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B2B Journey Brands.

During a presentation about journey brands, I asked an international group of business leaders to raise their hands if they had a LinkedIn account.

Despite being there to discuss journey brands, almost all of them raised their hands.

I asked how many of them had posted something to their account that day. They looked at each other slightly uncomfortably, but no one raised their hands. I asked who had even looked at the posts from their network that day and a couple of people put their hands up. It wasn’t until we reached, ‘Who takes a look every month or two,’ that the majority of hands were in the air and I felt I had found the temperature of the room. Pretty chilly, for an Italian summer.

I was hoping to illustrate the divergent journeys of B2B organisations and their customers. At a presentation in the UK a couple of years ago, I asked business customers what most influenced their buying decisions. Everyone (everyone) said, ‘the internet’ generally, and 95% said they used social channels specifically to inform their decisions. The interesting part was that they expressly differentiated and prioritised social commentary ‘about’ the target brand, over corporate information directly ‘from’ the brand.

So the business people I was addressing in Italy were roundly ignoring what might be a key communications channel in B2B marketing, and, in the context of the rest of the market, could provide competitive advantage. They remained focused on their own product brand(s) while the customer is more interested in Journey Brands.

The traditional ‘bell-curve’ product lifecycle is flawed in a social world. The expected product lifecycle is development, adoption, maturity and decline. Using that model it’s inevitable that the business concentrates its efforts on the downward slide – managing decline, erosion, cost, churn, hoping for some product extension to slow attrition. It’s never been very positive or inspiring, but it’s been controllable by the business.

The customer, however, doesn’t give a shit about your downward slide or the countermeasures you may deploy to halt customer drift. They don’t give a shit because they’re not actually listening to you – they’re on a different journey. They’re gathering information and making decisions outside of the corporate machine – based on their own social experiences, not your product lifecycle.

How are you going to make me feel good about the journey I’m on with your brand(s)? The growth cycle of brands now depends on emotive response to triggers that are outside of the traditional marketing mix. Journey Brands are about value exchange, brand loyalty, trust, advocacy, reputation, relationship… the experience. In other words, all the things that the corporate struggles to control in a social world.

So how are you going to nurture and influence the customer journey rather than try to control it? How do brand awareness and the customer experience grow over time instead of hitting the slippery slope of product decline? How do you win hearts and minds instead of just trying to win market share? How do you build a Journey Brand?

If you need to discuss the detail, you’ll find me in the sunshine slugging Primitivo on a vine covered terrace somewhere along the Amalfi coast.

Did I say the Amalfi coast? Sorry, I meant email.

 

Scot McKee