What makes a brand? Sounds like an existential question, doesn’t it? Only it isn’t.
On face value, you’d say a brand is a “product manufactured by a specific company under a particular name” if you go by the Dictionary. Dig a little deeper, and you know branding is beyond creating just an identity mark. It’s about how the world perceives your company and what it stands for.
But often times, brands fail the test of time, or there’s a mismatch between how consumers perceive a brand and how you want them to, or are unable to survive the competition. It’s at this juncture that brands need to introspect and change tack.
BAM (Brand Asset Management) model helps brands do exactly that. Whether you want to develop a new brand or reposition an existing one, the BAM model–developed by four international brand strategists—provides a strategic way forward.
This model is passed on by marketing agencies to their clients through a two-day workshop, which is followed by a collaborative development of the brand strategy. Based on the insights from the workshop and quantitative and qualitative research, the team develops the brand strategy.
I got the opportunity to be a part of the BAM workshop held in Milan, Italy, last year, conducted by one of the four developers of the BAM model, Rodger Jones, Director-Brand Strategy, Bader Rutter. In a conversation with this uber-organized, post-it obsessed, straight-shooting snooker-champ, I discovered first-hand how BAM is redefining brands.
Why has BAM become more important—and more relevant—for B2B marketers today?
The key challenges B2B marketers faced a few years ago have grown in magnitude today. They were, and still are: Globalization, commoditization, and competitive differentiation. These issues make BAM more relevant today for B2B marketers.
The initial version of the BAM was developed 13 years ago by four brand strategists from the USA, Germany, France and the UK.
What gap is BAM trying to fill for brands and what triggered the need for one more brand strategy model?
B2B brands face several challenges. An effective brand strategy helps with filling multiple gaps. For instance: It helps clients focus on positioning, key messages, and most significant audiences, ensure consistency of messages across all touch points, build market awareness and equity, build business results faster, and identify sustainable differences from the competition.
“Start with thorough screening and profiling of the decision makers before you attempt to sell the value of investing in branding.”—Rodger Jones, Director-Brand Strategy, Bader Rutter
The trigger was a recognition within the BBN group of agencies (an international network of agencies across 29 countries) that we had several, brand strategy models across agencies. So, the primary goal from the outset was to combine the best of the best from the most experienced practitioners. Another important goal was to create one unified model for global continuity throughout the BBN group. This would allow all B2B marketing agencies to provide the same best-in-class offering anywhere in the world.
BAM Model:What’s in it for Agencies
1. Differentiates agencies from their competitors.
2. Insulates agencies from competitors that are trying to poach accounts.
3. Positions agencies at a level of offering strategic consultation.
4. Creates a perception that agencies bring “fresh” thinking to the table.
5. Enables you to engage clients higher up the food chain (C-level).
6. Opens doors to larger clients.
7. Strategic thinking builds credibility for all services.
8. Brand development improves the effectiveness of marketing and communications.
9. Positions agencies to recruit and retain better talent.
Could you briefly explain the five modules and the benefit of each module? What real impact can it have on B2B marketing?
The model can have a real impact on B2B marketing in many ways. Increased revenue and market share, customer loyalty, profitability, clarity of vision, ability to expand into new product and service categories, and attract and retain high-quality employees, and decreased price sensitivity are some of its high-impact benefits.
“BAM helps brands focus on positioning, cater to the most significant audiences, build market awareness and equity, provide business results faster, and identify sustainable differences from the competition.”—Rodger Jones, Director-Brand Strategy, Bader Rutter
The BAM model comprises five modules to address key needs in B2B branding. To understand each, it’s important to look at the fundamental question that each module is answering. Then look at the key benefit delivered for each:
Discovery: Where are we and why?
Benefit: Key insights on the business, brand, target groups, marketplace, and competition. This module examines the current state of the brand.
Future Identity and Position: Where do we want to be?
Benefit: Brand identity and position to support the business strategy. This module focuses on where the brand wants to be in the future.
Portfolio Strategy: What role should each offering play?
Benefit: Organize and structure the brand’s entire product and service offering for synergy, prioritization, and elimination of duplication.
Audience Needs: Who is our audience and what do they need?
Benefit: Audience identification, prioritization, buyer’s journey insights, and targeted main and supporting messages.
Internal Activation: How do we align and guide?
Benefit: Determine behaviors that will enhance the brand and ensure consistent delivery of the desired brand impression.
Could you give us an example of a client who had a challenge that needed BAM’s assistance?
In the last 13 years, BAM has reshaped brand strategy for multiple organizations. One of them was a large global leader who wanted to establish aggressive growth goals. But they could not realize them through internal innovation and development. So, they purchased multiple companies in the same, or adjacent spaces. This created the need to develop a new brand portfolio strategy and new positioning.
We started with discovery to analyse the competitive landscape of the brand, and conducted interviews with customers and internal stakeholders to determine how they perceived the brand. It revealed what positioning spaces were open in the market and the current external and internal perceptions that needed to change.
BAM Model: What’s in it for Clients
1. Helps clients focus on positioning, key messages, and most significant audiences.
2. Ensures consistency of messages across all touch points.
3. Builds market awareness and equity
4. Provides business results faster
5. Identifies sustainable differences from the competition
6. Enables success in marketing products in a commoditized marketplace
7. Helps clients demand higher price, or reduce price resistance for their goods
8. Builds a sustainable emotional connection with customers
9. Builds customer trust and loyalty
10. Loyalty leads to annuity: Lifetime customer value
Next, we employed the portfolio strategy module to sort out the acquisitions, assign roles and relationships and to prioritize brands. Plus, we had to transition company brands to become product line brands. And help transfer the emotional commitment employees had from their previous companies to the new parent company.
“It is important to clearly explain how the BAM model is designed to align with client needs. Start with needs, then diagnose how BAM can be applied.”–Rodger Jones, Director-Brand Strategy, Bader Rutter
With an established portfolio, we then created the desired future identity and position for that new portfolio. This helped the client define how they wanted to be viewed in the market and in the minds of their customers.
Then we created key messages to shape the desired perception among key audiences.
What’s the difference between a BAM Smart B2B organization and a non-BAM Smart one? What would you say are the three characteristics of BAM Smart companies that sets them apart?
We consult with a wide range of clients. Some embrace the principles and practices of B2B branding. Some are interested but lack a commitment for the long term. I believe some characteristics of organizations that make branding work for them would be:
- See brands as business assets that require attention and investment.
- Employ experienced staff with extensive knowledge and devotion to branding.
- Have the courage and conviction to invest in and implement marketing that builds brands based on a sound strategy and plan.
The question in most people’s minds when
they attend a BAM workshop is: How do I sell this to a client? How do you
answer the ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ question for both B2B marketers and their
I believe there are several factors that can convince clients on investing in creating and implementing a brand strategy. Just look at the characteristics of companies that understand the value of branding that I mentioned earlier.
Quite frankly, if the client does not recognize their brands as business assets worth investing in, it will be a tough sell. Can you convert a non-believer? Sometimes. But it takes patience and requires a higher acquisition cost. So, start with thorough screening and profiling of the decision makers before you attempt to sell the value of investing in branding.
BAM Model: What’s in it for YOU
1. Positions you at a level of offering strategic consultation
2. Enables you to engage clients higher up the food chain (C-level)
3. Expands your “toolbox”
4. Expands career opportunities
Next, it is important to clearly explain how the BAM model is designed to align with client needs. Start with needs, then diagnose how BAM can be applied. Consider each module and all respective tools. Then clearly articulate the deliverables they will get. The model is structured to be easy to understand and show tangible deliverables at each module. Then, you can explain how investing in a brand strategy process that results in clear, actionable deliverables can provide many benefits.