I just got back from the BMA annual conference in Chicago where at least half of the several dozen distinguished speakers were talking about the wonders of blogging. Okay. Okay. So maybe there is some value there. We’ll see.
For fifteen years, I wrote monthly columns for Marketing News magazine. It’s not easy having viewpoints worth sharing, although I don’t think that slows down many bloggers.
In my book, The Case For B2B Branding, I researched 21 case studies on companies that have done something significant with their b-to-b branding programs. I was fortunate to have dinner at the conference with a representative of one of those companies: Jason Cordova, director of strategic marketing for General Electric.
I told Jason that GE was my branding epiphany. More than ten years ago at a BMA conference in San Jose, CA, I heard Richard Costello, who at that time was GE’s manager of marketing communications, make this statement: “Last year, GE generated incremental revenues of $10 billion due to the power of our brand.”
I’m sure that statement flew over the heads of many people in the room that day, because we’re used to big company guys making statements with big numbers. But Costello’s words hit me right between the eyes. He said billion, not million. And he said “incremental,” meaning it just goes along for the ride. A bonus, if you will.
Later, as I was writing the book, I went back and looked up GE’s financials for the year Costello uttered those immortal words. Ten billion dollars was roughly equal to GE’s entire net profit for that year, so you can say without brand power, GE would have been a break-even company.
Since that time, I have discovered many other b-to-b marketers who have decided to put brand power to work for their companies. But the sad fact is most business marketers haven’t a clue about branding. They still think it’s all about having better widgets with better features and benefits.
Several speakers at the BMA conference were all over that myth. One of them, Joe Pine, has written and lectured persuasively about the commodization of goods and services, and about the need to move beyond that. He calls it the “experience” economy — that’s actually the name of one of his books. If you do a good job describing the experience customers can expect when they do business with you, they’ll pay for the privilege.
So in this blog space, I’ll be looking for ways to help business-to-business marketers understand the importance of branding and the rewards of doing it properly. Stay tuned!