December 9, 2020

Chief marketing officers (CMOs) or marketing leaders are witnessing chaos in their branding strategies due to supply chain disruptions, travel and logistical halts, and cancellations on crowd gatherings, campaigns, and promotions.

Recently, we have heavily invested in our customer’s business priorities. Building contingency plans, helping them monitor and react to their customer’s behavioral changes, and building value via their digital stories. But failure to adapt to these new situations for marketing campaigns, events, or sponsorships and other strategies can exact a heavy toll today on a brand’s value.

Creating a cognitive or intelligent brand value is the key to success, which can be cemented with Neural Manufacturing (see Figure 1 below). The Neural framework reflects the ability of an organization to transform its business models globally. It can help business-to-business (B2B) organizations take an optimistic approach towards branding via automated, connected, and adaptive exercises.

The imperative of brand identity for B2B manufacturers

Due to the pandemic, face-to-face sales interactions have come to a standstill, logistics has broken down, and customer experience and brand value have deteriorated. Businesses weren’t able to place orders or get responses on their order statuses; they had delivery issues and no query resolutions. This has impacted every brand across the globe. Investments on new methods for customer acquisitions, retentions, and brand value became inevitable.

A B2B brand stands for –

  1. Product quality

  2. Trust

  3. Emotion – Relationships built with customers

  4. Their purpose

Our vast experience in the B2B space has made us believe that B2B organizations, pre-pandemic, hadn’t really considered branding or even the possibility of not being able to sell via channel partners. This was despite the roaring benefits of brand value such as customer outreach and retention, increased sales and revenue, customer’s ‘default’ choice, and so on. Technology investments, which were desirable once upon a time, now became essential.

CMOs of B2B organizations can today build a connected ecosystem with data-driven, automated applications using cognitive personalization and self-service for its customers. This can drastically improve sales and revenue growth. A CMO’s focus on brand strategy can articulate the right stories in the right manner to help a customer understand an organization’s value. A survey by Marketing Week and sister title Econsultancy found that 14% of B2B marketers are willing to work on their brand strategies as compared to 8% of consumer-facing marketers. To realize this, the brand strategy must leverage the following:

  1. Data-driven measurements: The vital difference between a B2B and B2C firm, in terms of branding, is the way they look at data and metrics like net promoter score (NPS), asset life cycle management, a 360-degree customer view, cross and upselling, and more. At a macro level, analyzing reports, social media data, and customer search patterns are important, and at a micro level, deriving the right metrics, data, and marketing analytics are critical.

  2. The right story-building: Can a chemical company talk about their story on how they work with paint companies, to provide the right set of high-quality chemicals which won’t harm a child’s growth?

  3. Befitting channels: Selecting the right channels is critical for a company’s communication with their desired audience and is vital for impactful brand communication.

  4. One-to-one relationship building: Understanding how a sales agent, distributor, or contact center agent operates today and how technologies like marketing automation, personalization techniques, and analytics platforms can help them bridge the gaps for seamless communication. Healthier and conversational relationships build brands.

  5. Building empathy towards a customer’s downtimes: A design thinking workshop or A/B testing with customers can help a B2B company unearth what the customer really cares about, what makes them click, and so on.

  6. Smart technology: Empowering a customer through self-serving and independent decision-making can make their life easy. For example, creating a direct-to-consumer portal, providing easy-to-find information on technical specifications, or booking a car online. Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor at Gartner, has inferred that buying is broken, and therefore, we must make buying easier. To illustrate, consider industrial supplier and equipment provider Grainger, B2B marketplace Amazon Business, or plastics supplier Curbell Plastics -- these firms are fixing the broken B2B buying experience by offering innovative solutions for buying which are rated highly by their customers.

A purpose-centric ecosystem with a connected technology stack and a creative story deserves an improved brand value and identity; CMOs with a neural perspective today can make that happen.

Pavitra Balasubramanian Shankar is Manager of the CMO services initiative in the Manufacturing Business Unit at TCS. She strives to make every day count for her customers, especially in sales and marketing for technology business. Pavitra is a branding enthusiast who has spent a substantial amount of time running digital transformation initiatives, improving sales, customer experiences, and strategic solutions. She is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management Calcutta and a graduate from National Institute of Technology, Warangal, Telangana.