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Beyond the brand: how marketing can amplify business strategy

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 third of three that looks at the role of brand in 2019 and beyond. You can read the first article in the series here, and the second here.

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Philip Black

US HEAD OF STRATEGY

Philip Black has a 19-year track record of helping business leaders achieve their full potential in ways that yield tangible results - creating and establishing brands, launching new products, and developing compelling digital experiences. At Omobono, Philip leads brand and digital strategy for client engagements in the US office.

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In my first two articles looking at the role of brand in 2018, I discussed the ways in which our research of 1,100 marketing leaders has shown an increasing marriage of strategy to brand, and how it represents an opportunity for marketers to lead in the C-suite. In this article, I conclude the series by looking at specific solutions available to marketers looking to reinvent the role of brand.

C-Suite & board brand champions

CMOs face unique challenges. As our research shows — and as I’ve outlined in the first two articles in this series — the challenges are increasingly moving from tactical to strategic in nature.

Graph chart highlighting CMO challenges from Omobono's recent What Works Where report.

But CMOs obviously aren’t the only leaders with challenges and concerns. Between an average eight-year CEO tenure, a four-year CMO tenure, and a three-year business transformation cycle[i], today’s organizations go through significant internal changes at a staggering pace — not always with smooth overlap.

From our perspective, executive leadership tenure is one of the contributing factors of why brand has risen in importance — its relevance has remained constant while much around it is in continual flux.

More progressive CEOs understand this and see the strategic impact of brand awareness and positioning on the business’ short- and long-term strategic objectives. So, having the C-suite as a co-champion and partner with the CMO helps ensure continuity and business success.

67% of marketers say they’re influential
27% say they’re very influential

Here’s what marketing leaders say they do to get buy-in from up high:

  • “Consistent, transparent, comprehensive communication with and education of stakeholders.”
  • “Educating them on the impact marketing has.”
  • “Simplification of what we do. Providing frameworks to help the business navigate a tactic to a strategic priority.”

Internal brand is critical to overall brand strategy

Marketing leaders told us “ensuring the organization lives the brand” ranks as their least important objective. On one level, we weren’t surprised — a previous edition of our research showed that only 18% of marketers had the value of the employer brand or internal brand as one of their KPIs.

Right now, many organizations invest in their employer brands to attract, engage and retain top talent. To do so, it takes an understanding of the value proposition of the business to current and potential employees, and then applying that understanding internally and externally.

Today, customers are 33% more likely to hear from someone in the company other than the marketing department. Especially with the rise of employee advocacy programs encouraging the use of social media (see the section on Channels in my first post), this number can only rise.

This raises the question, though: who is in charge of ensuring that what employees say (and how they behave) is on-brand? Between the pressures to attract the right people and the need to deliver an on-brand customer experience, increasingly, we’re seeing that HR is stepping into this space as a strategic partner to both marketing and the C-Suite.[i]

HR’s involvement is one reason why marketers are being invited more and more to help C-Suite leaders in the midst of forming new organizational strategy. These leaders realize that developing and activating a new corporate strategy relies on getting that strategy out of the boardroom and into the hearts and minds of their people at all levels.

Marketing is a uniquely enabled partner to approach the strategy from the POV of the audience: the people. After all, it’s the people who will bring a brand and strategy to life, meaning both must be clear and clearly important to them. Which requires strong communication with a marketing mindset. Perhaps that’s why we’re increasingly supporting marketers who are invited to help the C-Suite.

How to win with the Strategic Brand

So, marketers are feeling brand (awareness and positioning) is their most important objective right now — and business strategy is their most important challenge. What does that reveal? We believe it means that the next 12 to 18 months will be critical for marketers to take hold of their strategic imperative. The time for marketers is now.

4 ways to win

  1. Educate the company on the business-brand connection
  2. Build stronger bonds with the C-Suite
  3. Apply marketing principles to non-marketing situations
  4. Know where you fit in the market landscape

(for more on these, click here)

Marketers must identify how brand brings business strategy to life. Being closer to the business strategy means marketing has a more intimate knowledge of the challenges and opportunities the brand must address, both inside and outside the organization. By making friends with the CEO, marketing can ensure business strategy is clearly understood by all.

The tools to do so are myriad — from crisp strategy playbooks, roadmaps and internal comms campaigns, all the way to measuring levels of understanding and adoption amongst employees. But it takes skill to know which ones to use, and it helps to have friends in high places to see it through. This is a chance of a lifetime to make a massive impact on the business. Will marketers step forward and take it?

Questions or thoughts about the research? Please feel free to email at philip.black@omobono.com

There’s more…download our latest research volume “Strategic Brand: How the brand gets you ahead, or check out our What Works Where overview webinar. For more, follow Philip on linkedin or twitter: @MrPhilipBlack

[i] Korn Ferry Institute Study, 2017, McKinsey & Co, 2018
[i] Omobono What Works Where 2016

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