Investing in your brand can yield a long-term competitive advantage for businesses that operate in a B2B market. To shed light on this, researcher Tom Dolkens developed the Wheel of Five for brand value among B2B enterprises. “If you follow this model, you can increase your company’s brand focus under certain circumstances and gain a clear advantage over your competitors,” Dolkens says.
For many B2B enterprises, brand focus has long been ignored. Why is that? It is expensive and the benefits are not always clear, except in the case of high-performing companies. But things do not have to be this way according to Tom Dolkens, who will receive his doctorate today from Nyenrode Business University. The most important conclusion of Dolkens’ study: it definitely makes sense to invest in your brand focus. His research shows a correlation of over 40% between brand focus and long-term competitive advantage.
To effectively build your brand focus and actually benefit from it, Dolkens’ Wheel of Five includes the following requirements: first, your employees must be customer-focused and have a clear understanding of customers’ needs. That seems straightforward, but it turns out to be complex in practice. It is also important for employees to convey the brand values in their work and interactions. Third, the visual identity of the brand is key: examples include the font, color scheme and logo. The personality of the brand is crucial as well: how distinctive are the brand values for stakeholders? In addition, it is important that all of your organization’s stakeholders (customers, experts, employees, management, competitors) positively endorse the brand values in the same way, which is “where things often go wrong”, according to Dolkens. Finally, the brand values must be communicated in a consistent manner.
While brand focus is a piece of cake for B2C enterprises, it has never before been shown that the practice can also provide long-term benefits in a B2B market. Dolkens believes it is time for B2B branding to become a fully-fledged discipline. He therefore began his research in collaboration with NIMA and Stichting Techniek en Marketing. The study also reveals that the type of market and the network in which the company operates are determining factors in the level of advantage obtained. “The network concerns the position you occupy with respect to your stakeholders. The closer you are to their communication lines, the more effectively you can influence them and, in turn, the brand value,” Dolkens explains.
Dolkens expects to see a major development of tools to measure brand focus in B2B companies in the period ahead. By periodically monitoring the Wheel of Five, for example, organizations can use it as a management tool and accurately measure their long-term competitive advantage. “This whole model can be used in a way that is similar to the balanced scorecard (a method for measuring long-term objectives within organizations),” Dolkens says. It is also important to measure what goes in in the branding pool, specifically when it comes to the key actors around your brand. This pool, which consists of parties like suppliers and customers, has an opinion about your brand. If you want to influence that opinion, you must be well aware of what is going on and understand the behavior of your branding pool. “I anticipate that it will become increasingly important to use a variety of social media in this regard. If you know how to effectively use these channels to reach and understand your branding pool, you can maintain an even stronger brand,” Dolkens explains.