How to attack declining market share with a purposeful brand message?
The other day we discussed what matters most to our clients and why they would hire a creative agency like us. The consensus was that declining market share or market share expansion were the most likely reasons. With that as objectives and framework, the next question was, how can we help? What does it take to see a turnaround or increased ROI?
Something that gets a lot of attention right now is empathy. Understanding a customer's needs and then working backward to send a strong message about the company's services or products - and that's important - with a solid emotional undertone. Despite us upright sapiens being convinced that our decisions are all based on logical thinking, research tells us the opposite, over and over. Buying decisions are triggered subconsciously and within milliseconds in parts of our brains where emotion plays a leading role. Our "logic brain" then approves that decision, often confirming our bias.
What defines a good brand message?
"Social responsibility" is a term that gets a lot of attention among business consultants and marketing professionals. But what does it have to do with tech branding? And what does it mean for your customers? Aren't we selling facts and features? No. That was the 20th century. Times have changed. Not only do we face new challenges, global competition among them, but we also see the rise of a new group of consumers, the millennials. The Deloitte Millennial "Mind the Gaps" survey revealed that in 2015 millennials, for the first time, made up nearly half of B2B purchase influencers and decision-makers, a percentage that is increasing.
With that growth comes an increasing demand for more than just a good deal or a decent salary. More than any generation before, millennials also require a clear sense of mission, vision, and values that align with their own, which is summed up in that one often misunderstood word: Purpose.
"Globally, more than seven in 10 (73 percent) Millennials believe businesses positively impact wider society... When asked to identify the words or phrases that match their ideals as to what business should try to achieve, Millennials highlight "job creation," "profit generation," and "improving society." (Deloitte - Mind the Gaps)
What does purpose mean for brands
Purpose is the well where social responsibility feeds from. In a B2B context, Purpose isn't some fluffy woo-woo – it's pragmatism, it's the antidote to cynicism and boredom - and it's something that adds to the bottom line. A bonus or a corner office is not enough to move the growing millennial population. The iPhone Generation is gravitating toward brands that provide meaning and Purpose that extends beyond shareholder value – whether focused on improving communities, revolutionizing an industry by introducing earth-friendly products, or simply creating a great workplace. And as research shows, companies that demonstrate a solid commitment to Purpose enjoy better financial returns than those that don't: Do good, do well.
That same Deloitte report also found that most business buyers do not perceive enough meaningful differences between competing brands to be willing to pay a premium for one over the other.
In other words, while virtually any B2B brand can demonstrate business value, so can its competitors. How, then, can B2B brands stand out among a sea of similar offerings, and what prompts today's buyers to choose one partner or provider over another? Purpose can be the needed differentiator. Millennials do not distinguish their concerns between personal and business lives. The lines have blurred here. Countless studies indicate that the big-picture, emotional rewards millennials feel (and look for) when buying Patagonia clothes or Warby Parker glasses are the same rewards they're looking for as B2B buyers. Appealing to personal values with this new generation in B2B can make them twice as likely to do business with you versus appealing only to standard business values such as price, performance, or legacy.
Purpose motivates your employees
Of course, millennials don’t just represent today’s buyers. Employees can make or break customer relationships as the human manifestation of a company's brand promise. They have the power to influence customer loyalty and product quality. And they can impact productivity and profitability. Every CEO we have worked with has struggled with how to engage and mobilize employees to perform at the highest levels and achieve company goals. In advising them, I like to quote "Start With Why" by author Simon Sinek,
Purpose has the power to inspire the millennial employee. It can unify, engage and motivate a workforce, creating an environment where employees see the personal value in helping create long-lasting business value for your organization. Two-thirds of employees working for companies with a solid stated and demonstrated purpose report being willing to “go the extra mile to work,” versus less than half at other companies.
Purpose can make a crucial difference in your recruitment efforts as well. Overwhelmingly, millennials say they’d prefer to work for an organization with a clear, meaningful mission and an impact beyond producing profits.
Time and again, social responsibility has proven itself to create a competitive advantage for B2B brands
Research can indicate attitudes and hint at trends, but marketplace performance is the real proving ground for purpose – and it is easy to see it drive transformation, growth, and profits.
Purpose has always had power in B2B organizations, not simply in this emerging millennial era. To stay ahead of the curve, emerging tech companies need to anticipate the millennial needs and impact but also acknowledge two simple human truths: First, people recognize, respect, and are drawn to other people who are dedicated to something bigger than themselves, and who work and live with meaning. And second, every employee, from the mailroom to the corner office, wants to find fulfillment in their work. Seth Godin, the business coach, describes this as ’The Tribe” effect. People want to identify with a tribe, and purpose is the glue that holds the community together:
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” - Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us
If you are looking to integrate social responsibility into your brand and your organization, here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Find a cause that people can relate to
It’s crucial to find a cause that is important to you, meaningful to your business, and comes organically from the “inside” and is not applied. When people feel passionate about a cause, they are far more likely to respond and participate.
2. Make sure you and all parties involved are being ethical
The key is to not only follow through with best practices but also make sure the brand message touches on all media levels. Make sure that all aspects of your organization reflect your brand message. If your brand is advocating for being clean & green, and meanwhile your company’s primary manufacturer is posing threats to the environment or conducting animal testing, you might be in trouble.
3. Be honest
Consumers are eager to help a good cause, but they will also be quick to chastise a company that has set its foundation on false premises. If you are considering increasing your brand’s commitment to social responsibility to generate more revenue, you may want to reconsider doing it. Consumers can see through smoke and mirrors and want to support brands that genuinely care about their cause.
So, what’s your company’s purpose?
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