In business, the term branding one of the most misused and misunderstood marketing buzzwords. In recent years, the seemingly straight-forward but actually ambiguous phrase Return on Investment or “ROI” has made a run at eclipsing branding as the “concept de jour”– often discussed, but a lack of analytics or visibility to the right metrics creates a failure to follow-through (that is a topic for another post).

THE STATE OF B2B BRANDS

Canyon Communitcations - B2BThe fact is there are few strong B2B brands out in the marketplace today. During the “roaring 00s” (at least pre-recession) many businesses found success riding the economic tidal wave, but left their brand and brand strategy out treading water.

Now, companies are realizing while they achieved paramount success in the past decade, many B2B markets were left commoditized, and without a clear leader in many industries and product categories.

The result is a glut of organizations who are again prioritizing their brand, but without an understanding of where to get started. Many of the B2B organizations I encounter possess the foundational elements and raw materials on which a brand can be built. The challenge is getting them to start thinking and acting outside of themselves in order to articulate their brand in a way that has value and resonates with customers and prospects.

THE FOUR ELEMENTS OF A BRAND POSITION

When preparing recently for the Marketing Technology Summit, I had an interesting discussion with Greg Head, CMO at InfusionSoft. He mentioned that the philosophy he has tried to instill within the leadership of organizations he has worked with is very succinctly summarized as “focus to grow.”

To me, this simple phrase says it all. It works when applied to the products a company sells, the services a company offers, the markets in which a company operates and the target audiences a company interacts with.

Of greater interest to me was the power the statement has when applied to creating and fostering a strong brand. The simple outcome that companies need to strive for is to create a focused brand position that:

  1. Is operationally coherent;
  2. Provides distinction from competitors;
  3. Aligns with the current and future needs of their industry; and,
  4. Allows room for the organization to evolve over time.

Many times companies feel that if they choose one thing to represent the essence of their company, they’ll be limiting themselves. The reality is that if you own one thing well in the minds of the customer, you’ll earn their trust to be able to offer them other products and services they value, as long as it relates back to that core brand promise.

THE RIGHT BRAND POSITION

The right brand position for any organization will not only allow you to own one thing well, but will also be flexible enough to act as an entry point to any number of conversations with customers.

The first step is to set a process by which you can identify, narrow and articulate the focus of your brand. That becomes the start, but the future becomes a branding journey that requires constant attention and through any ebbs and flows within the economy, acts as a life preserver to provide distinction and direction for your company, so that it is never left treading water.

Has your brand been neglected? Is it time to refresh your brand to align it with today’s market conditions?