By Randi Drinkwater
During the early days of the digital marketing boom, the all-encompassing, all-powerful marketing concept known as “brand” came to be seen as a “four-letter” word. It was the start of the martech revolution, the early days of marketing automation, and the rise of a new marketing master, demand generation.
It didn’t have as much of an impact at that time on major consumer brands the likes of Coke or Nike. But anyone working in B2B at that time can attest to it. If your roots were in the brand world, you were suddenly looked at as old school. If they were in digital demand gen – even if you had just a few months of it – you were pre-determined to be on the right side of marketing history.
Much has changed since then and today most modern marketing leaders would agree that the creation of brand and demand are inextricably linked.
Yet there still seems to be a significant number of people in B2B (often in tech) who put an overwhelming amount of emphasis on the importance of demand generation at the expense of brand.
From my tenured perspective, I am here to set the record straight. Brand and demand are equally important to the success of any product. And for anyone who wishes to achieve success in the coming decade, it is a problem that needs to be understood and addressed. Nothing less than the future of your company (dare I say brand?) depends on it.
A brand by any other name – position, message, story, etc. – is still a brand
Brands drive perceptions, and when influencing someone to make a purchase decision, perceptions matter.
A recent edition of the NPR podcast Hidden Brain – I Buy, Therefore I Am: How Brands Become Part of Who We Are – helped put this into perspective, highlighting the placebo effect of brands like Nike on athletic performance. It seemed that athletes who knew they were using brand name athletic equipment achieved more significant performance improvements than those who had been given unbranded equipment. Even though everyone in the study had been given the exact same equipment.
Such is the power of consumer perception. And it applies in a similarly pronounced way in B2B.
The problem in the B2B space may simply be with the word “branding” itself, which for some people can still sound too intangible to matter to an expensive, considered purchase that might be made by a team of highly professional people over an extended period of time.
But if you think of the concept from another perspective that applies more closely to how that product or service might address the buyer’s needs – for example how the product or company positions itself vs. another, or what sales messaging or story they use to describe the benefits of their product vs. another, or what kind of thought leadership content they create that addresses topics of high-level importance to the customer – you will be much more likely to get a positive reception.
Whatever you call it, I don’t think anyone will argue that the decision to do business with your company over another, often comes down to whether the message you deliver about your product or service offers the best possible solution for their specific need. Consideration is predicated on delivering a convincing, authentic story that resonates with their needs. If you don’t, your efforts at generating demand will fail.
Generating demand is not the same as creating it
Despite the similarity of the two concepts, and that both are often used on an interchangeable basis, lead/demand gen is not the same as demand creation.
Lead generation is more about a process for collecting leads through campaigns and other marketing activities. It is about the science and technology used to feed qualified lead to the sales organization.
Demand Creation is a more complex concept that encompasses far more than the process for harvesting and managing leads. This is where the connection between brand-related marketing processes – the ways that you communicate why your product is right for the target audience’s needs at this specific time and place and business environment – and the concept of demand directly connect.
Recognizing that this difference exists is what separates great marketers and great marketing-driven companies from their competitors.
And so, we come full circle: Demand without brand is an incomplete proposition
Those who master what I often look at as being the process of creating brand demand will prevail.
This doesn’t mean that you need to spend a great deal of money on paid advertising. It does mean you need to pay close attention to what you say about your product to make it stand apart and be relevant to your customers’ needs. When you create a perception among the audience that your company offers something uniquely suited to their needs, you will tap into the power of brand in a way that gives your customers both the rational and emotional permission needed to justify their purchase decision.
As noted in the previously mentioned Hidden Brain podcast, you cannot underestimate the importance of your brand in creating demand for your product and winning customer favor as the sales process progresses.
“The power of brand is so intertwined with the perceived expectations… they literally translate into advantages for the brand that really shouldn’t be there.”
Those who embrace the notion that brand, is a critical aspect of the process of creating demand, are well on their way to success in the coming decade. Those who are dismissive of the concept are destined to suffer the fate that those old school brand advocates who were slow to get on board the digital demand creation train back in the early days of the digital marketing era.
History, as they say, has a strange way of repeating itself.
About the Author | Randi Drinkwater
Randi is a results-oriented, highly strategic, marketing executive known for building pipeline and brand. The cornerstone to her long-standing success with B2B, technology brands is closely tied to her work ethic and approach. Put simply, her proven and progressive track record as an innovative strategist, exacting planner and inspiring leader who develops strong partnerships internally and externally to drive optimal results that have a measurable impact.
Randi’s personal brand, “…living life powerfully – living a life that I love…” She is often quoted as saying: “My single best accomplishment – my two children- Alli and David. My best friend, my husband Bob.” When she’s not partnering with the C-Suite, you can find her taking long walks with her black lab – Raegan – or curled up reading a good book.
In following her servant’s heart, Randi currently supports the following non-profits: Georgia Center for Child Advocacy (GCCA) – Board of Directors (2018- present); Center for Spiritual Living Midtown – Member Board of Trustees (2018- present).
She welcomes your connection request at https://www.linkedin.com/in/randidrinkwater