Marketing with a Clean Slate

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This is the  first in a series of posts from one of our longtime partners Taan Worldwide - a global network of carefully selected independent advertising & communications agencies. Here one of their members, Mike Speck - SVP Creative at Mobium, an agency that specialises in B2B marketing strategy and member of Taan for over 15 years - dives into CLEAN SLATE BRANDS and their significance within the modern business community.

CLEAN SLATE BRANDS is a trend we published way back in April 2013, and explores how consumers continue to lavish love, attention and trust on brands without heritage and history - brands that are newer, better, faster, cleaner, more open and responsive. Three years on and these principles still remain; in fact, now more than ever, 'established' remains a byword for tired, if not tainted. 

Mike Speck, Mobium

Over the past year, numerous articles preaching that B2B marketers should be paying close attention to how B2C companies conduct their marketing have been published in blogs and online marketing journals. It’s as if the author thinks they just discovered the Holy Grail:

  • Did you know that emotion plays a big role in B2B purchase decisions? So knowing these emotional drivers will help you be more successful in reaching the B2B buyer. Duh.
  • Technology has put control of the purchase process in the hands of the B2B purchase decision maker (marketers are no longer in control.) Double duh.

Luckily Mobium, as well as a few of our smarter contemporaries, have been talking about these things for over 20 years. Guess we all just discovered the Grail earlier.

Consumer trends are worth watching, though

However, TrendWatching’s intriguing new book, Trend-Driven Innovation, offers some new thinking about how marketers - including those of the B2B variety - should look closer at trends that are affecting ways companies can be more innovative and successful.

In the book, they talk about today’s Expectation Economy which is “built on the convergence of three strands of customer expectations”:

  • rising quality
  • positive impact
  • personal expression

These expectations give the consumer “significant power and control,” while business, unfortunately, never seems to catch up to this “curve of accelerating expectations.”

All marketers (but especially B2B companies) should read this book and think about how the identified trends might apply to their business strategies.

For instance, take the TrendWatching idea of a “Clean Slate Brand”. According to the authors, “traditional brand theory suggests that history and heritage are valuable assets that lie at the heart of a brand’s ability to attract and retain customer attention.” In today’s Expectation Economy, the trend says consumers “are now as attracted (if not more so) to unproven brands and organizations as they were to established ones in the past.”

CLEAN SLATE BRANDS - Our Global Trend Briefing from April 2013

The consumer expects these new, Clean Slate Brands to be “more trustworthy, ethical and simply better than the established brands.”

In fact, the established brands (banks, fast food chains, big pharma) are now just another word for unsustainable, unresponsive, untrusted, un-this, un-that, etc.

A Clean Slate Brand is more than just a “new category” for the existing brand. It’s a brand that meets the expectations of the consumer through attributes that “are deeply embedded in their business models and practices from the start.”

As the B2B decision maker’s expectations continue to grow, B2B marketers should look at ways to develop Clean Slate Brands that are unencumbered by the legacies of their existing brands. Find unique niches that they can own and deliver newer and better brand experiences than what would normally be associated with their traditional (tired?) established brands.

That way, if existing brands can not offer rising quality, positive impact or personal expression – or at least the perception of each – a Clean Slate Brand can.

Yes, it is indeed an emotional decision for the B2B buyer and those emotions are often driven by their expectations – which today, according to TrendWatching, are more about rising quality, positive impact and personal expression. There’s a path being driven by consumer trends that we, as B2B leaders, need to be watchful of and take advantage as we guide our companies and their brands in the future.

Mike Speck, SVP Creative at Mobium, is one of many members of TAAN - one of the world's largest and most successful networks of carefully selected independent communications agencies. Operating since 1936, TAAN exists to enhance the intelligence, expertise, reach and effectiveness of their members, through cooperative learning and shared capabilities.

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