B2B brands are facing some tricky, yet exciting challenges. From manufacturers to extractors, refiners to construction companies, organisations are looking for more effective and creative ways to build their brands’ awareness and influence. Many more are understanding the importance of shifting their mindset from thinking about ‘brand as product’ to ‘brand as experience’, but making that a reality often lags behind ambition. Why? Because building and managing a brand is more complex than ever: it takes more leadership, empathy, sensitivity and creativity.
At Dragon Rouge, our work with industrial clients is focused on helping them find what really drives and defines them, developing ways to tell a more meaningful story.
Here are the top five areas that we believe are key for elevating brands into something more powerful for their own people, as well as customers and the outside world.
1. Defining your brand’s purpose. Beyond profit.
While profit maintains its position as a key measure of success, other factors are becoming as, if not more, important in measuring your brand’s value and creating highly productive cultures. When you think GE, NovoNordisk, Maersk and BASF, you see pioneering brands with a purpose built on a richer and deeper definition of prosperity; one that sets out the value, impact and contribution they bring to the wider world around them. It's become a new layer of leadership; enabling brands to build new value into services and creating more meaningful relationships with their employees and the communities in which they work.
2. Creating a culture of commitment and winning the war with talent
The topic of employer branding and employer value propositions is becoming higher and higher on the corporate agenda. As we see more M&A activity, divestment and restructuring, everyone is putting their culture and productivity under scrutiny. Add to this the growing need for a clear position on inclusion and diversity and it’s clear to see how HR and brand teams are struggling to hold a clear course in their strategy. The most successful brands create a create a clear thread between their brand purpose and their employer brand proposition, enabling employees and future talent to understand what they stand to gain and what they need to give in return.
3. Making sustainability a springboard for future growth and innovation
Sustainability is now no longer the responsibility of Corporate Affairs or External Relations. It’s a central tenet of business and brand strategy. The most advanced brands will always see sustainability as a platform for new product and service innovation – seeking out new ways to learn better and positively influence user or customer behaviour. Our work with the Circular Economy has opened up a significant new stream of business model innovation that is challenging the very core of commercial enterprise. This will be the ground on which tomorrow’s pioneers are borne.
4. Making your brand identity more human
As B2B brands behave more like their consumer facing counterparts the lines of classification are being redrawn daily. Businesses don’t sell to businesses. They never have done. People sell to people. And as brands become defined by the experiences they create - face to face, in the hand, on the tablet - the more traditional B2B brands are having to rethink how their brand is presented. How it sounds, how it feels, how it moves and how it behaves. All human traits that might need to exist in environments where there is no human intervention. Seeing your brand identity as a mix of emotional and functional features is crucial to designing communications and experiences that connect with customers on a more profound level.
5. Moving on from product and service to branded experience
It used to be that you branded the product in your packaging, made a cool website and jazzed up the front cover of the annual review each April. That was as far as branded experiences went for some. But today is a very different story. Expectations run high. Every touchpoint or interaction with customers should be seen as a branded experience. From your social media content to your call centre, complaints handling service and AGM. Brand owners need to think about their full customer journey and apply common principles to control and curate relevant and rewarding brand experiences at every time of asking.
These five areas represent the most important ways that brands we work with in the industrials space, are working to create brands that can deliver more value, for their people, for their customers, for their shareholders and for the world. Whilst every business is unique, many of the same challenges apply, and growing strength in brand terms is a central part of business growth: where the process should be as rewarding as the outcomes.
Joe Hale, CEO, Dragon Rouge London