Since 2011 Omobono has been conducting annual research into uncovering successful business-to-business (B2B) approaches used by marketing leaders worldwide. The research, titled What Works Where, can be downloaded here. The following article is the second of three that looks at the role of brand in 2019 and beyond. You can read the first article in the series here.
In my first post looking at the role of brand, I discussed the ways in which our research of 1,100+ marketing leaders has shown an increasing marriage of strategy to brand. In this post I discuss the specific challenges (and opportunities) in leveraging brand in the crafting of business strategy, both in the C-suite as well as with partners in HR.
A strategic shift in brand
Marketing leaders are experiencing a broadening shift in focus from a tactical view to a strategic one.
When asked about their biggest marketing objectives over the next 12 months, marketers across the board report that raising brand awareness ranks above deepening customer relationships and strengthening thought leadership. Directly related to raising brand awareness, they report developing brand position as the third most important objective (representing a rise since 2011, when only 9% ranked it as most important.)
Brand is now central to business strategy as a recognised driver of business performance and commercial impact. Marketers, as a result, face a two-part challenge: gaining visibility for the brand and clarity around what the brand actually represents. In line with this, a full 85% of our respondents report communicating a clear brand vision as posing a major challenge.
Business strategy needs branding
Strategic Brand is about more intelligently and intricately linking the brand with the business strategy. And this is leading to brand being viewed as not just “a marketing thing”, but rather an essential business element that extends into company behavior and customer experience – helping to differentiate organisations and position them for success.
No longer just a lofty idea activated by hopeful approaches, brand awareness is taking on a new, more complex operating model. It’s now deeply rooted in business strategy, engaging many organisational functions and running on high-octane platforms.
How’d we get here?
Marketing leaders over the past decade-plus have been held increasingly accountable for their spend (and, in some cases, their existence). With the emergence of advanced platforms have come better measurement analytics that in turn have helped solve the accountability problem. However, this has prompted some marketers to fall into more of a “campaign-first” mindset.
The traditionally less measurable marketing components, such as the brand, were then left in the dust. But third-party research reveals that brand value now represents 20% of a business’ market capitalisation on average. And now, thankfully, brand is evolving from a tactical to a strategic approach.
Brand and business strategy become BFFs
The brand is strengthening its reciprocal relationship with business strategy. And a key driver of this is the rising importance of the marketing function: 76% of our respondents say marketing is viewed as important within their organisations, and nearly half agree that it’s very important (47%). 61% agree that marketing’s importance has increased in the last two years. This means the perception of marketing is improving, which gives marketers more license to lead.
Leading, of course, comes with challenges. When asked about those, 90% of marketers indicate that ensuring that business strategy is clearly understood by stakeholders tops the list. Communicating a clear brand vision is a close second.
This correlates with what we’ve recently seen from our own clients: Brand is increasingly seen as a central connection to, and expression of, the business strategy. Business strategy is a blueprint for the challenges and opportunity that the brand must address. Brand will lead the charge for the corporate strategy, ultimately embodying the company. Thus, business strategy informs marketing and the role of the brand, and marketing now informs how businesses communicate strategy.
This explains why marketing leaders are increasingly partnering with the C-Suite to translate business decisions into easy-to-share and easy-to-understand strategic frameworks. Why? If employees and management are unclear on the company’s direction and how they can lead in that direction, they cannot make the boat go faster. Marketing leaders are increasingly becoming the enablers of the C-Suite and overall business strategy.
“Leadership is acknowledging the importance of marketing and establishing a strong brand more than they did before.”
In my next post I’ll continue to unpack our research. Specifically, the next post will examine what solutions marketers have to lead strategic vision in both the C-suite and HR departments