Conventional wisdom dictates that the first step of Demand Gen is to create awareness, but how B2B thinks awareness is created lacks impact and is easily copied. It's the Better game. Here's a little ditty on the opportunity to rebrand "brand-level marketing" in vernacular B2B will more easily understand and hopefully embrace.
You ever wonder why most consumer and D2C brands don’t have “Demand Gen” departments, V.P.s, or "motions"?
Granted, the B2B buying cycle is more involved and convoluted than the consumer, so how it is sold into needs to be as well, but like a GMO experiment gone awry, B2B’s attempt to engineer the sales side in order to bring some method and predictability to B2B buying has largely removed basic, natural, and essential elements of human behavior and psychology that apply regardless of market or category.
As Research Professor at the Ehrenger-Bass Institute, Jenni Romaniuk, notes, “Brands reside in people’s memories – it doesn’t matter if its B2B or B2C.”
Dave Trott (https://davetrott.co.uk/) is a rather famous brand planner (what the Brits call a strategist). He has a basic funnel model when it comes to marketing to address this:
First, you have to break through the noise to get people’s attention. That’s the Impact. (89% of advertising fails this hurdle, according to Trott). Once you have their attention you can Communicate with them. If you do a good job Communicating with them (also not a given in B2B), there is a better chance you can Persuade them to take the desired action. But without Impact, there’s no way to Communicate, and ergo no Persuasion, ie no sale.
Last year, a study done by LinkedIn B2B Institute and System1 revealed (https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/b2b-institute/b2b-creative) that 75% of B2B brand ads have no impact on the consumer or the business. “Of the 1,600 B2B ads shown to a sample of 6 million people worldwide over the past four years, 75% scored one star or less on System1’s FaceTrace emotional measurement tool.”
System1’s Facetrace measures physical and mental responses to marketing stimuli, aka advertising. 1 star essentially means the viewer was bored to death; The ad had zero Impact. Additionally, the study participants were forced to see the ad, never mind how that ad would be noticed, or more likely not, in the wild.
Why? In the Trott context, B2B focuses on the Communication without first considering how to generate Impact in order to get their prospects’ attention. That’s why all the traditional tactical executions of Demand Gen programs feel like such a grind. Everyone else is doing and communicating the same thing, in the same way, at the same time. Where’s the love?
As the study notes, “Product people in particular lean more towards this more rational type of communication where we just have to articulate the product’s benefits and features and, if it’s a great product, of course our customers will buy it.”
Product people are why marketing people exist.
B2B marketing, or Demand Gen, indexes heavily (I would argue over-indexes) on content marketing, thought-leadership, product demo videos…tactical executions that live further down the funnel that don’t proactively generate any Impact or brand awareness.
Awareness tactics exist in the brand-level marketing toolkit. Brand level marketing is not rocket science. B2B knows what it is, they just appear allergic to it or scared of it due to the combination of cost, lack of direct attribution, and increased imagination and risk (no small considerations).
We need to rebrand brand-level marketing for B2B. Let’s call it Aware Gen. If we think about the need for Impact in a Demand Gen framework as Aware Gen, we introduce a strategic layer of communication that is lacking in Demand Gen departments and plans.
Aware Gen should be designed to proactively increase brand recognition among the market of the brand’s existence, and at a high level who it's more specifically for and its related value proposition. Brand X = Y value prop for Z customer.
Do this repeatedly and consistently, with distinct branding assets (logo, colors, voice/personality), and not only will you create Impact, you will establish the basis for ownable, defensible, and scalable position in the market. With a cohesive GTM, your Aware Gen efforts reinforce and support your lower-funnel activities.
What anchors all of this is, no surprise here, your brand strategy. By codifying your point of view, the problem you solve, your positioning, your pillars, and product principles your Aware Gen activities and GTM campaigns are a logical, linear, and seamless extension and activation of your ownable, defensible, and scalable brand strategy.
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