Forrester: Your Brand is too important to be left to Marketing


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The late Dave Packard, co-founder of HP, once made the observation that “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department“. Having just listened to a presentation by Forrester VP Nate Elliott, I’m inclined to add that your brand is – equally – far too important to be left to marketing

Forrester LogoNate’s presentation can be found here. Both of these attitudes run contrary to traditional approaches to marketing and to your brand. But those traditional approaches – which were fraying at the edges even when Dave Packard made his remark 50-odd years ago – have been rendered completely obsolete.

It’s all about the experience

They are obsolete because in today’s world, what your prospects think of you has got very little to do with the messages your marketing department broadcasts, and everything to do with your prospects’ and customers’ experiences of your organisation, your offerings, the people that represent you, and the feedback they get from others.

Marketing, as Nate points out, used to be about “making promises and hoping”. But any failure to deliver on the brand promise has a far larger and wider impact today. Take one example: David Meerman Scott recently reported on being regularly spammed by BMW, a brand that many of us hold up as an icon of consistent brand values.

The genie is out of the Twitter bottle

But by failing to respect their customers, and by compounding the problem by not implementing requests to unsubscribe from unwanted messages, BMW have alienated themselves from a growing number of fans – and the word is spreading. Once the genie is out of the twitter bottle, it cannot easily be returned.

Not just about social media

This is not just about social media. Your brand is intimately associated with every experience and every interaction your prospects and customers have with your organisation. One careless, thoughtless act can ruin years of careful reputation building. One inept sales conversation can loose a deal. One bad product experience can compromise a lifetime’s potential customer revenue.

A wolf in SaaS clothing

I want to share an example that a number of clients have shared with me. SaaS (Software as a Service) isn’t just – or even largely – about a type of technology delivery. Increasingly, it’s about a complete approach to delivering a positive customer experience. Established software vendors that – in an attempt to jump on the bandwagon – are slapping SaaS lipstick on a conventional business model pig are completely missing the point.

The real SaaS leaders – companies like and Hubspot – understand this very well. But latecomers to the party – and I’m going to single Oracle out for particular attention here – seem to be getting it spectacularly wrong. Quite apart from crafting what are possibly the world’s most boring corporate presentations (a crime against humanity by itself), clients tell me that Oracle are failing when it comes to the total user experience associated with many of its new SaaS services spectacularly wrong.

All about the experience

Real Software as a Service, I suggest, isn’t just about whether your technology happens to tick a series of often-arbitrary product capabilities. It’s also about how easy it is to buy, install, use and enjoy. In short, it’s about delivering a superior user experience. It’s about removing any and all barriers to success.

It’s about being able to explore the capabilities of the offering through a variety of different means, including self-service. It’s about having an informed discussion about capabilities when you need to. It’s about being able to sign up for a trial with a few clicks. It’s about making it easy to start small and grow. It’s about eliminating the barriers to entry. And it’s about making it easy to experience early success.

Very little of this, you’ll note, is about technology, or about the product. It’s very much about the entire end-to-end user experience. And that’s the bit that a lot of traditional vendors seem to stumble over. They just haven’t thought about the user experience from the right perspective. And until they do, however much money they spend on marketing (or however much their sales people spend on their suits), they will continue to miss the point and miss the mark.

What values would your customers associate with your brand?

I’d encourage you to think about what values you want your customers to associate with your brand. How are those values reflected in the quality of your conversations and interactions with your prospects, and in the experiences of your customers? And, as 2012 approaches, what could you be doing to ensure that your brand is being reinforced in everything that you do?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bob Apollo
Bob Apollo is the CEO of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the B2B sales performance improvement specialists. Following a varied corporate career, Bob now works with a rapidly expanding client base of B2B-focused growth-phase technology companies, helping them to implement systematic sales processes that drive predictable revenue growth.


  1. The premise makes great sense, and as Bob points out, it’s not new. However the concept shines a light on the soft underbelly of most companies; marketing is the only group that faces the customer. The rest of the organization is busy focusing on the internal organization.

    Watch executives visit their sites or stores. Who do they spend time with? Their managers, some employees, they look for cleanliness and physical plant standards, review inventory, etc. Why don’t they spend 2-3 hours with the customers at each location.

    It’s more than just the brand is too important to be left to marketing. The entire company is too important to be left to marketing, but until we learn how to run our operations differently, marketing will be the only group with the skill sets to meet the challenges of facing the customer.

  2. Bob, your article is spot-on, particularly the statement “Your brand is intimately associated with every experience and every interaction your prospects and customers have with your organisation.”

    While marketing has an important role in branding, particularly in how the brand message is constructed and delivered, it is crucial to remember that a key aspect of branding is “congruency.” The brand messaging should always accurately reflect what customers experiences when they do business with you. That is why brand promises like “best service” or “best quality” are seldom taken by consumers at face value.

    Chris Ryan
    Fusion Marketing Partners

  3. the sooner we see an end to these blog posts the better!

    My assumption being that if no one is writing about marketing screwing brands for the umpteenth time then perhaps they will have learnt to leave branding to the experts and not the ad agencies who don’t understand ‘brand touchpoints’ or how to ‘leverage’ the brand beyond one campaign to the next.

    Strong brands are like life-long friends. They act with loyalty, consistency, support and honesty. Sure you might encounter a friend of a friend who is exciting and pretty ‘wild’. But in the long run this person will leave the group, most likely we won’t see them again for a good few years, at which time when we do stumble upon them they will have changed to a new incarnation of who they once were – still unsure of who they really are.

  4. I get the general point, but if you continue to read the entire blog post on BMW, you will see that BMW did respectfully respond. The real story in that blog is to see the reactions before the response from BMW and compare them to the responses thereafter.

    A good example of using social media in a service touchpoint. Imagine the powerful engine they have behind this, something that allows them to scan social media, blogs, forums, and find these kinds of issues.



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