has blurred as people gain access to companies, services and products on their own terms. How can you thrive in this dynamic environment? Start by effectively coordinating between brand, CX, and marketing teams.
We’ve filled our agenda with senior CX and Marketing professionals from leading organizations across Australia, and beyond. Key topics they’ll cover include:
Driving business results, competitive advantage, and growth by delivering the right customer experience.
Identifying the key practices and behaviours that fuel CX innovation.
Building and maintaining a brand in a digital world.
Instilling an understanding of customer emotions into design experiences and branding strategy.
Systematically improving CX through effective measurement.
Whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year, you probably have a wishlist for your business. We thought it would be fun and interesting to find out what some of your wishes are, so the Digital Banking Strategy team at Forrester reached out to some of our eBusiness clients at banks and asked them “What one ‘wish’ do you have for your team’s digital banking efforts or strategy in 2013?”
Here are some of the answers we got back:
“We wish we could transform every branch and call center employee into an advocate for marketing and educating customers on our digital capabilities.”
“I wish that our execs would understand how understaffed we are.”
“I wish we had better live help for our digital banking customers.”
“I wish I knew which area of mobile payments to focus on and what is going to ‘shake out’ and actually ‘stick,’ so to speak.”
“We wish for a digitalized branch pilot that focuses on advice and guidance.”
“We wish all of our customers – including the most skittish and skeptical – would try out our digital banking capabilities (online, mobile, and tablet)… and those who already use them would do so even more regularly.”
“I wish I could spend 3 hours with our CMO – and have his full attention – to show him how much impact our online and mobile banking efforts have.”
“I wish we could sort through the clutter of mobile wallet vendors and offerings to know which will actually pan out.”
“I wish I could snap my fingers and have great secure site search and intelligent cross-selling on our secure site.”