Every so often it’s healthy to reflect.  To identify learnings in success and take a pat on the back; to re-classify disappointments as valuable experience; then to focus on future ambitions with renewed energy.

In doing so it’s sometimes useful to have a catalyst which supports the thought process.  That’s why in early 2009 Circle Research, in conjunction with ABBA and The IDM, launched The B2B Barometer.

A ‘state of the nation’ survey amongst B2B marketers which gauges economic confidence, benchmarks marketing activity and explores key trends.

The third wave has recently been published and it gives cause for optimism.  Marketing budgets are returning and future confidence is strong.  Beyond this headline there’s a wealth of valuable information in the report.  It can be downloaded free here: B2B trends research.

There are a couple of findings that didn’t quite make it past the editor’s pen to the final report but I’d like to revive here.

  • Three fifths (62%) don’t measure external brand perceptions
  • Only half (52%) with a brand strategy communicate it beyond senior management

Let me translate from research-ese into English.  It appears that many are neglecting some fundamental principles of branding.

First, a brand is a set of associations living in an individual’s mind.  This means you have influence over your brand but don’t own it; each individual has their own unique copy.  A brand cannot therefore be successfully managed without insights into perceptions.

Second, brand perceptions are formed through the sum of an individual’s experience.  Through every encounter with your organisation, employees and products.  Through what they hear and see from you.  Through what they hear and see about you.  This means the brand needs to be lived by every employee at every touch point.  Successful brands are not restricted to senior management but permeate the entire organisation.

Let’s not forget that a strong brand brings tangible commercial benefits.  It ensures you’re a ‘must have’ on any shortlist.  It justifies a price premium.  It helps drive customer loyalty.  I’m sure we all recognise the value of branding.  But are we behaving accordingly?  Food for thought.

Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) brand perceptions research.

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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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