When the economy crashes and burns, an area of marketing that faces increasing pressure—and, dare I say it, disdain—is brand.
As I've heard it described, there is a divide forming between the "make it pretty" marketer versus the "make money" marketer. Though they are positioned as two distinct areas, emphasizing one without the other does not make for good marketing.
Consider one of the most successful companies in the world: Apple. Of course there are the technophiles, but beyond them, what keeps people standing in line for hours to get their hands on Apple's latest and greatest?
Aside from its innovative products, Apple is big on brand, which is a large part of what gives the company its cult-like status and, according to Statista, a value of $279B.
And yes, part of that is the visual design. But, for Apple, brand is about the holistic experience. From the first touch and beyond, its attention to detail and experience is impeccable.
So, when a company is looking to scale to that $100M revenue goal, suddenly what is often written off as "make it pretty" marketing doesn't seem such a trivial thing.
Although the most logical option for companies right now is to hyper-focus resources and budget exclusively on demand (everyone else is doing it so it will work, right?), doing what everyone else is doing, through the same channels and tactics, will only serve to add to the noise.
So, why care about brand?
Confidence and trust.
Fluctuations in the economy are in large part based on confidence, and purchase decisions are not dissimilar. When people are faced with so many options, what differentiates one brand from another, especially in a time of heightened uncertainty and instability? Trust. Trust in the brand, the product, and the people you purchase from.
Defining a brand and the experience of it creates in-market differentiation. And that goes beyond products or services; it encapsulates customer experience, level of service, the fundamental values of the organization, and so on. It's something that should be embedded throughout the organization, not just in marketing programs and functions.
Creating Value Through Brand + Demand
Companies right now are fighting to survive, and marketing needs to be more than a cost center. Although it's easy to preach about the value of brand marketing, the rubber needs to meet the road in practical execution and delivery of tangible results.
Here are five marketing approaches that consider both brand and demand to create business value.
1. Extend networks and advocacy through internal influencers
Identifying employees who are open to being brand ambassadors and working with them on narratives, co-creation, and content promotion is something that can exponentially expand demand channels quickly and cheaply.
The value to the business comes from diversification of content and company voices in the market that humanize and showcase expertise related to your products and services. It also extends the reach and credibility of the brand and helps individual team members reach their personal goals, aspirations, and development.
2. Put less and less together to get more through partnerships
Many marketers are going through a similar experience of being asked to "do more with less.'" Partnering up or collaborating with the products, services, or brands complementary to yours (e.g., in audience, solution, values, etc.) and sharing ideas, resources, and budget is a way to make less become more.
Partnerships create an opportunity to take advantage of collective marketing savvy and diversify perspectives. It also extends the budget and, potentially, resources. And depending on the maturity of the product, service, or business, the "cool by association" effect can enhance brand trust and reach.
3. Ask not what your sales team can do for you, but what you can do for your sales team
Although Sales and Marketing alignment has long been top of mind, marketing teams' collaborating with sales teams to find gaps and pool resources can help everyone, especially when there is a shared business pressure to do more with less.
That collaboration may look like...
- Hands-on involvement with onboarding and enablement
- Analyzing and streamlining the combined overarching prospect journey
- Education about key content pieces and programs and/or creation of custom pieces for high-value accounts
- Education on best-practices for building personal brands and using social media—beyond the basic "Here's a post, please share it" request
Most obviously, collaboration between marketing and sales teams will help to achieve revenue goals and (selfishly) drive the perception of Marketing as a value creator while building empathy and strengthening cross-functional relationships.
4. Multiply your engagement and brand through communities
The beauty of the digital world is that there are so many places to engage with niche audiences beyond your direct or owned channels, and many are not yet saturated!
Third-party, brand-neutral spaces remove brand bias and enable more organic interaction, presenting a great opportunity for Sales to branch out and engage with target prospects. They also provide the opportunity to connect directly with prospects and customers and build relationships, as well as offer help and identify potential opportunities.
An added benefit of engaging through such channels is that team members can build their own brand while advocating for the business.
5. Reward and recognize your audiences, and they will do the same for you
Building better relationships with your current customers is one of the most powerful ways to drive brand trust and demand opportunities.
Recognizing customers' work and effort (e.g., doing case studies, offering PR and speaking opportunities, submitting them for industry awards) and rewarding loyalty (e.g., gifting, assistance with personal development, sponsoring tickets to conferences, referral incentives) often result in benefits beyond just advocacy. Ultimately, doing so empowers you to build stronger and deeper relationships with customers to help drive account growth, renewal, and overall satisfaction.
It can also help you gain a deeper understanding of how your product or service is being used, helping to refine your go-to-market and sales and prospecting approaches. From a marketing perspective, such activities extend demand and brand awareness through peer recommendations and advocacy.
Making Money With Mindful Marketing
Whatever the definition of marketing is, it's understood that marketing needs to make money.
Foundational to its success is creating a human connection with key audiences, established through an understanding of who they are beyond demographic and firmographic data. What are their drivers? What keeps them up at night? What life events are they going through?
In times of uncertainty, reviving the "surprise and delight" elements of marketing traditionally associated with branding has the potential to create the cut-through that many businesses need.
Being mindful of balancing brand and demand across and beyond programs can yield untapped business opportunities and move marketing into the role of value creator and revenue-driver.
More Resources on Balancing Brand and Demand
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