In 2021, Hummingbird embarked on an initiative to gain better insight into the attitudes and perspectives of marketing decision-makers with respect to branding. We partnered with Audience Audit Inc to design a study exploring how professionals think about the value of a strong brand and the characteristics they associate with strong brands.
Among 153 participants in our study, all had authority to make decisions about their brand’s marketing spend. But not all felt the same way about the importance of that spend.
Our study showed us that even the decision-makers who choose to make the investment have different attitudes about a strong brand. We found that they landed in three distinct groups: Brand Believers, Metrics Masters, and Disengaged Doubters. Let’s first look at the characteristics of each group and then unpack why branding matters and how brands can assess their strength.
Marketing Decision-Makers Attitudes About Branding
Brand Believers made up 35% of our participants. They’re the decision-makers who believe the financial investment required to develop a strong brand is worth it because a strong brand drives ROI.
Brand believers have a number of attitudes in common including:
- Having a strong brand is more important than ever.
- Having a strong brand is critical if an organization wants to be a market leader.
- Effective storytelling requires a strong brand.
- A strong brand is fundamental to driving word-of-mouth referrals and ROI.
- A strong brand has a big impact on:
- Overall company value
- The ability to hire and retain quality employees
- Our target customers want us to be involved in bigger issues or social good efforts that help others.
Brand believers don’t need convincing…They’re all in.
“A brand is the heart and soul of a business. It’s something perceived by others as well as controlling the inner workings of that business.”
– Brand Believer
Metrics Masters are the decision-makers who make a strong connection between brand strength and results. They track everything from target customer personas and customer journeys to competitive activity, and they emphasize improving brand strategy.
Making up 33% of our participants, these leaders say of their organizations, we:
- Make a point of considering impact on profitability when considering marketing initiatives
- Understand our target customer and have defined customer personas
- Spend time developing and improving brand strategy each year
- Do a good job getting the attention of our target customers, tracking key success metrics, tracking the impact of our marketing efforts, and tracking customer satisfaction and brand loyalty
- Identify and track activities of our competitors
- Have defined the customer journey and mapped out marketing initiatives to support every step of the journey
Metrics Masters believe in the value of a strong brand…and have the data to prove it.
“A brand is the forward-facing image of your company that you would like advocates to share in a referral situation.”
- Metrics Master
Disengaged Doubters are less likely to use brand strategy to guide their marketing communications.
Making up 32% of our participants, these decision-making professionals hold to several beliefs about branding:
- I’m not sure I know all the elements of a strong brand.
- Branding isn’t a topic I think about often.
- Branding is an old-fashioned marketing activity that isn’t as important for organizations today.
- Branding efforts are mostly a waste of time.
Very few Disengaged Doubters see their organization’s brand strategy as dictating the voice and style of their marketing initiatives…and very few say they know what it takes to achieve a strong brand.
“A brand is what customers say about you when you’re not in the room.”
- Disengaged Doubter
Why Branding Should Be a Top Priority
Approximately two thirds of our respondents believe in the value of a strong brand. But roughly 35% of final decision-makers for marketing spending are Disengaged Doubters. Remember these are the leaders who aren’t as familiar with brand development and are less likely to prioritize it.
That’s why it’s so important for marketing leaders to anticipate this issue and work to educate decision-makers in their organizations. A brand is not just a logo and colors…It's the values and culture of the company, and that’s what really needs to be explored.
By delving into brand strategy activities that uncover core values, customer insights, archetypes, voice, and brand persona, branding becomes more integrated with strategic planning and therefore more valued.
Here’s why doing the work of brand strategy is worth the investment of time and money.
- Branding increases business value. In 2021, we had a chance to catch up with business value expert Mike Leannah who emphasizes branding as a key to positioning a company for maximum value. And that’s what we believe at Hummingbird…Strong branding adds true transferable value to a business.
- Branding can help change the focus from the owner to the company. In the early days of a business, the owner is the face of the company. To build transferable value as a business grows, the focus needs to change to the company…Strong branding can accelerate the shift.
- Branding takes time. It’s a long game, and it's not accomplished when you have a logo, fonts, and colors in place. It’s not even complete with one successful ad or a total website redesign. When you invest over time, recognize your company’s core values, understand your customers, and more… You’re beginning to build a strong brand.
- Branding sets the stage for all corporate communications and marketing activities, so they integrate and support each other. Branding strategy provides a guide for both internal and external communications. It takes away confusion about your messaging and helps you present a strong brand inside and out.
- The branding process can help you better understand customer needs and wants, therefore allowing a company to focus sales on the right target, and more!
How To Assess Brand Strength
If branding is so important, how do you assess the strength of your own brand? We’ve put together four questions you can ask to start determining if your brand needs work:
- What’s our company’s reputation?
- How satisfied are our customers? Do people get what they expect based on what our branding communicates?
- Are our sales increasing over time?
- Do we have marketing standards in place so that we’re spending less time on marketing activities and those activities are more effective?
Whether you’re a Brand Believer, Metrics Master, or Disengaged Doubter, take some time to assess your brand strength today. And reach out to our team at Hummingbird if you find gaps in your branding strategy that you’d like to fill.