How to Do Brand Marketing Right
By: Amy Collins
Demand Generation, Content Marketing, Marketing,
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Good brand marketing involves lots of different activities. But it’s often underestimated and thought of as just logos, fonts and Pantone colours.
Branding is a verb. Marketers brand their communications much like a farmer brands their cattle. It’s this branding that gives a distinct look, feel, and tone that’s distinguishable from others (especially in a buying situation).
But branding is not the end of the road. And it’s not the same as brand building. It’s only the beginning. Once you develop a visual brand, then you have to build brand awareness.
And that’s when the real, impactful brand marketing happens.
We spoke to Drew Leahy, Director of Marketing at KlientBoost, about how to do brand marketing ✨right✨
Just keep reading to find out what he said. 👇
Why is brand marketing important?
We live in a competitive world. Even in new and emerging markets, it’s only a matter of time before there’s another company is doing the same thing as you.
It’s unlikely that any business will produce a product with unique features for very long.
This means building a strong, recognisable brand becomes a more important way to differentiate. The company that manages to stand out from the crowd and stay top of mind is going to come out in a stronger position.
For example, Liquid Death is a new company in the US, selling canned water. They use the tagline, ‘murder your thirst’. Now if you think of an industry that’s over-saturated with products, bottled water would be pretty up there.
“Liquid Death's product is functionally identical to everyone else’s. But their playbook is 90% brand activity.”
“They’ve done a better job than any other water producer ever at reaching all category buyers. By creating memories that don’t decay quickly, and building a culture around their message.”
The key to their success? Memorable brand building!
What is real brand activity?
So, having a recognisable look to your business is an important step. But it doesn’t end there.
Real brand activity is about creating memorable experiences so that future buyers feel they have a connection to or trust in your brand.
“Brand building is the practice of growing mental availability - or making your brand salient to buyers. It’s about expanding your buying pool and increasing your baseline sales.”
What does Drew mean by ‘mental availability’ in this context?
He means that when a buyer enters a buying phase, your brand is ‘available’ in their minds as an option. This is because you’ve done something positive to be memorable and stick in their mind.
“It’s been hard to get people to take brand building seriously in B2B because people just associate it with typography and colours.”
“And that’s still important because you need your customers to be able to tell who’s who. But what’s more important is creating associations, memories and giving them a reason to choose you when you’re sat next to all your competitors.”
“And this work needs to come before your buyers move in-market.”
The idea is if you do a good job of raising brand awareness and associating that brand with specific market entry points. That way, when a buyer moves-in market, you’re likely to be one of the first brands that comes to mind.
So a good question raised at this point is… what happens to the brands that don’t make the distinction between branding and brand building?
Drew gives us his thoughts:
“In my experience, brands who only think brand activity is about visuals don’t really understand the importance of having distinct visuals. They all end up looking the same.”
“A good example of this that you can see at the moment is AI copywriting tools. If you put five or six AI copywriting website homepages next to each other and removed the logo, they’d be indistinguishable.”
“Other than Jasper.ai, who looks completely opposite. They make themselves stand out.”
“Being original and distinct is how you get attention. It’s what marketing is really all about.”
What should good brand marketing achieve?
And if you’re doing brand marketing right, it should have some positive impact on your wider company goals. For example:
- Baseline sales growth.
- Profit growth or resiliency against competitive pricing.
- More efficient in-market activity (since a growing number of people will already know, like, and trust you upon entering the market).
- Increase loyalty.
Brand pitfalls to avoid
Every company is different, and what works for one might not work for another. Drew has identified some brand marketing pitfalls and mistakes that companies fall into. Check them out below.
1. Speaking in marketing acronyms and jargon
As marketers, we come up with fun names and acronyms for, well… everything. And that’s fine when we want to talk to other marketers who understand. But many of us forget that these are not universal terms.
This causes a language disconnect when marketers go to get buy-in from CEOs and CFOs. Particularly when it comes to investing in proper brand marketing.
Because you’re not speaking the right language, you’re less likely to get the resources you need to get brand marketing right.
“Dressing up goals with words that c-suite leaders don’t care about hurts your cause. Terms like awareness, affinity, trust, and reach don’t mean much to the people approving your budget.”
“Instead, marketers need to speak the language of finance. Brand building is the art of generating future demand, investing in brand today helps to drive future pipeline, and revenue.”
“You’re going against people who might still think branding is just a logo and some colours. Instead, explain it to them in their terms. Do that and they’ll take you more seriously.”
2. Rushing in
No surprise here, but one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to rush it.
You need to have a plan. Brand building is a long-term activity, and it’s not going to yield results right away.
This means you need to make sure your processes are set up correctly. This will give you the time you need to focus on the long-term plays.
“You’ve got to get your near-term activity in check first.”
“Your brand budget should come out of your acquisition budget. Get your in-market house in order first, then parlay those profits into brand building. Otherwise you’ll lose your job before your brand activity starts working.”
Brand building is about universal messages and shared beliefs. So this isn’t a targeting exercise.
That’s not to say never, some targeting is healthy (c’mon, don’t get lazy!)
But what’s more important is getting your brand out there in front of anyone who you serve, or who you could potentially serve in the future.
“It’s the marketing activity that speaks to all the buyers you sell to, not just some of them.”
“Don’t run a tightly targeted brand campaign for a segment of your buyers; broaden your message and hit them all. Reach is the name of the game.”
4. Boring emotionless campaigns
B2B marketing doesn't have to be boring and emotionless.
The first rule of brand building is to be memorable - and evoking emotions is the key to this.
And an unfortunate trend in B2B marketing is a focus on purely rational messaging.
“Most B2B brands don’t do strong brand activity but they think they do because they have a blog or social media manager.”
“Way too much of B2B brand building is rational messaging that decays quickly. We need to borrow more from B2C and do meaningless things that get remembered. [Instead of] purely rational communication that nobody remembers a week later.”
5. Prioritising quantity over quality
Lots of B2B brands feel the more they stay in touch, the better - but that isn’t the advice Drew proposes.
Instead, he thinks brands should prioritise unique first impressions over a bunch of 10th, 16th and 29th impressions.
In other words, you don’t need to have a million touchpoints, instead, you need one or two memorable campaigns that give a great first impression.
“Marketers love to build narrow audiences then talk to them every day. And that’s fine, there’s loads of benefits that come from community marketing outside of just revenue.”
“But don’t forget to ask yourself the most important question of them all. How big does this community need to be to actually accomplish our brand goals? It’s usually a lot bigger than you think.”
Benefits of great brand marketing
View your brand marketing like you’re filling a cup.
As you drink from the cup (by capturing the available demand), the cup empties. But by doing good brand marketing, you’re also refilling the cup for years to come. Instead of only capturing what exists and this pool getting smaller and smaller over time.
“The secret to long-term, sustainable growth isn’t more sales today; it’s a stronger brand [for] tomorrow.”
“That’s because brand activity expands your buying pool, reduces price sensitivity, increases baseline sales, and makes your in-market activity work harder. And there’s mountains of data to prove it.”
Brand marketing gives you the best possible chance of securing as much of the 5% of in-market buyers in the future because you’re priming them before they’re even thinking of buying.
“If you don’t focus on brand and out-of-market buyers then it’s only a matter of time before you hit a sales plateau.”
How does brand building help you better serve the modern buyer?
We have touched on this throughout this blog, but an important factor at play here is changing buyer behaviour.
Buyers want to self-serve. They don’t want to speak to sales until they’re ready to make a commitment. Buyers are finding out information from a variety of sources. Many of which are out of a brand's direct control, often long before they're actually ready to buy.
Which means it’s all the more important to reach these buyers early in the journey. While you still have the chance to influence their decision-making when they do move themselves in-market.
Examples of great brand marketing
Whenever anyone talks about examples of great brand marketing, Gong’s Super Bowl ad is one of the first mentioned. That’s because they did something completely different to other B2B brands at the time.
Most were sticking to rational, educational and targeted marketing activity that needed to convert. Otherwise, it was considered a failure.
Whereas the CMO at Gong understood the importance of brand exposure. And instead, they focussed on creating memorable experiences.
And while it’s hard to gauge the real ROI of this campaign, the fact that it’s mentioned as an example is a testament to its success.
Want to see more examples of brilliant B2B brand marketing? Click here to view the gallery.
How do you get started with brand-building activity?
Brand-building activity will look different depending on each company’s internal skills, resources, budget, and ideas.
There are numerous possibilities for brand activity for companies to try. So how do you know where to start?
“Prioritise the ones that will give you the most meaningful reach. Marketing only works when people see it. So prioritise the ones that get seen the most within your budget and capabilities.”
Drew sees brand-building activity in phases.
New start-ups might not have the capital to invest heavily in brand-building early on. And while it can be beneficial to start brand building as early as possible, securing cashflow now is often more important if they want to survive.
But as your momentum builds and your sales targets start creeping up, you’re going to want to make people more aware of your brand.
This could start with things like building a LinkedIn presence. Posting relevant, value-led content regularly for your industry.
Maybe you could start a podcast, interviewing people with a larger following within your target audience.
You could explore other social media channels, such as Instagram, Twitter or TikTok.
But as your ability to invest in brand building grows, the more you should be putting into expanding this activity.
“When you’re sales goals are much larger and you need to think about expanding your buying pool, that's when you need to be really focused on brand-building activity.”
“Multiple channels, multiple different activities. And ultimately trying to get a broader reach.”
“One thing I think is so important is to be unique and original. If you’re doing that, you almost don't need to be doing anything else. If someone is looking at your brand thinking, ‘woah, that was different to anything I’ve seen’, that will stick in their memory.”
The last word
To close out this article, we wanted to leave you with an important piece of advice from Drew.
“You need to be consistent. You’re only going to see results if you are consistent.”
“If you start a brand campaign and then a few months later quit because you’re not seeing any results yet. Only to try again a few months down the line and fail for a second time - then you’re just throwing money down the drain.”
“If you’re only doing brand activity for a short amount of time, or you’re inconsistent with it, then your short-term activity will always look like it’s performing better.”
“The brand activity you’re doing today is going to pay off the following year. Maybe even two or three years later. [Brand marketing is a] long game. It’s a snowball rolling down a hill and it will start to gather momentum the longer you commit to it.”