When Do We Declare Victory for Branding ?

In a recent article on B2B Marketing Online, a panel discussion at an Association of National Advertisers (ANA) event was highlighted:  “B-to-B marketers should lose marketing speak”.  To read the brief article, click here

The title caught my eye because I often wonder if sometimes we do too much talking amongst ourselves.   However, as I read the article, I began to question something else – When Do We Declare Victory For A Successful Branding Strategy?

In this article, one of the panelists at the event was from IBM who discussed IBM’s transformation from a computer manufacturer to “one now known as a provider of a full suite of business services.”  Say what? Ok, I don’t mean to ding IBM and it’s branding strategy, but what do you think about when you think of IBM?  I think of Big Blue, that’s it.  I know they have bought several companies and evolved to be more than a computer manufacturer, but it has become so large and complex that I’m not quite sure what they do and would be hard pressed to describe it.  The one description that came to mind was not a “provider of a full suite of business services.”  (that’s some marketing speak)

Most companies do not have the baggage of the IBM legacy behind them, which is good.  But it does beg the question, when do you claim victory in a branding transformation?  Or when can you? 

In my mind it’s an evolving process, it’s never really done, but it’s always being done.  There is always another audience to educate.  If a branding program was a major home run, then sales would have it easy, and they wouldn’t have to explain so much every time they are in a sales engagement. 

The article/panelists did raise good questions about things to think about before embarking on a re-branding campaign: 

1.  Is the need relevant?

All too often this question is ignored.  How important is it to rebrand a company or product from a needs perspective?  If there is confusion in the market or two distinct brands are coming together, then it becomes important from the customer perspective to know who they are doing business with or what product they are using.   But whose need is it when a company revamps a product brand because the old name had baggage?  It’s not the customer’s need for sure.  Once a customer buys a product, they don’t really care what it’s called, they just want it to work the way they expected… which leads to the next question.

2.  Is the capability being communicated available?

Always a good question.   I do know, from past experiences of course, that marketing has been known to “over-interpret” what something really is.  It is important to be clear about what you are promising to do for any customer or market, otherwise word of mouth will prevail.

3.  Do sellers and partners understand what the company is attempting to communicate?

This is the million dollar question because perception is reality in the minds of our customers and markets.  This directly relates back to how sales and partners are communicating major branding changes throughout the entire transition process.  Once an idea is crystallized, it is very hard to go back and change that perception – like IBM and big blue.  It is what it is.   So, it is marketing’s job to continue to share the vision of the brand to its channels, even though you may think it has been said one too many times. 

In all fairness, I’ve got to give IBM credit, they have survived over the years unlike like Prime, Digital, and others that gracefully rest now.  It’s their survival alone that gives them such credibility in the market.

Branding never rests, it’s a continuous process. There is always more to shape, more to say, more people to educate.  It’s never done, it’s just always being done.

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