18 DEC. 2017
Clarify and Advance - Overcoming the Challenges of Growing a Brand
This is a series regarding branding topics for B2B brands. In this talk with Marta Dealcaraz, Labbrand Business Director and Master Industrial Engineer, she gave insights on what are the challenges to overcome when B2B companies are growing their brand.
How would you define brand growth?
It’s the journey of building a reputation that influences a growing number of customers’ behavior and choice over time. Brands who grow could possibly be also defined as sustained value creators. It is a long-term process which we could say has 3 stages: Identity consolidation, expansion and redefinition.
What are the main barriers to brand growth?
The challenges are different over the different phases. In the phase of consolidation, for example, most growth issues come from inadequate “self-awareness” I would say. All teams need to agree on the brand core values to be able to build a sustained competitive advantage that is “on-brand”.
Brand management tools such as brand books and brand guidelines are necessary to avoid the brand to spin out into inconsistent directions and representations Internal brand engagement is another fundamental process for success at this stage. If your employees don’t believe in your brand and aren’t motivated to engage with it, then why should your customers?
What about the “expansion” phase?
In the expansion phase, companies take advantage of the capabilities and market positions they’ve built during the consolidation phase to move into new customer segments, new geographies, new distribution channels and new but adjacent product lines.
The roots of success or failure here increasingly lie in the ability of companies to remain perceptive and adaptable. At Labbrand we contribute to that process with consumer insights and segmentation, localization strategy, brand architecture strategy, visual identity extension to new touch-points or digital strategy, for example.
When does a brand need to consider a redefinition?
At some point, many brands find their growth and profitability tapering off or even declining whether due to market saturation or a change in the competitive or technological landscape and that can be the right time for redefinition. But there may be many happier reasons for rebranding such us: M&As or diversification, for example.
No matter the reasons, this work entails for managers to look deep within their organizations to find new assets that can serve as new platforms for sustainable growth and we also can be very instrumental in that process.
Back to the brand growth definition, is there a way to quantify it?
There is no growth if there is no measurement, indeed. Our brand equity tracking relies on brand knowledge structures in the minds of customers (individuals or organizations) as the foundation of value and does also reflect brands’ performance in the social media space, so key today.
How is all this different or relevant for B2B brands?
I identify two clear spaces for growth among our B2B clients these days.
Research and localization is the first one. As globalization becomes a fundamental aspect in any business growth roadmap, B2B companies must not only extend their presence to new markets, but also be ready to localize their strategies and decentralize the brand execution, too often monopolized by headquarters assuming too quickly that their B clients are the same everywhere. Localization is often the spark needed for a radical shift in customer loyalty, even if B2B brands are often reticent to believe it.
The breakdown of the barriers between B2B and B2C is the second one. Customers are more accessible than ever these days, technology having allowed brands to create a hybrid model known as B2B2C, a business model in which brands are able to sell to distributors while simultaneously catering to end customers, often through ecommerce platforms. This trend has impacted the kind of information B2B marketers need to deliver and the way they have to deliver it too so this opportunity does not come without its challenges, starting from the need of redefining who the customer is now. That is specially relevant in China where the penetration of digital is higher than anywhere else.
How is China unique or interesting regarding the brand growth topic?
On one hand, China is not just a country with a huge population. It's also a country that has been growing super-fast for a long time and even at a slowed-down rate it will still grow around 7% annually in the years to come. With the growth comes the constant changes in the social structure and competitive environment which force brands here to be constantly evolving. We look at the 3 phases I have mentioned more as of a non-stop cycle than as a linear progression here in China.
On the other hand, the competitive forces of China are not today what they used to and Chinese brands are now growing strong locally and globally. Western businesses will need to understand what are the threats they need to prepare for, and the opportunities to capitalize if they want to keep their growth path too.
A brand will go through the stages of a lifecycle similar to a person’s or a product’s. The growth stage is the second of stages in the life cycle (create, grow, disrupt) and for most brands this is the key stage for establishing their position in the market, increasing sales, and improving profit margins. Growth has also its sub-phases from identity consolidation to expansion to redefinition. At each phase/sub-phase brands encounter different challenges and understanding them well will help you prepare for what you will need to conquer in order to succeed.