And did you note the customer up there? You can decide your logo will be some iteration of a compass, that your font is Gotham and your tagline a hipper version of “Don’t go down with the ship.” It is all for naught if you don’t even understand your customer (hint: personas). Your brand personality needs to resonate with how they identify with your product.
Many of the people hanging out at Crema (a hipster’s promised land for Portlandia fans and just another Portland coffee shop for the rest of us) weren’t even born when Apple’s 1984 commercial was broadcast at Super Bowl XVIII. While you can catch it now on YouTube, the ad was only broadcast twice – once in 10 smaller local markets (think Twin Falls) on the last day of 1983 (to qualify for awards), and then in the Super Bowl.Yet its anti-conformity message is still a beacon for many. And there they sit with their Spanish lattes, cuff-rolled-up skinny jeans, and knit watch caps before their open MacBooks, the glowing Apple icon reflecting the life force of their own chosen creative identities.
That’s the dramatic example. Here are some other brand personalities: Tide = tough. Cheerios = healthy. Coke = friendly. Volvo = safety.
What’s your brand’s personality equation?
Before you try and answer that, let’s take a moment to explore why branding and brand consistency matters to B2B companies.
Why brand personality matters for B2B companies
CEB, in a report published last spring in the Harvard Business Review, surveyed more than 4,000 stakeholders involved in B2B purchase decisions.
In the past, your sales team reached out, in person, by phone, or email with a prospect with the aim to discuss their business problem and steer them toward the pertinent features/benefits of your product or service. But today buyers are spending nearly two-thirds of their buying journey without contacting a sales rep. During this time, they research online, read third-party reviews, and reach out to their peers and social connections.
What CEB also found is that it’s not one person making a buying decision within a company. Rather, five or six people are typically involved in making a buying decision (IT, CXO, finance, ops, etc.), and the folks on the floor who will actually use the product play influencer roles.
If you’re (for example) a demand gen manager considering new technology, you want to make sure that the new tool you’re considering works with your tech stack, that it’s something your sales team can rally behind, that you can easily integrate it with other tools you’re using, that finance can see the upside, that your team can get up to speed on it quickly, and the list goes on.
CEB also found what aided sales reps most was having an internal advocate inside the company. And it turned out that the #1 way to recruit that advocate was to have them see some part of themselves in your brand (the example CEB gave was a video campaign from Grainger, Downtime is a Real Downer. The spokesman is a perfect persona for an actual buyer).
Whether you’re a DIY marketer or the CMO, it can be difficult to set aside budget for branding. So, when you do invest (finally) in one or more campaigns, you don’t want to lose any earned traction because of inconsistency with the brand.
“Of course, Nathan, we’ve got a central repository for all our branding assets and guidelines for who and when to use them. And our social media presence is consistent from Facebook to YouTube.”
Yes, good to hear. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a top-notch marketer like yourself. What I want to encourage with brand consistency is making sure your employees fundamentally understand the brand and the brand’s personality.
Your employees have to extend the brand personality
Let’s rewind to our first story. Chapters and chapters of business books have hailed FedEx as a model for us all. Over the years, it’s been a great example of a brand resonating with consumers.
But – do you remember that YouTube video from the 2011 holiday season? I won’t link to it, but it showed a FedEx driver throwing a delivery package (which was a computer monitor) over a fence. The company, in a video response, quickly apologized, stated what it would do to address the specific issue and what it would do to prevent this from happening again. But the original video still racked up close to 10 million views and was featured on countless websites, TV news shows, and became a late-night TV punchline.
FedEx bounced back from that event eventually and currently has a place on 100 Most Valuable Global Brands.
The meaning of “customer-facing” is changing
Today, there are even more cameras around us, and social media pipelines to the rest of the world stand at the ready to broadcast one corporate misstep. You’re at risk, from within and without your organization. The list is long and growing longer where an ill-advised action by an employee has left a brand reeling.
In the past, we would talk about “customer facing” staff, meaning sales, marketing and service. But today your front-desk receptionist can have as many (or more) LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends than the CEO. Everyone is customer facing. The engineers … well, I don’t know what social platforms the engineers use, but I’m sure their reach is far and wide, too, and affects recruitment, which affects the brand.