Control of an organization’s brand is an essential role for the majority of CMOs. And in a world of ever-increasing competition, all battling to capture ever-decreasing attention spans, an organization’s brand plays an essential role in differentiating itself and getting noticed.
But a strong brand does far more than just this superficial, top-of-funnel function.
A great brand can be key in developing long-term, personal connections with your customers (whether it’s B2B, B2C, a non-profit, or just about every kind of organization).
It can be the extra edge growth-stage companies need to grab the attention of investors.
It can align everything internally, by instilling pride and passion in the people who work for an organization.
And it goes far beyond just coming up with a cool name, a dazzling logo, and some pretty colors for the website and marketing materials. Your organization’s brand should be represented every time anyone, whether external or internal, connects with it.
That means it’s essential for CMOs to know the how and the why of building a great brand.
In this guide, you’ll find a hub of insights from some of the world’s leading CMOs (which makes them some of the marketing world’s best brand builders), to help you hone your skills as a brand builder, share the value of investing in branding with key stakeholders, and how to leverage your brand effectively, for both external and internal audiences.
- Why is a strong brand important?
- Building emotional connections to your brand
- The role of CMOs when rebranding
- The future of brands
Why is a strong brand important?
No matter what industry or organization type, having a strong, defined brand is an incredibly powerful asset. Armstrong brand guarantees consistency across every single interaction anyone, whether external or internal, has with your organization.
Branding is more than logos
As Yoni Solomon, CMO of Uptime.com says:
“The common misconception for either non-marketers or even marketers early in their career is that perhaps your branding is all about what your logo looks like, and your colors, and maybe your fonts. But in my perspective and experience, it's so much more than that.
“It's the inputs that go into making your brand what it is.
“For us, it's one, how we describe ourselves, our messaging and positioning, how we're talking about ourselves.
“Two it's going to be how our customers talk about us, how they review us, how they give us testimonials and case studies. How are they explaining our value and showcasing us on our behalf to the world?
“Number three, is going to be what is the market at large, also saying about us? How do they perceive us? That's going to be media, that's going to be analysts who are looking at your segment and your category and the products that you're offering.
“And then finally, last but not least, but extremely important, is how your employees are talking about the brand, about the company, about their role and their position as well. And so when you have all of those things in line, your messaging and positioning for how you're describing your value is clear.”
With branding covering so many things, as a CMO it’s important to think about your brand constantly.
For more on how leading CMOs build brands, check out our podcasts, articles, and presentations.
Yoni Solomon on branding
Yoni Solomon has been discussing branding on length on our CMO Diaries podcast. Follow the links below to check out his advice on how and why CMOs should be thinking about branding. Available as a podcast episode or a write-up of what we discussed.
Udi Ledergor on how he's built the brand at Gong
Yoni discussed brand building with Udi Ledergor, CMO of Gong, at our CMO Summit in May 2021. Check out the video OnDemand to find out how Udi has built one of the most exciting and popular B2B brands around.
Building emotional connections to your brand
The concept of brand loyalty is an important one as a CMO, whether your B2C, B2B, non-profit, or just about any other form of organization. You can engender a great deal of loyalty by providing top-notch products and service, but they don’t fall within the remit of CMOs. What CMOs can do to build brand loyalty is creating a brand that’s engaging to their audience.
An important part of this is building a brand that people can connect with on a personal level.
Humanizing your brand
According to Erin McLean, CMO of eSentire, a great way to do this is to humanize your brand and build it around the people who work in your organization:
“At any moment of the day, you can engage, you can find out what people's perspective is, and you can take part in that and share yours if you choose to.
“Brands are now kind of intermingling, the B2C/B2C space and we expect more of companies, we expect a level of perspective, we expect a level of just basic human kindness, and we're not as willing to accept indifference.
“We also expect our brands to opt-in, I think we expect companies that we want to engage with as a consumer base, even if it's in a B2B space, you need a little more, you need to know what's behind it, the why.
“Because I'll speak from a cyber perspective, it's such a busy market, there's so much business happening, there's so much M&A activity happening, and there are so many options that it truly is a privilege when a customer chooses you. And so you really need to explain who, what, where, why, how. And it fundamentally, at the end of the day, there's a lot of trust that is coming into a service provider relationship.
“And so the people are critical to that because you need to know who is behind protecting your business if we're acting as a true extension of your team. And it's funny because that comes in a little bit closer at the end of the funnel. Because you're actually engaged and you're talking to a customer, that's a hard message to get necessarily at the top.
“But you want to create a certain level of those people's stories as well when you're in the awareness phase. And that typically comes from thought leadership, sharing perspectives, making sure that you're informing the greater industry, and showing collaboration. I think that's really, really important.”
Make your coworkers proud of your brand
But there are more than just external benefits to building emotional connections to brands. Having a brand that the people who work under it can be proud of, feel connected to, and be excited about can go a long way towards aligning different departments and encouraging them to do better work.
As Yoni Solomon says:
“[Your coworkers want a brand] they themselves feel like they have a part in, and really, they're gonna help you promote and evangelize that brand if they feel like they have a role in it to play. And so not just in SLT, but across really all of the company, I wanted to make sure that people saw the direction we were headed in.
“They saw the messaging, they understood why we were making these decisions so that when we roll this out, everyone feels like this is a brand that we can wear on a shirt, we can put on our LinkedIn so that we can talk about and really promote to its full potential.”
Find out more about building emotional connections through branding in our podcasts and articles.
Erin McLean on putting people first when thinking about brands
Erin joined our CMO Convo podcast to discuss how and why eSentire is putting people first when it comes to their brand, with advice for other CMOs to do the same.
Hit the links below to either listen to the episode or read a write-up of what we discussed.
The role of CMOs when rebranding
At some point in your career as a CMO, there’s likely to be some form of a rebranding project. Whether it’s some slight tweaks to a logo, or a full end-to-end rework, there can be a lot to consider.
Important things to consider when rebranding
Yoni Solomon tackled a full rebrand early in his CMO role and has this advice.
“Even starting fundamentally with gut checking your new messaging and positioning, your textual storytelling, your content storytelling, versus the new visual brand and the visual story to make sure that the two of them align, to see that there's some consistency between both so it doesn't feel like you had on one side in a silo a team working on the coolest most innovative, most bold and daring branding and colors schemes that you can imagine.
“And on the other side, you have some, why don't we call it very corporate, very enterprise-specific messaging, and it just doesn't feel like it fits together. So first off, just looking at the full scope of your rebrand to make sure the content and visual story that you're telling are indeed consistent.
“Then beyond just the branding and the logos, and even the words that go on to the web pages themselves, if you will, I think it's really important for CMOs to not forget to really consider how you're gonna be presenting your [products].”
Check out our podcasts and articles on all things CMOs need to consider when it comes to rebrands.
Yoni Solomon on launching a rebrand
Yoni's first major project as a CMO was a full end-to-end rebrand of Uptime.com. He shared his experiences across several episodes of CMO Diaries.
Hit the links below to check out the episodes on what you need to consider when it's time launch the rebrand, and how an effective rebrand can set you up for future success.
Andrea Linehan on creating a new brand from a merger
A rebrand can be tricky enough, but what about when you're trying to rebrand two organizations at once? Andrea Linehan, CMO of Zai, joined us on CMO Diaries to discuss everything she and her team had to consider when producing a new brand from the merger of CurrencyFair and AssemblyPayments.
Hit the link to check out the episode.
The future of brands
Across B2B, B2C, and beyond, our customers’ relationships with and expectations for brands have evolved.
Particularly in the B2B space, which for decades has had the reputation of being the place for rather dull brands, there is a greater expectation than even for exciting, engaging brands.
Clearing away the clutter to focus on branding
This can be a challenge due to different demands on a CMO’s resources, but as Drew Neisser, CEO and founder of Renegade and founder of CMO Huddles, explains, overcoming this is essential in the B2B space.
Clearing away the clutter to focus on branding
“Once you build credibility with the C suite, then you can get them to see how marketing can be a huge factor for this company. That starts with having the courage to build a distinct brand.
“Here's the problem. CMO takes the job, the CEO says, “Oh my God, these are all the things that we need you to do.” The CFO says, “Oh, my God, you get two cents instead of 20 cents to do what you want to do.” The Head of Sales says, “I need 1000 leads tomorrow." The HR person says, “Do you mind doing the corporate comms? Because we're not very good at communicating to employees.”
“A great CMO clears away the clutter. They have this ability to identify top priorities based on the strategic plan of the organization. “These are my priorities for the next quarters, six months, nine months.” If it's not on that list, they're saying no. That takes courage.
“You [have] permission to say no, but you're doing it because you have a clear strategic plan, which you have an agreement with the C suite on. You've got agreement on the metrics that matter. And you're going forward with a primitively simple, but big picture thing.
“You have to drive revenue, there's no doubt you have to drive revenue. But how? You're going to drive revenue with some demand programs and a bigger brand idea than you currently have.”
The need for authentic brand values
But the need to evolve goes beyond B2B brands. The COVId pandemic has caused many people, whether consumers, B2B customers, or benefactors of a non-profit, to expect more authenticity and responsibility from their brands.
As Aki Temiseva, CMO of the non-profit Children Believe explains:
“I think there's definitely the word authenticity that comes in both industries and sectors now and there have been some great examples from the for-profit during COVID where companies who did those nice slogans of "we're all in this together" which is all nice. And maybe the first organization who said that was still kind of sweet and cute but then the fiftieth one that did that wasn't compelling enough at least.
“[They need to be] coming out and really showing that they do care about the values of that company and that those values were not created to attract more millennials to work for them, but they were actually something that they lived through.”
Gen-Z and brand authenticity
This need for authenticity and acting on brand values is only going to get more important as Gen-Z becomes more prominent as consumers and B2B customers.
Aidan Tighe, CMO of MOSEA, has this advice on brand authenticity:
“Companies that Gen-Z's seem to value a ton are authentic companies and companies that stand for a social issue. And I guess that kind of speaks on the authenticity and the trueness of a company.
“For example, clothing brands that say "if you buy a shirt we will plant 10 trees", those type of companies they're hugely successful and they're popular.
“Because Gen-Z social issues are at the forefront of all of media, so to stand behind a social issue and just be authentic and a true company as opposed to being fake and just in it for the dollars, I think that's kind of on its way out.”
Want more on the potential future for brands? Check out our podcasts and articles.
Aki Temiseva on empathetic branding as a response to COVID
Aki Temiseva joined us on CMO Convo to share how the COVID pandemic has created the need for empathetic brands that connect authentically with their audiences, whether you're B2C, B2B, or non-profit.
Follow the links below to either listen to the episode or read a write-up of what we discussed.
Drew Neisser on the need for exciting B2B brands in the future
We spoke to Drew Neisser on the CMO Convo podcast to discuss why it's more important than ever for B2B brands to be exciting and engaging, and why that need is only going to increase in the future.
Check out the links below to either listen to the episode or read a write-up of what we covered.
Aidan Tighe on how brands can connect with Gen-Z
Aidan Tighe is not only a CMO for a brand that's aimed at Gen-Z, he's Gen-Z himself, which made him perfect to discuss younger people's expectations and demands for brands in the future.
Find the links for the podcast episode and its write-up below.
Want to discuss branding with leading CMOs? Head to the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel!