Brand Ahead Of Demand? Are You Crazy?!
Brand or demand? That was the question posed by Gyro HSR at its half-day conference on February 23rd, held in the gothic splendor of Manchester Town Hall. The global B2B agency had assembled an impressive range of speakers from its varied client portfolio; all focused around where marketers should be focusing their attention: building their brand or generating demand.
I thought the premise for the event was excellent, and the speakers offered some genuine insight and elaboration on the theme. Gyro HSR even managed to get Lord Heseltine (B2B by association of his involvement with Haymarket Publishing) to do a star turn, speaking about the future of the economy (good news: we’re going to be okay) whilst North America CEO Rick Segal offered some color and panache gleaned from his many decades of B2B expertise.
While I was very impressed with the standard of the content and the organization of the event, I was staggered and aghast when chair Richard Perry asked the audience for their view on brand versus demand: what did they think was most important? The response pretty overwhelmingly was in favor of the brand – at least two-thirds of the audience voted for it. To be quite honest, I was staggered by this response.
Were the marketers in attendance genuinely saying that when operating in a basket case economy (i.e., any in the western world) which has dragged itself out of recession by its fingertips… and looks likely to wobble back into the void at any point, they would instead go to the board asking for money to spend on a brand campaign rather than generating solid quantifiable leads which can demonstrate actual genuine revenue? So. I am quite honestly dumbfounded.
I’m not saying that brand isn’t essential: far from it. Any B2B organization that hasn’t thought through understood, and conceptualized its brand absolutely must go and do that straight away. The brand is the foundation of all your marketing. If you’ve not got this right, you shouldn’t do anything else. This much, surely, is obvious, and I would expect that any B2B company worth its salt is way past this situation.
But focusing on demand generation doesn’t mean you stop thinking about your brand, but for me, it gives you the weapons in your armory to deliver the business what it needs in time of crisis (which we are all still in) and makes marketing a core discipline for once. If this sample of marketers is representative, I’m personally worried about the future of the profession. At best, we’ll be forever thought of as the ‘coloring in department’ at worst, disenfranchised altogether. So come on marketers, wake up and smell the coffee. It’s time to get real, time to get measurable, time to deliver for your organization. And yes, that means embracing demand generation.
Having said all that: congratulations to Gyro HSR once again. Great event.