Look at many B2B companies today, and you’ll find they often do a much better job of marketing product brands than expressing the virtues and values embedded in the company. In today’s product-centric business environment, companies frequently commit vast amounts of resources to market their product brands, yet sometimes overlook the company brand -- the brand that stands behind all of a company’s products, services and people.
And it’s easy to see why.
By their very nature, product lines come and go, presenting companies with an opportunity to talk about the “next big thing” or “game changer.” Yet it's the established corporate brand that gives product brands context and credibility in the marketplace. Strong corporate brands do much more than stand behind a portfolio of products.
At the most basic level, strong corporate brands add value to a company in 3 key areas:
1. Internally (culture)
Employees who have a shared understanding of who the company brand is and who it's for (which customers, segments, etc.) naturally live out the brand in their interactions with each other. In essence, employees’ collective on-the-job behaviors -- the culture -- personify the company brand. A shared understanding of the brand among all employees -- from manufacturing to tech support, engineering to human resources -- promotes a consistent understanding of how business is done across the organization.
Employees who are aligned with the company brand are quick to notice inconsistencies. For example, team members of a B2B company preparing to speak at an industry gathering were reviewing the director’s presentation when one member said, “Where’s the humility? We’re a humble organization.”
The team revised its presentation accordingly and adapted the content to reflect the values embedded in the company’s brand.
2. Externally (marketplace)
Employees also live out the brand in their daily interactions with external parties that include customers and potential workers. When a company is involved in purchases of say, manufacturing equipment, industrial components or multi-year tech support agreements, employees often represent the brand through a lengthy buying process that brings together multiple people from both the buyer’s and seller’s side of the transaction.
Workers’ behaviors in the external marketplace come to stand for the brand and how the company does business. A company’s brand is also carried into the marketplace by its marketing efforts. When a company aligns its marketing with its employees’ behaviors, it is delivering a people-powered brand.
3. Financial (ROI)
Strong corporate brands deliver more economic value. CoreBrand’s Corporate Branding Index® revealed that the corporate brand accounts for between five and seven percent of market capitalization, which CoreBrand refers to as brand equity. Similarly, research conducted by McKinsey & Company in 2012 found that strong brands outperformed weak brands by 20 percent, up from 13 percent in 2011. Accordingly, the corporate brand can significantly contribute to or detract from a company’s value.
Finally, strong corporate brands offer the intangible asset of goodwill which can drive value and boost market capitalization.
Who leads the corporate brand?
Who within the enterprise should manage the corporate brand? The value of this asset commands ownership at the highest level of an organization. While a company’s CMO or product managers may tend to various divisions and product brands, the company brand demands the CEO’s attention.
In the February 11, 2015, issue of The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Kerry Sulkowicz, managing principal of Boswell Consulting Group, summed up the CEO’s role in influencing culture: “The CEO wields the greatest leverage to create, sustain and change the culture."
For B2B companies, strong cultures are aligned with strong brands that benefit the company -- internally, externally and financially.