Does Every Size Company Need A Brand?
Recently, the CEO of a growth-stage cleantech company told me branding and marketing wasn't something his company needed to do because their niche was so small that they already had relationships with most of the companies in their industry. "Decisions get made on price and engineering," he said. "Nothing else matters."
Politely, I demurred and asked him, "Did any of your competitors go to school with these engineers? Are any of these engineers somebody's brother-in-law? Did they work on a previous project together at another company?"
I don't mean to single out this particular CEO for looking at a situation the way most scientists and engineers look at solving a problem. These are analytical people, and without them, humanity wouldn't have experienced the progress it has seen. But the reality is, businesses are made up of people, and people have biases when it comes to decisions about who to buy and sell from.
Creative Storytelling Overcomes Rational Decision Making
A brand is a story; a story about your business. Your customers either buy into that story, or they won't buy into it based on their environment, their experience, and their beliefs. Yes, it's true: you need to solve a problem. But then what? Nobody wants to compete on price, and that's where your brand comes in.
Brands Are 360 Degree Experiences
Often-times, I hear people confuse brand recognition with a brand. Sure, it's nice if you're a famous B2B brand like Intel that advertises on national television. Chance is though, you don't have that much money, nor is your audience that broad. In a niche B2B market, think of your brand as both the exterior and interior of your home. How it's designed and furnished will tell your audience a good deal about your product.
Confusion Is A Brand Killer
Every company has a website and other digital marketing tools on display. But what do those tools say about your company and your product? Does it align with what you're trying to sell? If your B2B is cutting edge, but your website looks like it was an afterthought, you've caused conflict in the minds of your audience, and confusion is a killer.
Lift The Corporate Veil
Just about every successful company knows the preeminence of transmitting its values to its customers. Otherwise, its just a nameless and faceless building with random people inside it working on things no one on the outside cares about.
So why are you in business, and why should it matter to your audience? Hint: the answer is usually not about the product you sell.
Why Does Brand Matter?
If all of this sounds like gobbledegook and double-speak to you, here are five good ROI-based reasons you need a solid brand story.
- Brands allow you to differentiate from the competition--Consumer products companies learned this a long time ago. That's why Burger King and McDonald's don't sell hamburgers. They sell Whoppers and Big Macs, and those names connote something to consumers, making them willing to pay a premium price.
- Strong brands give you authority--Not to diminish the science behind a company or its products, but when your brand is as an industry leader, you're seen as more valuable, fairly or unfairly. If you're a startup with authority, it's easier to raise money, and if you're a publicly listed company, it's your authority that drives your stock prices higher.
- Strong brands attract talent--If you haven't noticed the theme running through this piece yet, let me spell it out. Brands are more than science or engineering, and they're more than brick and mortar. If your brand story inspires, talent will gravitate towards you, regardless of where your headquarters is located. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
- Strong brands build trust and loyalty--As they say, you find out who your friends are when times are tough. Right now, we're witnessing severe air turbulence for Boeing. Whether they get past the double-whammy of safety problems and the conornavirus-inspired downturn in the airline industry will, to some degree be determined by whether their 104-year track record can convince the military and commercial airlines to trust their recent problems are a temporary radar blip. Could you imagine where they'd be right now if the Boeing brand wasn't so strong?
- Strong brands manage every touchpoint--Whether it's the people you hire, how the phones are answered, your fonts, or your marketing materials, a brand is like the A-frame for a house. It gives the company a shell and a direction for making decisions and a template on how to move forward.