29 August 2023 Back

The Brand Comeback: Rediscovering the Power of Brand Marketing


Finally… (contented sigh of relief). Brand is back in the good books after falling from grace in recent years, pushed aside by short term-focused, technology driven marketing tactics like demand and lead generation. It helps that some of the world’s biggest brands like Airbnb, Sage, EY and Goldman Sachs are driving this movement back to brand marketing. Airbnb’s decision to reduce spend on performance marketing, moving “away from ‘buying customers’ to ‘education’” has seen direct bookings, retention, and profits grow.

Always a brand-y by heart, I’m revelling in this renewed popularity, and trying my very best to refrain from saying “I told you so” when I hear comments about lack of pipeline, recognition, trust and cash flow. Neglecting your brand can have significant impact on the ability to grow your business.

While I’m excited by this revived interest in brand, times have changed. If we want to truly leverage the power of brand building, we need to change the way we think about it, talk about it, and measure its impact.

Doing things differently

Too often I still hear marketing referred to as the "colouring-in department". If we’re to shift this perception and get brand marketing duly recognised as a strategic driver of commercial success, we need to:

  • Gather data to understand how brand preference impacts commercial outcomes for your business. For example, if customers feel more strongly about your brand, does that positively impact their lifetime value or shorten the length of sales cycles? How does brand affinity impact sales and conversion rates?
  • Focus on the metrics that quantify the financial impact of branding efforts – sales, churn, revenue, not awareness, engagement, visits.
  • Educate the business about the strategic role the brand plays beyond sales and marketing, and encourage leaders to champion branding as an integral part of business strategy.
  • Collaborate with sales, marketing, product development, and customer service to develop a marketing mindset across the business.

Changing the way we talk

I couldn’t agree more with Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar who said, a key reason we fail to connect brands to financial value is that we marketers “talk about jargon and marketing KPIs, which the CFO and CEO could care less about,” not in financial results. I am absolutely guilty of these crimes.

But it’s not just how we communicate, it’s also what we communicate. Many marketers report on reach, impressions, click-through rates, frequency, brand awareness, funnels and flows, and there’s value in these metrics for marketers. But none of these measures mean anything to, for example, a person in finance.

So next time a CFO asks about the result of your last campaign, be sure to answer in financial terms, not marketing speak. After all, understanding our audience and tailoring our messaging to suit is what we do best.

Measure what matters

Our marketing dashboards are cluttered with easy to measure data points. But we need to ensure we’re measuring how what we do delivers real impact and value to the business. It’s not about clicks, visits or engagement, it's about how we’ve moved the dial on sales, deal size, lifetime value, win rates, retention and share.

Brand-tracking studies have proven again and again that brand preference is a key driver of customer choice, business growth and market share. If we look at Apple, Nike and Cisco, 'brand' is their superpower – their competitive advantage that drives revenue, sales and share; enabling them to command premium prices, and foster fiercely loyal customer advocates.

The challenge is that outside of an NPS score (which, let’s face it, doesn’t really tell us much), most businesses don’t know how to effectively measure the impact of their brand marketing on business outcomes. Brand isn’t consistently measured over time so value gains aren't reported in a financial sense. You can learn more about reporting on metrics that matter in my blog post Proving the Commercial Impact of Brand Building in B2B Marketing.

A single brand campaign won't make customers choose more, stay longer, buy more, or pay more long term. Brand building takes time, and so does measuring its impact. It starts with analysing and benchmarking current brand preference and then monitoring the impact of marketing activity on the status quo overtime. But the reality is that for some businesses, without short-term success there may not be a ‘long-term’. We need to find a middle ground, like Airbnb has done, and invest in a full funnel approach to marketing to deliver maximum returns.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a fabulous quote that Tom Roach wrote from The Wrong and the Short of it“Short-termism and long-termism are both just wrong-termism. So let’s end the false choice between long and short-term marketing tactics, maximise the compound effects of getting them working together in harmony, and start to close the value-destroying divide between ‘brand’ and ‘performance’ marketing. It’s limiting marketing effectiveness and brand growth, when we’ve never needed them more.”

At SwayTech we work with CEOs, Founders and marketing leaders of Kiwi tech companies to help them to unlock the power of brand building to support business growth. If you need help, or just have questions, then please get in touch👇.

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