Taking Your Brand from “We know who they are” to “We know what they do”

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CMO Spotlight: Philip Clement, Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Aon   

 Taking Your Brand from “We know who they are” to “We know what they do”As global CMO, Phil Clement has much to be proud of in terms of recognition for the Aon brand. By putting the company’s logo on the world’s most famous club, Manchester United, Aon is associated with one of the most passionately followed sports anywhere in the world. That is not enough for Clement. “We’ve done a really good job of developing an awareness of our brand. We also need to develop an understanding of what we do,” he says. “I’m hoping I can create a global dialogue around what I think is the best profession in the world.”

A vast majority of the general public confuses Aon with being a consumer insurance provider, when in reality it is a B2B risk advisory company that guides its clients on improving their internal insurance practices.

In April 2013, Aon signed a $240 million sponsorship of Manchester United for an 8-year period. This deal was an extension of an existing 2009 sponsorship of $130 million over four years where Aon’s logo was displayed on Manchester United jerseys. Clement says, “Manchester United is understood in every country.” Associating with the club allowed the Aon brand to be known in all these countries and paved the way for getting people to understand what the company behind the brand does.

As a B2B marketer, this is one of the biggest challenges—how do you make your target audience move from simply knowing you to engaging with you, buying from you, staying loyal and recommending you to others? Here is Phil Clement’s recommendation:

“In the B2B space, there are fewer conversations that really matter, and we know that those conversations end up being the way we are distinguished from the competition. We don’t have to be in every channel all the time. But we have to be in most channels in a very credible way. It makes it easier when it is one idea used across multiple channels, instead of having one idea for mobile, and one idea for social, and one idea for another channel.”

A big part of lead generation is getting mindshare. It is common to see consumer brands roll out marketing campaigns to be seen and heard everywhere. The logic is that if people see you “everywhere”, then when they are ready to buy, they tend to think of your brand as their first choice. The B2B mindset has traditionally been different, but it’s changing now with the increasing emphasis on B2P (business to people) or H2H (human to human) or P2P (person to person), or whichever acronym catches your fancy. B2B brands have to make a focused effort to be seen on the channels that matter to their audience but more importantly, to become involved in conversations their audience is interested in. That’s why you see successful B2B brands striving to build and maintain thought leadership.

Aon struck a chord through its branding exercise with Manchester United. “Having a globally established brand is important. The Manchester United sponsorship has been a big part of that because we can use the same team, same language, same sponsorship material, same explanation for what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and why we’re doing it across the world,” says Clement.

To say that competition for mindshare is tough in the digital world is an understatement. To be seen and heard amidst all the noise is an ongoing challenge. For AON, Clement proposes his metaphorical strategy that he calls CUTT—Compelling, Useful, Timely, Transactional—it is what the Manchester United sponsorship has done for Aon; helped the brand focus its energies. Getting mindshare across the globe with an audience that is interested in soccer is not easy for a B2B brand. The way Aon has sustained its voice around the world so successfully is an achievement other B2B companies can learn from. Imagine trying to hire and then train reps to go into every country communicating what your brand stands for. It would be a futile exercise for a company like Aon. Instead, by finding a theme that resonates with a global audience and using it uniformly (quite literally, on the team’s uniform!), Aon has scored the winning goal.

Clement advises, “It’s important as a marketer and an enterprise to understand how you’re perceived, the strategic value that you add, and if you’re creating value for your company and your industry.” How do you create this value?

Content marketing is one of the most effective ways to show your audience the value that you bring. Aon is primarily in 6 business areas – capital, data and analytics, health, retirement, risk, and talent. These tie in perfectly with Manchester United’s needs as an organization. How? “As companies, we know that access to capital is a big part of performing. A big part of Manchester United’s strategy is how access to capital plays out on the field. For Aon to be able to tell that story through football is much more interesting,” Clement says. Aon’s content marketing efforts revolve around telling the story of their B2B risk advisory’s expertise helping Manchester United. These stories are distributed through Aon’s online hub which explains how the 6 services the company offers relate to Manchester United. For example, the section on talent regularly publishes interviews with the team’s staff, including Kath Phipps, the receptionist at the Aon Training Complex. Phipps has spent the last 45 years with the team. What does that say for staff loyalty and employee satisfaction? A lot! So there are internal benefits as well, in addition to external brand enhancement.

I know what many of you are thinking—we don’t have the $240 million or even the $130 million to spend on sponsorships. Those campaigns are for global brands with deep pockets. True. However, even if you are a much smaller company, you do have a local community that is looking for something really interesting in their market. What is that common theme or language or event that you can make central to your content marketing and overall B2B marketing strategy? Is there a way for you to promote a strong brand message on the channels your audience is using to interact with their peers? Social media, for the most part, does not have to cost a lot of money. But I would not say it is free; there is a significant amount of planning, resources and time you need to dedicate for rolling out social media campaigns. You also need to measure the effectiveness and ROI at every step.

What is the equivalent of Manchester United in your local community? How will you tie your brand marketing efforts to a brand your audience already loves, respects and is emotionally involved with? If you haven’t thought about it, now is the time. Feel free to ask questions and discuss your ideas on my blog. You can also sign up for email updates.

If you enjoy reading this CMO Spotlight series, please share it. You can email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.   

Image credit: Shutterstock

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.

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