Brand Gen is the Future of B2B Marketing

Jenny Sagström, CEO and Founder, Sköna

The genesis of the concept of Brand Gen actually came from failure. But, in business, the goal is to put on our big girl pants and learn something from each moment that doesn’t quite go how we planned or intended it to. So let me take you back 7 years ago.

It was 2014, as an industry we were enamored with the marketing tech stack and how we could optimize it. We hired marketing ops people and we just started to hear the term growth marketer thrown around. In the midst of this, there’s us, Sköna, trying to push Brand Awareness campaigns. We’re working with our tech CMOs to help them generate the most amazing campaign flows… But on average at the time, their tenure hovered around 18 months. And we were pushing for big investments that would take about 2-3 years to really generate earth-moving ROI. It didn’t happen just once that a big awareness campaign got killed on the finishing line for the above-mentioned reasons. Disheartened at all the no’s, we pulled our boots up and thought about what we were trying to do and why we weren’t able to get the buy-in we had expected.

The main problem was that each initiative was too narrow

Each lead gen campaign was a blip, each webinar was treated as a campaign. But we lacked the overarching umbrella theme. And from the brand awareness perspective, we couldn’t just focus on the big stuff that took too long to drive ROI. We needed to reframe the conversation. We needed a holistic approach to campaigns. And that is where Brand Gen campaigns – or the best of both worlds as a concept, were born.

Our formula for creating Brand Gen campaigns starts with a juicy piece of content. In the last few years, this has mostly focused on videos. We see videos as the best way to plug into the zeitgeist, to make our client’s brand relevant and a part of a larger conversation. One of the first things that get ignored in B2B is the fact that even in B2B – you have human beings with likes and dislikes when making purchasing decisions. Whether people are buying shampoo or virtualization software, it’s important to remember that they have choices. And it’s a privilege if they pick our brand, and just like with shampoo, we have to earn that trust. That’s where being a part of pop culture is important. The best B2B campaigns have the ability to balance relevancy, education, and entertainment value.

Now you’ve got your juicy campaign shaped into your Bran Gen campaign and it needs a relevant place to live. The campaign needs a place to shine that makes sense for the campaign’s purpose and goals. We like to think of the most successful Brand Gen campaigns to have the power of 6. That is 6 creative pieces for the campaign being shared through 6 channels over 6 months. That spreads out both your lead gen activity and your branding for more eyes to see for tangible conversion results and long-term branding.

Some important insight here is the lead gen component of a complete Brand Gen campaign. Lead gen is still crucial for brand building in the first few years you’re working to build notoriety for your brand. Sales drive growth and that’s just that, plain and simple. So remember lead generation is still crucial for your marketing strategy, in the beginning especially. If you can automate, even better! These campaigns are the basis for company growth as well as any successful Brand Gen campaign.

Brand Gen combines lead gen and demand gen then further blends in branding, content marketing, and a dose of digital marketing. The gist of it is starting with a big idea, narrowing down the goal, and aligning the creative process to reach it. We like the mix I mentioned earlier. The result is a Brand Gen campaign that is working double-time, both with lead generation and long-term brand building. By combining these two marketing and branding strategies, you’re on track to create a brand that can withstand the certain highs and lows any B2B brand will encounter AND maximize long-term ROI.

The insight here is – in order to focus on the really important activities around brand building – we first need to make sure sales is working and that we’re delivering leads. Marketing exists to support sales. No sales? No marketing.

So our first job is to set up growth marketing, to ensure our funnel is working. Only when we have that under control do we have the luxury of focusing on the brand. And of course, the irony is those brand activities will in the long run help deliver more leads… but it takes an investment in time and effort.

Brand gen is a compromise. It’s not pure-play Brand Awareness. But it’s pragmatic. It’s recognizing what works and realizing one of our jobs is to help our CMOs succeed, in often a short amount of time, and keep their jobs. Only when they’re successful in that, do we get the luxury to spend time and budget bolstering our brands even more.

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