I sat down with Margaret Molloy, the chief marketer at Siegel+Gale, to talk about what goes into building a brand. Hint: It's more than your logo and corporate colors.
What should they focus on in terms of brand?
The first thing is understanding that the brand is the experience. Every moment your customer interacts with your offering, be it a product, a service, or a technology. That's really fundamental to understand. The storytelling elements continue to be important. The experience is where it is now. Depending on the product, it's the user experience that's the brand. It's unboxing if it's a boxed product, it's usability if its a software product. That's a really important mindset shift.
The second thing I stress is the importance of simplifying. Consumers, B2B buyers, they're all harried. We all have fewer resources and more to do than ever before. So as a brand, you need to simplify. There's a huge trend in the marketplace about disruption. But we need to challenge the premise that we need to be disrupted. Maybe we just need our lives to be a little bit simpler. Ask: How am I simplifying the brand experience? And in fact, great disrupters are brand experience. It's the Ubers of the world who cut out the step of hailing a cab. Whether they do it overtly or not, the insight is don't stop at disrupting, think about simplifying that experience.
At the heart of it, for entrepreneurs, is not silo'ing thinking about brand as marketing responsibility. It's the whole organization. We're all thinking about disrupting, but what are we doing to simplify? Time is our most finite resource.
What about B2B marketing?
I think the perspective I bring to that is B2B buyers are human beings too, and the expectations that are being set for them as consumers now set the expectations of how they want to be treated by vendors. They expect content, they expect clear terms and conditions. That's a brand touchpoint. Those comments about simplifying the consumer experience apply equally to B2B. We forget that they too are time compressed and don't have the level of support staff that was the norm once. They're asked to do so much more in the same number of hours.
How should your brand influence your marketing?
I think the first thing is being smart about your purpose of your business. Articulating a purpose that doesn't box you into a narrow mindset. Articulating a purpose that's inspiring enough to attract the right employees. You need to have a purpose that is inspiring, but a plan that's simple.
Another dimension of it is naming. Think about your company name. Right now if you look back, when Amazon started it was mostly books, but if that had been in the name it would have been limiting. Names create opportunity. That duality of name and purpose is key--if you shortcut those, it boxes you in.
Then I think the tactics have to match too--the practicality of acquisition. How do you run experiments and quickly see dividends?
Do you have any advice about connecting talent acquisition to your brand?
There is a whole new discipline emerging called employee branding. A tenet of that discipline, particularly with the Millennials, is that people want to have a purpose. They are looking at a broad spectrum of reasons for taking a job. The company's mission manifested in the brand is part of that.
I look at the whole employee cycle. How does the brand attract the right talent? Then, how do you train the employees to embody the brand? In this world we live in, it's hard to predict every scenario. But if you train employees as brand ambassadors, they can make those judgments. It vectors out. The model I live by is I look at the employee lifecycle and how does brand activate at every stage of the lifecycle? Your brand, your mission, your purpose; it all informs the kind of people you hire.
One of the questions I get often is about being a role model, and managing your personal brand. Whether you choose to or not, you're a role model. Same thing with being a founder. You are creating a brand whether it's overt or subconscious. The question is how much control as a company are you exerting over that: Is there any thread that goes through it all?
Margaret Molloy is the global chief marketing officer and head of business development for Siegel+Gale. She has more than 20 years of experience as a B2B marketing and business development leader at top technology, professional service, and marketing firms.