Your B2B brand shouldn’t be agile, according to Maersk and LabCorp’s top marketers

The Drum 19 Nov 2020 11:00
Evolve in the moment, but don't throw away your brand, say B2B experts.

The bedrock of business-to-business marketing is strategy. But how do you act strategic when there are so many unknowns? Maersk and Covance/LabCorp’s head marketers share their insights, including why the brand itself should not be ‘agile’— despite all of the buzz surrounding the word.

This has been a revolutionary moment for business-to-business marketers. Adoption of digital is off the charts and the blurring of what’s a B2C tactic or a B2B tactic is in full effect. However, when it comes to the core tenets of a brand, this is not the moment for experimentation, according to B2B experts.

“You need more agility in your brand strategy… but your brand shouldn’t be agile. It has to be something that outlasts your products, your strategies, your next campaigns and it’ll probably outlast us as brand managers as well,” Sam Poulter, head of corporate branding at AP Moller – Maersk, told The Drum during B2B WorldFest’s ’Brand strategy for a digitally transformed world’ session.

Said another way, “if the waters are choppy, you’ve got to hold your course. Stay true to the heart of your brand,” says Derek Stewart, chief strategy officer at Stein IAS. In fact, Stewart says his agency is seeing more pure brand briefs coming through the door of late, as marketers look to drill down into one central story. “You cannot tell people different things on different channels. You need an identifiable brand story.”

Seizing the small moments

The key for B2B brands is seize the moment with short-term messaging that is relevant now, but that doesn’t compromise a brand in the long-term. “Stay true to where you are coming from and where you want to be in the long-term,” says Poulter.

More human, more tactical and more quantifiable

First off, this is a good moment for quantitative research. Unlike in the not-too-distant past, people are more willing to engage in market research because they have the time. “We have found the opportunity to get these pulses of what’s happening in the marketplace,” says Cox. “You don’t want to read too much into it because we are in the middle of a pandemic. You don’t want to throw out your brand. But there are opportunities to see, in this interim, where you can help, make it easier or maybe be more empathetic than you have in the past.”

Poulter says these findings allow B2B brands to find the “few opportunities which are closer to you and your core brand story where you can do something with a little more impact. It’s an accelerator of the relationship because this is a chance to really prove your worth and establish it.”

Tactically, this relationship building needs to be respectful of consumers’ time. Even though Covance/Labcorp’s offerings can be complex, it has found success creating content that is shorter, “more snackable and consumable,” says Cox. “You don’t want to overwhelm people with two or three pages and click here or click there. It has to be relevant because they have so many opportunities to go so many places.” Cox has also cut webinar times in half from 60 to 30 minutes. “Things that we used to hold sacred, it’s a good time to re-evaluate,” says Cox.

No matter what the opportunities or challenges, Stewart says: “you have to be able to tell your brand story, express it in a way that is relevant and meaningful. If you can’t, or aren’t prepared to, then I would suggest you just shut up shop.”

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