B2B / Branding

B2B brand stewardship: manage now or pay later

by Charlene Gervais
11.05.20

Companies that invest in brand consistency often increase customer loyalty and trust, competitive advantages and market share. For those that don’t, the cost may be significantly higher down the road. 

A brand is a living thing that can evolve and grow over time. Yet we’ve seen companies invest heavily in a global rebrand, only to forego ongoing brand management. 

That’s not uncommon. But it is expensive—between the opportunity costs of inconsistency and the significant direct costs for realigning the brand after years of neglect.  

What is brand stewardship, and why does it matter? 

Brand stewardship (aka brand management) is the clear and consistent presentation of the brand. This ranges from its expression in marketing and sales conversations to the “living” of the brand in the workplace (e.g. values, hiring, processes, incentives).

More than housekeeping, brand stewardship translates to real dollars:

  • According to one Demand Metric benchmark report, almost 85% of firms that report brand management efforts attribute 10% or more growth to those efforts. One in five are seeing at least 20% growth. 
  • That report also noted companies that always present their brand consistently saw an average revenue increase of 23%. They were also 3-4 times more likely to enjoy excellent brand visibility than those with inconsistent brand presentation. 
  • For B2B buyers overwhelmed by options and increasingly complex needs, brand consistency and clarity builds confidence in buying from you. This drives a 2.6x likelihood of a high-quality account growth purchase (Gartner).  

Companies that always present their brand consistently saw an average revenue increase of 23%. They were also 3-4 times more likely to enjoy excellent brand visibility.

Failure to invest in brand management leads to costs.

Inversely, letting a brand grow unchecked (often over years or decades of new product offerings, shifting audience needs, entering new markets, or change events like new leadership or M&A) can decrease sales and stymie growth:

  • Added sales effort. Sales spends more time selling the offering when the brand is unknown, equating to more time spent on fewer deals.  
  • Greater chance of needing to rebrand later. This means (re)aligning on a strategy and converting all touchpoints. This is a costly and distracting effort.
  • Lower market valuation. Brand equity can account for up to 20% of a B2B brand’s stock price. This is one reason HBR says don’t “skimp on brand building. That’s an expensive mistake.”
brand-stewardship-impact-chart

So what’s a B2B to do? Four ways to ensure consistency.

Effective brand stewardship is a multidimensional effort. This ranges from building a flexible brand with clear guidelines from the outset to managing governance and team buy-in over time. Here are some tips to ensure effective and efficient brand stewardship at your company:

  1. Build your brand right the first time. It’s invaluable to architect a clear and coherent brand strategy up front. Include purpose, promise, values, AND define how your positioning and messaging comes to life across all audience touchpoints. Be sure to include how employees interact with customers and live the brand every day. If you’re about to undergo this process, it's helpful to articulate your core brand strategy in a simple blueprint. The most critical elements should fit on one page.
  2. Develop (and update) comprehensive guidelines. So many brand guidelines are 80% logo usage and 20% fluff. Get specific around the rules around design, with specific examples for different usage situations. Also include writing guidelines, such as tone of voice, dos and don’ts. Update as needed to reflect new resources or shifting rules, or to keep up with how the brand and audience evolves. The bigger the company, the more comprehensive the guidelines should be.
  3. Establish accountability from the top. Brand consistency is everyone's responsibility. But true accountability means it should be owned by one high-level leader, who ensures the brand is communicated effectively. This is usually the CMO, but is sometimes the Chief Consumer Officer or even CEO. Success here also requires a leadership team that understands core brand tenets as a company asset, and strives to infuse them throughout the organization. A collaborative leadership workshop can achieve buy-in from the get go.
  4. Train creators, users and ambassadors. You want all employees to know and live the brand, but this is more essential for some than others. It’s worth investing in extra training for customer-facing individuals, content creators, and even internal culture agents such as managers and HR, so they better serve as brand ambassadors. Empowering, recognizing and rewarding individual acts of brand stewardship can multiply their effectiveness exponentially.

Today's effort reaps tomorrow's reward.

At most companies, brand stewardship flies under the radar. It’s rarely urgent or sexy, and typically gets pushed to the side when more pressing matters come up. But if you’ve experienced growth or change, you may find years of quick fixes and one-off tactics have left behind inconsistent communications and bad habits. If left unchecked, this can devalue your brand and cost much more to repair later.

Need a brand audit but don’t have the time to do it yourself? Bluegreen works with global B2B marketing leaders and their in-house teams (notably in the tech and financial spaces) to assess, clean up and enhance their brands, and to communicate both internally and externally. Reach out to learn more.

For B2B marketing leaders with more ambition than bandwidth, Bluegreen is a brand copilot that can bring shape to their vision—steering high-level thinking into actionable strategies, clear communications and bold campaigns. 

Busy CMOs in the tech and finance industries bring in Bluegreen to help shape brand strategy and communications, messaging and corporate narratives, rebranding, naming, content strategy, logo and identity design, marketing plans and launch campaigns, sales tools and training, digital strategy and website design, creative development and thought leadership.


B2B / Branding

by Charlene Gervais

11.05.20