B2B and brand image

Harish Bijoor | Updated on September 20, 2012

In the B2B space, how important is the brand image of a company as it steps in to bag contracts? Is brand image really important, or is it a whole lot of bunkum?

_ Rohini Mishra, Bhubaneswar

Rohini, I have not heard the word ‘bunkum’ in ages! Refreshing to hear its use, especially in tandem with the brand word. There sure is a grain of truth in this.

Brand image is a sensitive tiger to ride. You must ride it for sure in the B2B space, but you should know when to get off without being eaten up.

Image is an adjunct of the brand. For a company at large, which has clients to be serviced and employees to be nurtured and kept within its folds, image is very, very important.

Take the IT services industry, for one. It operates in the B2B space. Companies in the space of end-to-end services, and companies that are dependent on employees as their basic business unit of delivery in terms of work, turnover, profits and margins, need to put their image centre-stage and manage it well.

There are companies that shun the limelight and take a complete back-end and shy stance throughout, and then there are companies that put themselves in the limelight. Take Infosys: It falls into the latter. Companies that fall in this bucket need to be extra careful — once you start riding the tiger of image domination in the space you occupy, it is very difficult to get off. In fact, you must never even try to get off.

I do believe this is the issue at hand with Infosys. Right from the beginning, the company has showcased its offerings, people, work and achievements quarter after quarter. It has been the bellwether of image in the Indian IT services sector. TCS, on the other hand, has been the exact opposite. Wipro was somewhere in between, gravitating more towards Infy in terms of image, rather than TCS.

In the B2B space, I do believe it is good to get things done and then show it all, rather than show things and then get them done.

When you are in the B2B space, it is important to appreciate that you need to manage your brand image in three buckets. Bucket one is the B2C bucket, which is all about showcasing yourself to investors and the public. The second is your image in the B2B segment, which is essentially your clients. Out here, it can manage its image well and differently. The third bucket is the B2E, or business to employee bucket. Out here, the fact remains that the image that persists in the B2C segment is bound to affect new recruits.

Sum of it all: when you are in the B2B space, brand image is important. Not bunkum. Brand image pays premiums in the medium- to long-term.

Is measurement a possibility when you use brand ambassadors to promote your brand?

_ Nischal Mitta, New Delhi

Yes and no, Nischal. Measurement is a possibility when it comes to the use of a celebrity as a continuous brand ambassador, rather than knee-jerk celeb usage. A classic case is that of Ustaad Zakir Husain as brand ambassador for Taj Mahal tea. It is the longest-standing use that has metrics of measurement clearly defined.

Today, brands use celebrities as disposables. There is a certain degree of short-term-ism, which cannot be measured meaningfully, except for the metrics of awareness creation — which is easily identified and credited to the celebrity used.

What is the advertorial all about? We see a fair bit of it in television as well now.

_ Suhail Rahman, Gurgaon

Suhail, the advertorial is essentially a tool used by direct marketing companies that use telemarketing to the hilt as the only way to market. The advertorial is all about taking a product story, and creating content that is elongated, circuitous and engrossing enough for the reader and viewer to pick his mobile and dial in and order on the spur of the moment. Never mind if he wants it or not. The idea of the elongated advertorial is to cash in on weak moments. In a half-hour slot where the brand is being touted again and again, the power of auto-suggestion is huge.

This is a grey area as of now. One can certainly expect legislation in this space. The late-night slot is also one that attracts a fair number of these advertorials. This is because of two reasons. The first is the fact that channels view these as off-peak viewership slots. The second is the fact that for products such as those advertised in these slots, this is an ideal time. You have the right, focused adult audience viewing them. Add to it the fact that the late night slot is drink-time in some homes. There is enough evidence globally that the late night drink-time slot is one where decisions to buy such products on offer are made rather quickly, with little rationale to boot. Hic!

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Published on September 20, 2012

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