September 28, 2021

5 Lessons in B2B Brand Development from Renegade Marketers

by Melissa Caffrey

Here’s to all our Renegade Thinkers out there. Those who’ve steered their B2B organizations to greatness through the power of marketing. Those who challenge convention at just the right moment. Those who inject everything that they do with the perfect balance of what makes any leader prodigious: Courage, Artful, Thoughtful, and Scientific (CATS, as Drew calls them).

With nearly 260 episodes under our belt, Renegade Thinkers Unite has been a steadfast source of innovative B2B marketing stories all about the how, what, and why behind their ongoing success. There are so many more marketing stories to tell, and we don’t plan on going away anytime soon. But it’s time to home in on the people who have made the podcast what it is.

Effective October 1st, 2021, the podcast will henceforth be known as Renegade Marketers Unite. In celebration, we’ve pulled together a list of 5 B2B brand development lessons we’ve learned from some of the most recent episodes of Renegade Marketers Unite. Check them out!

P.S. If you love these tips, we highly recommend checking out Drew’s new book, the aptly named Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands. The book (available for pre-order now, out October 6th!) is an amalgamation of decades of experience and 450+ interviews with the top B2B marketers out there and it goes far more in-depth into what exactly goes into growing a truly renegade B2B brand.

#1: Renegades never say die.

Don’t dwell on the negative; see it as an opportunity for success. In CMO Jennifer Houston’s interview, she shared that D-Wave had a massive B2B brand perception problem. A 30% negative brand sentiment in the market kind of problem. But Jennifer knew that the quantum computing brand’s technology was great, and she came in to embed the brand with a purpose that could unite disheartened teams, attract previously uninterested customers, and stand up against the big dogs like IBM, Google, Microsoft.

Jennifer was successful, getting that 30% down to less than 3% in the last three years. Here’s her take on it: “It’s good to be the underdog. It’s good to have negative things that you’re dealing with because it gives purpose to both why marketing exists, but also why the company together are going to solve problems. Instead of looking at them as woe is me and wringing our hands, let’s embrace the problems, let’s be loud from the mountaintops about the things we’re solving for, and let’s go do it together.”

#2: Renegades embrace the process.

CMO Amy Fuller’s interview was rich in insights into how to go about embarking on a big brand refresh. The key takeaway of overseeing Accenture’s “Let there be change” rebrand: thoughtfully curated brand purpose begets true differentiation. “Differentiation comes from the specificity of the language,” Amy explained. “It was really interesting to see what it takes for that to happen. You need the room of people who really know the place and the space and are brainiacs in their own right. Then to kick it around and sleep on it. Then kick it around again.”

That was her biggest learning during the whole process—to focus on inclusion of the process rather than how fast it could be done. When developing an everlasting purpose for ever-changing business needs, it’s up to the CMO to be deliberate, to include as many people as possible in the process no matter how long it takes. In Accenture’s case, they spent months on their new purpose, amassing input from all of their stakeholders in the process, including 54K employees. Since then, Amy shared that not only is the new purpose is reflected in every piece of work she sees, the company saw record-breaking business results in the last quarter.

#3: Renegades bring everyone along.

In mid-2020, a Renegade survey found that 80% B2B CMOs agreed internal communications were essential before launching a new campaign. But most spent less than a month on an internal campaign! That surely can’t be enough time to get everyone up to speed on the new brand, and there’s nothing worse than all of your employee functions telling customers different things.

To get ahead of the curve, CMO Heidi Bullock and co. spent an entire quarter certifying employees on the new brand, giving them ample time to get it right. “It’s just the most critical thing because, as you know, people don’t necessarily remember facts, but they remember a story, so we’ve got to get this right,” Heidi explained in her interview. “We continue to make modifications and we continue to make sure that people are certified. It’s a dynamic environment. Little things can change but the core is staying the same.”

#4: Renegades find the power within.

“Brand is internally focused, externally felt.” That’s the quote that Epicor employees would have heard numerous times from their CMO, Paul Stoddart, during their brand refresh process. As he explained in his interview, “Anything you do inside will be amplified exponentially outside, the good and the bad. For me as a CMO, I recognize that the reality is the brand experience that we have goes way, way beyond the brand team and the marketing team.”

Marketers need to think broadly to ensure that the brand discovery process truly reflects every corner of the organization. It is from here that B2B brands develop a brand promise that they can embed in everything that they do. That they can make it real for everyone who may come in contact with the brand (read: employees, customers, prospect). Keep in mind that this inward view also needs to keep the customer front and center—it’s all about what your brand stands for now and what it promises to be long into the future.

#5: Renegades forge new paths.

When CMO Shirley Macbeth walked on the job at Forrester, the new “Bold at Work” brand had just been established—it was up to her to lead the brand activation. Within a month of joining, Shirley brought some telling data to her CEO, data that showed Forrester was considerably underspent for marketing compared to the competition. Drinking the analytics firm’s own champagne, this bold decision grounded in data got Shirley an early win and the extra spend she needed to start to bring “Bold at Work” to life.

In her interview, Shirley went on to describe how she and her team made a heap of bold decisions, paring down their persona list from 20 to 5, with a dedicated portfolio of 15 product choices. To do this, Forrester had to intentionally walk away from a lot of opportunities, but, as Shirley shared, “It’s been liberating. It’s been scary to say no to something that is driving revenue, but when you see the greater opportunity of moving a dollar here but investing in something else that has more growth, that’s exciting for everyone.”