Know what it takes to ensure your brand is appealing to the customer and the future employee, says Diane Hund.
I’ve frequently referred to myself as a ‘brand czar’. I do it more to symbolise what I truly love as opposed to that which I have mastered.
As a B2B marketing leader, I am tasked with ensuring that we have all facets of marketing ‘firing on all cylinders’. That includes everything from ensuring we have the right overall GTM strategy targeted at the right customers, to the fine-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 ever elusive yet highly desirable ‘loyalty’!). This takes great strategy, communications, creative, digital expertise, research – the list goes on. Yet if there is one element of marketing that has stood out for me since my early days in business school – it’s brand.
Brand isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a promise
And the brand starts with the value promise of the product or service you are delivering. If you don’t have the value proposition right, then the rest doesn’t really matter. If your product can’t deliver on the promise you have stated, then you will never achieve the loyalty that you crave. Developing and nurturing the brand is arguably the most important element of the marketing function.
Trust me, in a B2B world, there are many who would argue otherwise. They would say that the complex value-delivery model present in the B2B environment can reduce the value of the brand (and the brand message) such that over-emphasis on this results in diminishing returns. I have felt this too – particularly in an arena where you struggle to achieve brand consistency delivered through thousands of individual sellers who are responsible for the most valuable brand touchpoint – that in-person, face to face sales call.
But that’s where the Covid-19 world opened new doors for B2B providers. Over the past two years, marketing has fundamentally shifted. Reliance on face-to-face, in-person communications diminished and digital interactions rose to the top. Digital became the channel of choice – and gave us that opportunity to voice our value proposition directly; to more consistently deliver our brand message directly to the customer all across the globe.
For many of us, we beefed up our digital marketing resources, quickly swapped in-person events for virtual experience. We discovered new ways to engage our customers, invested in new technology and increased our focus on all elements of the marketing stack to ensure we could deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time.
The importance of addressing socio-political issues
But the foundation on which our customers are valuing brands is shifting. The external events that unfolded (and continue to unfold) beckon for direction, support and commitment by all leaders – and brand leaders are chief among them. Today brand goes beyond the value of the product itself. It includes the value of the organisation the brand represents. It’s not just the promise of the product, but the purpose of the company.
To say that today’s brands must be socially responsible is an understatement. One of my earlier articles talked about the essence of ‘purpose’ for a company – and today, the very meaning of this is even more true. Today’s consumers look for products that provide solutions and companies that solve problems – in all areas; health, our environment, our safety and our future.
Couple this with the added challenge that today’s brand now has two important and distinct targets: our customers and our employees. With the ‘Great Resignation’ in full swing, the pull on the marketing team to ensure we are deploying our greatest demand-generating techniques at future employees has never been higher. Competition for talent is tough – and your competition has a new definition. It crosses industry lines, and thanks to remote work, crosses state and country lines, too. But, as like the consumer who is vested in the value of the company, so too is the future associate. They too value the pivotal role that a company can play – in their community and beyond.
Staying at the forefront
I’ve been part of the team that has built the agenda for one of the biggest B2B events of the year. This year’s Ignite USA line-up is one that will engage every marketer to think through the opportunities and challenges presented to us in our post-Covid world. And it will do so by putting the brand at the centre.
Hear from companies like Kyndryl (the IT services spin-off from IBM) that have amazing stories to tell about their own efforts to evolve their brand strategy and their brand message to resonate with today’s customers – to learning from some of the best and brightest who provide us with the tools, the processes and the insights to enable us to be effective and efficient in what we do.
And we are going to do that in person. Delivered through the most powerful method possible – face to face. As I said, I call myself a brand ’czar’ – and I look forward to learning more about the power of the brand at Ignite USA!