From time to time, someone will ask me whether they really need to worry about branding their company. It’s usually asked by the leader of a B2B enterprise that markets to a select few customers and where the sales relationships are one-to-one, very personal. If I’m basically selling to my golfing buddies, goes the reasoning, why do I need to spend money on a logo or a website or whatever? Well, that may be true but improving sales is not the only advantage to having a brand. In fact, there are eight economic advantages to developing a strong brand. See link at the end of this article.
A variation on the question is: Do I really need a personal brand? The reasoning here is: The people I work with know who I am so why should I have to formalize it in any way? But personal branding, as a deliberate activity, sprang from the need to be noticed in the first place. It is difficult to gain recognition in a working world where people have been commoditized. Bankers, lawyers, accountants, carpenters, nurses – anybody – seem interchangeable on the surface. It’s not till you get to know people that you appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. I wrote about a perfect example of personal branding in A Brand Of One. Again, there’s a link at the end of this article.
But how to answer the original question? The best way to determine if you really need a brand is to first review what, exactly, is even able to be branded.
Want to kill the festivities at your next party? Ask for a show of hands. How many in the room think there will be an economic downturn in the near future? You’ll see a lot of hands go up, however reluctantly. You’ll also see a lot of moods come down and you’ll probably be asked to leave the party. Don’t expect to be invited next time, Debbie Downer.
China. North Korea. Syria. Terrorism. The less-than-inspiring election in the US. The fact that Wall Street is still too big to fail and still operating with very little adult supervision. There is quite a bit of instability out there and just about anything could set off another recession. That’s bad news for all of us but it should be especially alarming for any business, B2B or B2C, that has been neglecting its brand(s). Weak brands suffer disproportionately during a downturn. When budgets get tight, decision makers and purchasers start looking for two things: Safety and bargains.
Many managers of B2B businesses feel they don’t need to brand their product or service. They can understand why B2C offerings need to invest in branding but, for their own purposes, they see no reason to invest so many resources to what, they presume, will do little to move the sales needle. After all, they argue, in many B2B situations, the number of customers is relatively small. Easier to reach them all with old-fashioned methods like cold-calling and door-knocking. This attitude betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what a brand actually is. And those who hold this point of view will never derive value from one of branding’s key benefits – price resiliency.
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