Posts Tagged ‘B2B’
Why are many brands unintentionally hijacked by their own people and strategies?
There have been many papers and books written on the importance of brand alignment, employee engagement, brand adoption, call it what you may. So, why do so many companies still suffer from poor employee morale, low retention, misalignment, performance fatigue and the inability to make good on their brand promise?
To answer the question, all you need to do is look at the typical business eco-system – its structure, interactions, systems and most importantly its accountability and philosophy. For the most part, business in America is built in a departmental fashion, and the larger the company becomes, the more susceptible it is to falling into a “Silo” mentality. Obviously the “Silo” effect works against the principle of being aligned, collaborative and fully informed. When the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, they are left to their own interpretation and often work against the brand’s best intentions.
Structure is the next problem. The biggest problem here is, who is really in charge of pulling the entire picture together and reporting on its effectiveness. HR deals with internal issues, marketing controls brand, operations tries to deliver the goods and sales. So the problem is not only that “Silos” are not conducive to collaboration, but that structures typically are not built to orchestrate a bigger picture mentality and understanding of the customer experience, the internal experience and how it’s being perceived and delivered.
In addition, companies often fail to develop well thought out interactive/collaborative processes to foster “informative decision making” internally and externally. Yes, most companies have some loosely defined collaborative meeting structure but most don’t monitor the internal brand working relationship to the external delivery. Again, people and departments are left to make decisions without confirmation of alignment to the overall strategies.
One of the biggest disconnects we often experience is the division and disconnect of Marketing and HR. So often these departments work on their own strategies without coming together to fully agree and embrace how the communication content is generated and distributed. We find that successful companies and brands that co-develop strategies and shared systems experience greater unity and brand performance.
So, if you’re looking to increase the morale of your organization, improve retention, or better deliver on your customer experience and brand, here’s a few things to think about:
1. Have a holistic view. Don’t develop brand strategies as it relates to your brand experience strictly in a departmental fashion. Bring department leaders together to truly understand the internal/external workings of the brand. Develop a brand council comprised of your department leaders, to guide, instruct and monitor the internal and external brand experience.
2. Say NO to “Silos”. If this is an issue, break it down now, it will only get worse. Especially make sure Marketing and HR are collaborating in strategy and the development of monitoring metrics (and don’t leave out operations).
3. Continual innovative communication. I know it sounds obvious but people need to hear strategy over and over to get it. You must reinforce the importance of the organization to nurture and foster brilliant internal communication and to have external proof that the brand is performing to its intended standards.
If you follow these simple rules, you’ll reduce the chances of your brand being hijacked by its own people. But that’s my opinion, what’s yours?
The ongoing news about Google potentially pulling out of the China market has stirred up some very interesting points of view as it relates to sticking to your brand values versus protecting your bottom line. If you read Google’s core principles you can see why so many people are keeping a close eye on their moves as it relates to pulling out of China. It’s not just about money, it’s about principle. It’s about their brand.
When you get a chance, check out the philosophy section of Google’s website, specifically the core principles that guide their actions. Basically they have 10 statements that clearly articulate their thoughts as it relates to conducting behavior and business. I’ve always liked the concept of “clarity” and “consistency” as it relates to a company’s action, but the challenge becomes staying true to what you believe in during tough or challenging circumstances and not bending or shaping the principle to work in your favor.
In the case of Google, they clearly state, “You can make money without doing evil”. Therein lies the dilemma. In January Google outed that the December attacks that hit 34 corporate firms originated in China. Bottom line, it’s all about censorship and privacy, and Google has publically threatened to withdraw its search engine business from the Peoples Republic for these practices. But will they?
Just last Friday at the TED conference, Google co-founder Sergey Brin stated, “I want to find a way to work within the Chinese system to bring information to the people”. Really, even if the government has no intention of stopping censorship or blocking certain sites? Needless to say, there is a fine line between staying true to your brand principles and protecting your brand reputation. Careful what you ask for? Employees, customers and prospects are very savvy and will not put up with posers in this day and age. Google must be very careful to walk the walk if they want to remain one of the most courageous and admired brands of the decade. But that’s’ just my opinion. What’s yours?
Originally published on NameDroppings.com
Is a legal pad an item of personal hygiene for female layers? How about a launch pad – is that a contraption for sending Maxipads into orbit? What about ink pad? Or bachelor pad…is that for unmarried lesbians?
Pardon the puerile analogies. Of course you know what these kind of ‘pads’ are. We are familiar with them. To force interpretation of their meaning through association with a feminine hygiene pad is perverse. But that’s no worse than what happened this week with Apple’s iPad.
Within seconds of the unveiling of the iPad by Steve Jobs, Twitter lit up with women complaining and/or joking that the name immediately made them think of …iTampon.
Experts who should know better fanned the flames. “It’s an unfortunate name choice,” contended Michael Silverstein, senior vice president at Boston Consulting Group and author of “Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World’s Largest, Fastest-Growing Market.”
“They needed to do a research protocol and testing for a product that would offend no one while making clear its technical, functional and emotional benefits,” he said in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
That may be the way they think in the literal world of management consulting. What he clearly does not understand is that, when it comes to names and naming, experiential context is everything. Just is we do not suppose a cell phone is for making calls in jail, that Virgin Atlantic is an airline for the sexually inexperienced, or indeed Apple is a company that manages orchards, the iPad will create its own context and it will be become just as familiar and accepted as iPod.
The trap to guard against with new names is the natural tendency for people to associate an unfamiliar name with something that it is familiar. The statement that begins, “It reminds me of…” has led to the premature dismissal of many a good name candidate. Associations are important, but focus should be on whether the the product or company that is being named could create new, positive meaning around the word, rather than rear-view association.
There’s nothing that can be done with plain bad names such as the Ford Probe. But just imagine if iPad had been called the iTablet, which some bets were on before the launch. Would physicians be lighting up the internet advising us not to take more than two a day, and then only after meals with a glass of water? Of course not. They know what hypochondriasis is.
Is it just me or is the tech industry finally getting back to investing in their brands?
For some tech companies this may be good news, but for others it may be too late.
Let’s face it, 2009 was pretty bleak as it relates to creative marketing. Sure there were a few brave brands that continued to push the limits and invest during this downturn but for most technology marketers 2009 seemed more like a duck and cover exercise. Most of us expected to see the typical surge from the consumer electronics industry during the holiday season, but did you anticipate big investments from some of the technology powerhouses in the fourth quarter?
Let’s start with Intel (one of my favorite B2B brands). They continued to invest in their brand as usual but took a slightly different approach by moving beyond only product advertising (applause here). They introduced their new “Rock Star” campaign—“Sponsors of Tomorrow”, featuring their people— the very thing that makes them different. This culturally driven brand expression is brilliantly displayed in a contemporary but authentic fashion. If you have not seen the spots, I strongly suggest checking them out to see how B2B branding should be done.
Next, there is Yahoo spending in excess of $100 million on re-energizing its brand with the “It’s You” campaign. Although the campaign is eloquently produced, it’s not for me. It seems like Yahoo has been on vacation during the last several years of innovation and lost its once celebrated cache. Nevertheless, they are back in the game and it will be interesting to see how consumers react, or don’t, to their welcome back positioning.
We’ve also seen Microsoft demonstrate its commitment to investing in its products by launching the Windows 7 operating system to the tune of $300 million. So what’s with the recent surge of investment by Tech firms?
That’s simple, it’s time to get back in the game—and the ones who lead the charge are the ones who reap the rewards. Let’s face it, whether you’re a large or small company, marketing is about timing and connecting. So, as you look at your own company, ask yourself a few questions. Are we poised to take advantage of the first mover position? Is our brand correctly positioned in light of the major changes in the marketplace and is our messaging strategy relevant to the current audience needs. Posing these questions to your leadership team should bring up some interesting points of view.
But that’s my point of view? What’s yours?
It surprises most agency professionals to learn that many marketers—both consumer and B2B—are intensely interested in exploring a value-based compensation arrangement in place of the traditional hourly rate.
A recent position paper from the Association of National Advertisers states clearly:
“Traditional metrics used in today’s cost-plus compensation agreements (usually based on time) have no relationship with the external value created for the client in today’s intellectual capital economy. Therefore, pricing should instead be based on results and value created.”
In forward-thinking companies across the country, marketing, finance, and even procurement officials are actively engaged in internal discussions around value-based compensation. If the marketing services profession isn’t more proactive in this area, clients may well be the driving force behind a change in compensation practices. And that’s ironic, because almost all pricing innovations come from sellers, not buyers.
Selling outcomes instead of hours
From a marketer’s perspective, the chief frustration with the traditional cost-based compensation system is that they’re not sure what they’re really buying. Are they buying the firm’s time? Dedicated staff? A set amount of work? In the end, they don’t really want to buy any of these things; they want to buy outcomes.
In a cost-based compensation arrangement, the client pays for efforts rather than results. Agency professionals log and charge hours regardless of the outcomes the hours produce. In a value-based arrangement, marketing firms and clients identify specific metrics of success and structure agency compensation around outputs instead of inputs.
Value-based compensation works primarily for one major reason: it aligns the interests of the agency and the client. Both parties are working to achieve the same things. They both have similar financial incentives. Structured properly, value-based compensation agreements can also give both parties similar risks and rewards.
Imagine how this could change the dynamics of an agency-client relationship. Suddenly, the concept of “partnership” takes on real meaning. Clients start to view “risky” agency recommendations differently, because they know the agency has skin in the game. A new level of trust and mutual respect emerges, because both parties have a stake in the outcome.
Value-based pricing is unquestionably where the marketing world is headed. The question is, who will get there first: agencies or their clients?
Originally posted on B2BBrandDebate
On the surface this question presents some quick responses and initial thoughts as it relates to an external point of view. Most professionals would agree, re-brand when it becomes irrelevant or tired to the end customer, or when it loses its competitive advantage or differentiation. Certainly re-branding is critical when several companies or brands are merged together and have developed a new point of distinction–not re-branding in this situation can be dangerous and confusing. These are all obvious rational reasons, but B2B branders today need to address the current conditions and how it’s affecting internal B2B brands and their ability to stay relevant and motivated.
With the recent financial turmoil, most all companies are being forced to re-think just about everything. Will the existing business model and strategy continue work? Do we have the right leadership? How can we retain the key talent? How do we cut costs without cutting into the core? And how do we best communicate the changes that are happening? And most importantly, how do we keep our people motivated?
Whenever B2B companies and their employees undergo the type of radical changes most are experiencing it’s time to step back, re-think the internal brand strategy, re-consider the communication delivery and determine if the current internal brand needs to be freshened up, re-branded or just re-communicated.
Asking the following 5 questions to your leadership team, managers and employees can help you evaluate the situation quickly and provide direction:
1. Has our purpose changed? What is it?
2. Is our vision still relevant and inspiring? What is it?
3. Is our mission current, clear and distinctive? What is it?
4. Do our employees understand our strategy and how it relates to their role? What is it?
5. Are we communicating properly? How are we measuring?
So, when is the right time to re-brand? Depends on the answer to your questions. But most likely, the answers are inside.
Let me know what you think.
Originally posted on B2BBrandDebate
Geoffrey Moore, best-selling author of “Dealing with Darwin” and others, recently posted on his blog that, for B2B companies, the “impact of brand is dramatically muted,” and that “brand value…has virtually no relevance to B2B complex systems enterprises.” No doubt, Moore is a brilliant business strategist, but these statements give me doubts about his expertise when it comes to brand strategy. At the very least, I disagree with his assessment of the impact a strong brand can have in the B2B arena.
Moore touches on the idea that “nobody ever got fired for hiring…” but underestimates the power of creating a focused, differentiated brand identity. The idea that decision-makers in B2B companies somehow make decisions entirely differently when they’re choosing consumer products or business partners—even if they think they’re making the decisions based on different criteria—simply doesn’t hold up. It’s been proven wrong again and again in fields ranging from advertising to neuroscience. For example, we may think we want to do business with Siemens because of the details of their RFP response, but in fact their brand’s association with answering difficult questions may bias us in their favor, even without us knowing it.
Unfortunately, Moore’s narrow view of branding will give the wrong impression to B2B businesses, who in this economy can’t afford not to position their brands so that they create powerful connections with their customers and prospects. While achieving such a connection may not fit Interbrand’s definition of brand value, I challenge Mr. Moore to find a B2B business owner that would describe it as only “marginally” important.
Why now is the time for executives and leaders to closely re-examine the health of their organizations and brands
Face it, 2009 was over for most businesses in October of 2008. The financial crisis, capital crunch and brittle confidence of customers caused business strategists and planners to pull back any future investment considerations in 2009. Everyone froze, waited and watched. We’re still watching. Now is the time to start leading.
Most American corporations have had to seriously re-invent or re-engineer themselves operationally just to stay alive and relevant in their markets. Flat became the acceptable up. I don’t know of one CEO that hasn’t been forced to make significant changes or make fundamental shifts that may have taken them many years to complete if not for the financial crisis.
Bottom line, American businesses have been bent out of shape. We’re out of alignment. Bordering on tampering with irrelevant value propositions. The broken promises of iconic brands have driven customer confidence to an all time low.
If American business is going to re-cover or re-bound in the near future, CEOs and executives need to quickly assess what the last months have done to their business and get down to serious creative planning for 2010. Start by driving your 2010 planning process with fresh, relevant insights. You don‘t have to over complicate your thinking process. Make it simple. Start by asking yourself a couple of revealing questions:
1. What have we become?
2. What’s possible now?
And remember, think Big. Use this opportunity for positive change.
1. What have we become?
Start with the internal realities.
Here’s a mind-set to consider. Throw out most of what you have learned about your company. The most important information is about “Now,” and the current perception and ability to deliver on a differentiated value proposition. Don’t rely too heavily upon historical data to drive your moving forward strategy (too much has changed). Now is the time to get a quick fresh perspective, and you need to start with getting a handle on internal realities. If you don’t have a clear handle on the internal perceptions how can you attempt to articulate the moving forward strategy? Get current quick. You have to know where the organization is misaligned in order to repair it. It’s the major premise of this blog post, and it’s not that difficult. Start with a simple survey to understand the view of the organization as it relates to strategy, structure and execution. Create your own survey at www.surverymonkey.com or reach out to existing tools such as www.strategicbrandassesment.com. Bottom line, you need to drive the strategy from a fresh, contemporary and quantitative point of view. The results from this exercise should be your platform for developing an internal operations strategy for success and an employee communication plan to re-engage employees.
2. What’s possible now?
You’ve got to be current.
Look back at your strategic plan before October of 2008. Does it look a little different today? Of course it does. Think about the people you had then and who is supporting you now. That’s why it’s critical to articulate a convincing moving forward strategy based upon current views of what the market is giving you today and where you want to take your business in the future. Start by answering a few fundamental questions that will guide your thinking:
a) Are we in the same category of business or has it changed? Conduct competitive mapping.
b) Is the current value proposition relevant? Explore new positioning.
c) What is the market saying about us? Conduct a perception study to determine the right brand strategy.
d) Do our customers still love us? Conduct a customer loyalty study so you’re not caught off guard. Develop a specific customer communication (lifecycle) plan to insure alignment.
e) Is the sales force engaged and telling a consistent story? Just interview them, you’ll know.
With these fresh insights you are ready to enter 2010 planning with a clear understanding of the health of your organization. Remember before you can fix anything, you have to know what’s broken and what’s working well. Who knows what 2010 will bring, nobody has a crystal ball, but if you start by asking the right questions, you’re bound to find new intelligent answers.
But that’s just my opinion, what’s yours?
Ok, it goes without saying that every B2B company marvels and envies the “Intel inside” story. I can’t tell you how many times prospects and clients have referenced this B2B success, not to mention the numerous Intel employee stories and variations on how this success was created and achieved. It’s an OEM marketer’s dream to create such brand preference, demand and value. For B2B technology companies it is—– Brand Nirvana.
But somehow, throughout the 15 years since its conception, Intel’s brand strategy/architecture lost its way. The original idea of simplicity and value creation was lost in the multiple names and brands that squeaked their way into the primary brand’s strategy and positioning.
But Intel is not alone; this is a common problem that technology brands run into. Product managers and marketers think they have to have a name/sub-brand for every new product and platform they dream up. Then, all of a sudden they have brand confusion and dilution.
But why? Mostly because marketers don’t formalize their brand architecture strategy and give it the attention it deserves. Alan Brew, a colleague of mine wrote an article on this subject and nailed it perfectly.
“The problem with brand architecture is that it’s such a fuzzy term and every organization has its own meaning.” Or more frightening, no meaning at all.
This brings me back to the Intel Inside strategy. Recently Deborah Conrad, Vice President of Corporate Marketing has made changes to the strategy by reducing the number of brands and introducing “modifiers” into the core brand which signal different features and benefits. See Video
I applauded her intentions. It’s an interesting concept and you should check it out. But in my opinion, this has replaced complexity with a whole new set of issues. I’m a strong believer in simplicity and single thought. Trying to differentiate the company, the positioning of “Intel Inside”, and product differentiation might be too much for the audience to digest. In my experience, simple is better. People can only remember so much. Keep product positioning strategies separate and brand strategy pure. That being said, I’m sure Intel will do just fine. Who’s knows, maybe this is the first step towards getting back to the simplicity and originality of the idea that helped shape the company in the first place.
But that’s my opinion, what’s yours?
By Tim Price, V.P. of Verbal Strategy at RiechesBaid
Admittedly I’m late to the game on this one. Although I just discovered Cisco’s foray into The Realm, it’s been live since March. So, while this isn’t a timely review, I felt it was appropriate to review such a valiant creative attempt.
Here’s the background. The Realm is an animated saga that dramatizes enterprise threats and pushes Cisco’s security solutions. The Realm’s episodes are produced using the comic book, er, graphic novel illustration style. The storylines revolve around a cast of “Defenders”—stereotypical comic characters right down to the blonde, buxom heroine in a skin-tight bodysuit named—wait for it—Vixa. Her special talents include sound-wave manipulation and subliminal encryption, although I’m sure she possesses others in the minds of her audience. The Realm is a techie’s wet dream. It plays into their love of the genre, tells a relevant story in dramatic fashion, and it has the “cool” factor that’s lacking in so many of the industry’s marketing efforts.
My gut reaction to The Realm from a creative standpoint was one of appreciation—it’s well produced, engaging and original. But I’ve come to think that it feels just a little too easy. Meaning, the concept is a slam-dunk and the graphic novel style is a no-brainer considering the audience. I’m left with the sense this novel will soon lose its novelty. If it hasn’t already.
A quick online search for The Realm supports my theory. The top hit isn’t The Realm itself, but Cisco’s blog about it—beginning with a post from Marie Hattar, Cisco’s vice president who presumably presides over The Realm. Her initial post espousing this Web 2.0 approach is followed by only a trickle of other posts that span just one month. Even more notably, as the most recent poster points out, most of the comments seem to come from Cisco employees. So it appears that the blog was being used mostly as an internal mechanism to bump up The Realm’s search results. And The Realm’s FaceBook page? A mere 42 fans.
Not helping matters is Hattar’s claim that Cisco invented “a new genre of animation—mixing a comic book medium with 2-D animation.” That’s quite an assertion. I’m sure I’ve seen this more recently, but I immediately think of a cheeky music video created in 1985 for the Norwegian pop band a-ha and their classic 80’s hit “Take On Me.”
That little trip down memory lane brings up a good point. The music video’s concept (and intrigue) was based on the interplay between a real person and a cartoon character. In the Realm, we find only fantasy players—which lacks a connection to Cisco’s positioning as “The Human Network.” There’s nothing human about the Realm, unless it’s explained away as the imagination of humans. Using a fantasy world to illustrate (no pun intended) security threats to the enterprise has its charms, but I wonder just how effective it is compared to a real-world approach. Or maybe the combination of a real-world-meets-fantasy approach.
It’s difficult to say whether or not The Realm is a success from a marketing standpoint because I’m not privy to Cisco’s definition of success for it. But, at the very least, Cisco deserves credit for taking a different approach than the industry norm. And I’m sure it has its fans. 42 of them, at the most recent count.