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)
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.
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.
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
Forrester’s CX Index shows that, across the board, companies are getting better at delivering quality customer experiences (CX). But in as much time as it takes to open a celebratory bottle of champagne, the tide of rising customer expectations threatens to push the product or service CX pros have been working on for so long toward obsolescence. Essentially, customer expectations are rising faster than companies can conceptualize, design, and deliver improved experiences.
Now, imagine if you could better manage your customer’s expectations before the delivered experience — first by elevating your customer’s positive emotions as early in the interaction as possible and then initiating a positive emotional momentum that will carry throughout their journey with your brand. It’s called anticipatory CX and it is the most powerful element of CX that you’re not currently paying attention to. Consider the following:
Evolution gave us anticipation as a motivating force. People are wired to anticipate future happy experiences as opposed to negative events. When you think about the BBQ this weekend or your friend’s wedding next month or a vacation later in the year, you’re anticipating a positive experience. Your brain’s intrinsic anticipatory-reward system has kicked in.
With recent drops in global stock markets and all eyes on China’s economy, the timing of the China CX Index report couldn’t be more serendipitous. While customer experience (CX) most likely doesn't have a direct impact on all this sudden share volatility, our research shows that there is a strong correlation between CX and revenue growth.
Forrester’s Business Technographics™ data shows that CX improvement is a growing priority for companies in China: 70% of tech and business decision-makers indicated that improving the experience of their customers was a high or critical priority for 2015 and 2016. However, CX Index scores reveal that these aspirations have yet to manifest themselves in actions and — more importantly — results.
Evolved from the inaugural assessment we completed last year, The China Customer Experience Index, 2015 now includes loyalty elements to the mix to gauge how well brands in China are at delivering quality customer experiences that create and sustain customer loyalty. This year, we examined 60 brands across five industries in China: banking, insurance, retail, eCommerce, and mobile device manufacturing.
At a high level, the results of 9,000 customer surveys in China revealed that:
No brands stand out as especially good or bad. The good news: No brands ended up in the very poor category. The bad news: none achieved excellent scores either. The vast majority of brands (80%) rated as just OK; 5% landed in the poor category, and 15% qualified as good.
Does customer experience really matter to business success — or is CX just the latest flavor of hype? Recently, Forrester completed a six-month research effort aimed at answering that question by examining the relationship between superior customer experience and superior revenue growth.
Why did we pick revenue growth as the measure of business success? Because it’s the No. 1 priority of global business leaders recently surveyed by Forrester.
So with that in mind, here’s what we did: Aided by some long-suffering research associates, some of our top industry experts and I picked pairs of competitors where one of each pair had significantly higher customer experience quality than the other (as rated by their own customers). We did this for five very different industries: cable, airlines, investments, retail, and health insurance. Then we built models that compared the compound annual growth rate in revenue of the CX leaders to the CX laggards between 2010 and 2014.
The results were intriguing. There was a clear correlation between superior customer experience and superior revenue growth for cable companies, airlines, full-service investment firms, direct investment firms, and retailers. However, the magnitude of the difference varied widely by industry, with cable coming out on top: 35.4% for the CX leader versus 5.7% for the CX laggard. Even more interesting, the results were a virtual draw for health insurers — superior CX didn’t seem to matter much when it came to revenue growth.
In celebration of the season, Best Western Great Britain is sharing a new idea for a summer expedition every day on its blog. Suggestions include taking in a sheep race in Moffat (between Carlisle and Glasgow), sampling some 4,000 cheeses at the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich (the largest cheese event in the UK), and catching the first few stages of the Tour de France in Yorkshire (who knew the Tour started in Northern England?).
It’s all part of its “hotels with personality” campaign, which aims to celebrate the unique story behind each of the brand’s 276 properties in the UK. In addition to rebranding around this vision, Best Western had to improve its customer experience to live up to its brand promise. But getting support from independent hotel owners and operators to fund its ambitious customer experience strategy wasn’t easy. To win support, the brand had to:
Gradually build credibility. Instead of winning support for the entire strategy at once, Best Western tackled some easy changes first, including redesigning its website and improving its internal communications to make them consistent with the new "hotels with personality" vision. Best Western also ran a TV ad campaign featuring hotel employees highlighting the individuality of each hotel. The result was that its hotel owners and employees felt a renewed sense of pride in Best Western as a brand, not just a logo, and confidence in the customer experience strategy. It certainly didn't hurt that the TV campaign drove a year-on-year sales increase of 30% — the highest increase in Best Western Great Britain's history.
Today’s customers are highly empowered, hyperactive, and incredibly distracted by all of the options available to them for connecting with the things and people that matter to them most. These customers come to you with highly complex goals that they themselves cannot always accurately define — goals for which they don’t necessarily follow the seemingly logical linear paths you’ve laid out for them. As customers multitask their way through stages of information gathering, evaluation, purchase, and servicing, they connect with multiple outside sources that influence and transform their goals if they don’t hijack them altogether.
Gone are the days of the funnel when companies could lure customers with big promises and push them through a set of steps that would lead to purchase. Today, customer processes are far more complicated than ever, and while many firms believe that the purchase is the endpoint of an experience, for many customers, it’s just the beginning. Instead of taking a fragmented approach, firms need to look at the broad customer journey and understand how they can meet their customers’ needs when and where their customers want to interact. They need to understand their customers’ context and weave together a unified experience that matches the expectations customers have of the brand according to their in-the-moment needs.