Yet again, the conversation came ‘round to a familiar one in B2B marketing: brand vs. demand.
I spoke last week at Connect to Convert in Boston together with Matt Preschern, CA Technologies’ SVP of Demand and Performance Marketing, and Dan Sheridan, Stein IAS’ Director of Interactions Operations.
After our presentation, I entered into a lengthy conversation with the VP/corporate marketing at a very innovative and fast-growing technology company. She talked about the separation of team and resources into “brand” and “demand.” She was extremely frustrated that the teams weren’t thinking holistically and working in lockstep to a common, interrelated end. I know with certainty that many readers of this post will have experienced similar situations (and frustrations) through the years.
The brand vs. demand debate has played out and played out in B2B forever and, honestly, is played out. It’s been a circular and nonsensical conversation that just won’t go away. Sorry for any disrespect to the opposing “brand” and “demand” camps, but it’s flat-out dumb and, worse, self-defeating. So let’s just put this sucker to rest, once and for all.
Even today, there are many B2B companies that still believe that “brand” is a dirty word. I literally have sat (and sit) around conference room tables at which the word “brand” was banned. To these companies, anything not directly associated with generating a lead and a sale is a total waste of time, energy and money. Fluff. Noise. Irrelevant.
Then, there are companies that do believe in and invest in “brand,” but in a way disassociated from “demand.” To wit, I have been in other conference rooms at other client organizations where a group sits on one side of the table that chimes in, in a somewhat imperious manner, that “we own brand.” The explicit meaning: the demand folks on the other side of the table should stick to digging ditches. At plenty of these organizations, brand and demand teams actually sit on opposite sides of the floor, or on different floors of different buildings.
At Connect to Convert, Matt Preschern was vehement as only Matt can be that, at a time when experience is fast becoming the ultimate differentiator, brand and demand cannot be thought of in a siloed fashion. In Matt’s words, “There is NO demand without a brand! It’s all about customer experiences, at every touch point. Customers do not care one bit if those interactions were ‘created’ by the brand or demand teams.”
Matt’s spot on. Increasingly, a brand is the sum of the experiences people have with it. Prospects, customers, employees, prospective employees, communities. Everyone the brand touches, and everyone who touches the brand.
Accordingly, marketers’ job must be to create a differentiated and connected experience. Any investment in brand must be tightly connected with demand; every investment in demand must deliver an intensely relevant experience that delivers results and elevates the brand. There is no other way forward. There is no other way to create and sustain differentiation, to out-perform and out-compete in the experience economy. Said more succinctly, brand is demand is brand is business performance.
So debate over. Let’s stop the circular conversation and move on to what’s actually relevant to our task at hand in the Post-Modern Marketing age: creating the brand-to-demand connected experience.