The Lie of B2B Brand Advertising

Don't Believe the Lies T-Shirt“We will start with an awareness efforts for the four weeks. This will provide air cover and soften the market for our demand generation campaign.”

Theory, benchmarks and the wisdom of the marketing crowd would indicate that you have a sound strategy. This approach is common in B2B marketing, particularly for mid-sized marketers.

Unfortunately, when you dig into it, the strategy doesn’t hold water. It fails, consistently, for two reasons.

  • The biggest impact the limited awareness effort had was to make you and your team feel good. You were able to point to a few print pages or brand banners, but six weeks later, the change in awareness was nearly imperceptible.
  • You were never really focused on demand generation, your real focus was lead generation. After the campaign wrapped up, you judged it on the leads that were directly attributed to the campaign. If 30% of your budget went to awareness, did you get enough additional leads to justify the expense? No. Would you have been better off with more direct mail, content promotion or telemarketing? Yes.

The Awareness Campaign Lie

Companies like IBM and Coca-Cola have invested billions in building their brands. Google delivers millions of search results pages a day, every single one is another experience with Google and its mission to organize the world’s information.

These budgets and experiences contribute to a brand. A few million low quality impressions won’t make a dent. The average lift in brand metrics for an online campaign (available to clients of many of today’s online brand measurement providers) is just a couple of percentage points.

Consider this: is the difference between 50% and 53% awareness really going to make that big of a difference in your demand generation results? No. It won’t. (And we won’t even talk about the long-term impact when online results are measured within seconds of when your ad was seen!)

Awareness isn’t universally increased by your little effort. Perception isn’t universally changed. It almost wasn’t changed at all.

The Bigger Brand Picture

The cumulative value of a stronger brand is far more than the change in response to a demand generation program. It is more people who come to you, instead of you chasing them. It is better win rates. It is a higher bar your competitors must reach.

As you continue to strengthen the perception of your brand, through marketing and through the experience people have with your product and service, you will see these benefits.

These benefits are incredibly valuable, but a short brand campaign to kick off your demand generation program isn’t enough to move the needle. If you then judge that small brand effort on the increase in leads driven through your lead gen programs, you will almost certainly be disappointed.

Your Turn

Do you see marketers, or B2B marketers in particular, investing in brand advertising with unrealistic expectations for the impact it will have on lead generation in particular? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

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