Many of today’s hottest brands were barely ideas on a napkin just a few short years ago. Stories about companies like Uber, Snapchat and Slack dominate blog headlines and the magazine covers of every business publication in the airport bookstore.
But while undeniably exciting, these new brands don’t hold a candle to the value of brands that are decades or even sometimes centuries old, especially in the B2B world. Take a look at this recent Ad Age article about 2016’s most valuable B2B brands; the top 20 is dominated by names like Microsoft, IBM, Wells Fargo, GE, HP, ExxonMobil and FedEx. Many of these same companies would have dominated the list in 1996, 1986, 1956 and, in the case of companies like Wells Fargo, 1856.
So how do these old-timers remain relevant in the face of newer, shinier competition? Simple: by evolving their brands with the times. While the allure of starting from scratch with a start-up may be appealing, an established brand has the ability to build off of the equity of their existing B2B brand and add new value by adapting with the times.
It begins with your audience.
If you haven’t taken a close look at your audience recently, you’re in for a surprise. Your audience is constantly shifting and evolving, both in measurable aspects like demographics and geography to quantitative aspects like values and beliefs. You may still be communicating to the persona of a 55-year-old man with an MBA who values price because that’s what you’ve always done, while your real audience should be the persona of a 35-year-old woman with a tech background who values service and innovation. Redefine your audience on a regular basis to ensure your brand is keeping up.
Let your audience lead your messaging.
Just as your audience changes, your product and its place in the market also changes. What was once your top-of-the-line offering is now your value product; your 50 years of expertise in one field may be worthless in a market that didn’t exist six months ago. Be aware, be realistic, and take nothing for granted. If your messaging doesn’t reflect the current reality, it’s irrelevant.
Elevate your brand.
Finally, there’s the surface level of the brand: things like your logo, tagline, ad campaign and your website. No matter what your business, it’s safe to say the bulk of your competitors haven’t updated their materials in years. There’s a misguided belief in the B2B world that you can just hang your brand out there and let the sales staff get to work. In fact, B2B buyers react to compelling design and writing in B2B materials just as much as B2C consumers. By keeping your B2B brand and materials up to date, your established brand will project a level of engagement that will stand out from competitors and encourage B2B buyers to reward with sales.
At the end of the day, a brand is both substance and style; if either one falls behind, the whole brand will quickly fail in today’s marketplace. But get both right and you’ll have a brand that’s valuable today and for years or even decades to come.