I have called myself a “brand czar” many times. I do it more to show what I really love than to show how good I am at something.
As the leader of B2B marketing, it’s my job to make sure that all parts of marketing are “firing on all cylinders.” That includes making sure we have the right overall GTM strategy aimed at the right customers and a well-tuned marketing team that can bring together the essence of the marketing story to build awareness, drive engagement, satisfy consideration, and ultimately drive conversion (and the elusive but highly desired “loyalty”!). To do this, you need a great plan, good communication, creative ideas, digital skills, research, and so on. But if there is one part of marketing that has stood out to me since I was in business school, it’s brand.
“Brand” is not just a trendy word. It’s an agreement.
And the value promise of the product or service you are selling is where the brand starts. If your value proposition is wrong, the rest doesn’t really matter. If your product doesn’t do what you say it will, you’ll never get the customer loyalty you want. Probably the most important part of the marketing function is building and caring for the brand.
Trust me, there are a lot of people in the B2B world who would say otherwise. They would say that the complex value-delivery model in the B2B environment can lower the value of the brand (and the brand message) to the point where putting too much emphasis on this leads to diminishing returns. I’ve felt the same way, especially in a field where it’s hard to get brand consistency from the thousands of individual sellers who are in charge of the most important brand touchpoint: the in-person sales call.
But this is where the Covid-19 world gave B2B providers new opportunities. Marketing has changed a lot over the past two years. Face-to-face communication became less important, and digital communication became more important. Digital became the most popular channel, and it gave us the chance to speak directly to customers about our value proposition and deliver our brand message more consistently all over the world.
For many of us, we improved our digital marketing tools and quickly switched from live events to virtual ones. We found new ways to get our customers interested, spent money on new technology, and paid more attention to all parts of the marketing stack to make sure we could get the right message to the right customer at the right time.
How important it is to deal with social and political problems
But the way our customers decide what brands are worth is changing. All leaders, but especially brand leaders, need to give direction, help, and commitment to the outside events that have happened and are still happening. Today, a brand is more than just the value of a product. It includes what the organisation that the brand stands for is worth. It’s not just what the product says it will do. It’s also what the company wants to do.
It’s not enough to say that brands must be socially responsible today. In one of my earlier articles, I talked about what “purpose” really means for a company. This is even more true today. People today want products and companies that solve problems in all areas, including health, the environment, safety, and the future.
Add to that the fact that our brand now has two important and separate targets: our customers and our employees, and you have a tough situation. With the “Great Resignation” in full swing, the marketing team is under more pressure than ever to make sure that we are using our best techniques to attract new employees. Competition for talent is tough, and you now have a new idea of what competition means. It goes across industries, and because people can work from home, it also goes across state and country lines. But the future employee cares about the value of the company just as much as the customer does. They, too, know how important a company can be, both in their own community and in the world at large.
Keeping ahead of the pack
I was on the team that made the schedule for one of the biggest business-to-business events of the year. This year’s Ignite USA schedule will make every marketer think about the opportunities and problems we face in a world after Covid. And it will do that by making the brand the most important thing.
Hear from companies like Kyndryl, which is a spin-off of IBM’s IT services, that have amazing stories to tell about how they changed their brand strategy and brand message to connect with customers today. This is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best and brightest who give us the tools, processes, and insights we need to do our jobs well and efficiently.
And we’re going to do it face-to-face. Face to face, which is the most powerful way to get a message across. As I already said, I call myself a “czar” of brands, and I’m excited to learn more about the power of brands at Ignite USA.