Brand transformations aid B2B marketing through changing times
Guest Column: Anoop Karumathil Melethil, Associate Vice President - Marketing, Maveric Systems writes explores why brands which have stood the test of time recognize the problems of the status quo
‘Sea change’ is a term now popular in IT, which refers to not a simple shift or evolution, but rather a tempest-enabling profound transformation. Creativity and storytelling, prominent parts of the marketing mix of consumer brands, is steadily becoming standard in B2B as well. As Forrester noted in its recent B2B Marketing and Sales predictions, 2020 will be a ‘pivotal year’ for the businesses, as their customers have come to expect compelling experiences similar to their B2C counterparts.
B2B marketing is no longer over-rotating to demand-generation tactics without enough emphasis on branding. After all, business professionals do not park their personality and emotions in a vault when they come to work. Values personified by a brand need to appeal to stakeholders at various levels. Establishing the right emotional connect with them makes the relationship grow stronger.
Let us try and understand why brands, which have stood the test of time recognize the problems of the status quo. And why brands willing to constantly reinvent themselves, continue to succeed in changing economies.
Branding in B2B: Why does it matter?
Branding intimidates a lot of people due to several nebulous guidelines and abstract terms thrown around - ‘from the heart’, ‘unique and engaging’ and ‘built on human spirit’. None of these will help if you don’t have a concrete idea of the deliverable.
Furthermore, a multitude of confusing buzzwords and your competitors making the same claims and promises often with the same buzzwords – tend to attach misconceptions for your brand. Meaning who you are, and what you do can no longer make a unique impact on your sales, nor any emotional resonance for your audiences. This helps us derive the definition of branding as a continuous, unique story or narrative that consumers recall, when they think of you.
Storytelling in the age of data analytics and AI is helping businesses deeply understand their customers, set themselves apart, and then take the right steps to capture, hold, and convert interests with rich experiences. And akin to testing in technology, a brand story is an evolution. To successfully stimulate demand or trigger consumer action, if you are not checking the efficacy of the story from time to time, you can’t know what you are doing right or wrong.
Staying relevant in ever-changing times
With business landscape changing at a pace far higher than before, it makes sense for a brand to take frequent dipsticks to ensure their messaging pivots in relevance to what customers are looking for. While the core values of the brand may not change, the way they are objectively perceived in the changing market conditions needs continuous alignments.
In B2B marketing, for instance, although your target audience is an organization, you are showcasing your capabilities to real people in that place. How these people see the value of your brand, or how your brand story is interpreted by them at various levels, may define your need to revisit your values/differentiators. Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and then working backwards on the values or message you need to project has always been the first place to kick off brand transformation journeys.
Transformation of the brand story helps to maximise the returns from marketing investment as well. Spending on outreach initiatives with a brand proposition that does not resonate with the customer is akin to drawing lines in water. Equally important is the need to focus on story telling once the brand proposition is crystal clear.
General Electric, for instance, expanded their focus from traditional advertising to brand storytelling. By creating a multichannel, multimedia campaign focused on ‘digital industrialization’ as the theme, GE was not only able to amplify awareness of advanced capabilities, but also support recruitment of young talent and engage a new generation of investors. For brand efforts of every dollar spent, they realised $1.25 return in value through social and earned media.
Change is the only constant
A buttoned-up, ‘just-the-facts’ corporate tonality is no longer effective or safe for B2B customers. Given that the last two decades has seen a majority of the younger workforce joining the industrial realm, B2B branding and marketing strategies must evolve too. Or risk alienating the present-day audience with a brand message created 10 years ago.
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