In B2B, a brand is not merely a logo, a color palette, or a clever tagline.
Your brand is how you and your company are perceived by others – your customers, your employees, your investors, or any other stakeholders.
And, in B2B, that perception is driven by far more than your logo. It’s driven by every single customer touchpoint. That’s why we’ve developed an in-depth four-phase approach to developing and activating the brands of complex B2B organizations.
Build an inside-out perspective on existing brand.
Our first step is to establish an inside-out view of the company through cross-functional interviews with both internal leadership and frontline personnel. We need to understand:
- Current state of the business – goals, performance, etc.
- Marketing execution, especially as it pertains to brand execution
- Perceived strengths and weaknesses vs competition
- Internal perception of issues and opportunities
With this information in hand, we’re able to identify information gaps and establish baseline brand and marketing assumptions. Now we need to see how those internal assumptions match with external perceptions.
Build a fact-based outside-in perspective.
The internal view of one’s brand is only half the equation. It’s critical to understand how the brand is perceived externally. And, yes, this requires listening to actual customers.
Through a series of surveys and interviews with external stakeholders – including customers, analysts, and other industry influencers – we develop a fact-based outside-in picture of our own brand and competitive brands and identify opportunities for differentiation.
This phase is often overlooked because it requires soliciting candid feedback. However, it’s crucial to brand development, especially in highly-competitive B2B verticals with limited differentiation between companies.
Construct the brand architecture.
We now roll up our sleeves and define our desired brand architecture. That means getting concrete about:
- Understanding the company vision and mission
- Defining your brand character or personality
- Developing your messaging pillars and unique selling propositions
- Finalizing your key stakeholder groups and/or targeted channels
The brand architecture isn’t complete once it’s committed to a Powerpoint slide. First, we have to assess the impact of a transition on our culture, customer experience, marketing execution, etc.
Then, we have to go back to the market to determine whether or not the new brand positioning is believable based on preexisting perceptions. Yes, that means listening to customers again.
Develop the brand activation roadmap and go-to market strategy.
The transition from existing brand to desired brand is not a Point A to Point B exercise. It’s more like Point A to Point G.
A thoughtful roadmap for driving brand adoption across multiple internal and external touchpoints is critical to success. Key activities in this phase include:
- Structure strategic initiatives (based on best practices) that support brand activation
- Define milestones and metrics that track progress to plan
- Schedule a 6-12 month prioritized plan of go-to-market activities including resource and budget implications
So you may be thinking as to when is it necessary to activate a new or revised brand strategy. The following are those business “triggers” that could signal the opportunity:
- When your current brand doesn’t accurately articulate your company’s competitive differentiation
- When your company strategy changes to become more relevant to a new or revised target audience
- When the marketplace or competitive situation is evolving
- When there is a material event impacting the market’s perception of your brand
- When the need exists to define an integrated brand following a merger or acquisition
A B2B brand activation requires more than asking one’s creative agency for a new logo. With a holistic approach to developing the entire brand, you can develop a compelling and differentiated position even in highly-competitive B2B environments.
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