Logistics marketing needs to speak to something besides what they do
The last time we worked with a logistics company, the CEO asked us, “So, why is brand so important in a Business to Business market space?” His reasoning was that in his business, in which proposals are as thick as the Guttenberg Bible, reasoning and data carry the day instead of an emotional connection. You
cannot overlook the emotional connection necessary when finding the strategy for logistics marketing.
What he soon understood was that brand gets you in the considered set – and, without a brand, it was easy for prospects to eliminate his company from consideration.
The idea he had with brand was that it only worked as a consumer strategy. Consumers have favorite brands that say something about who they want to be.
So, we buy a Lexus, for example, that tells us we are better than the rest. (As politically incorrect as that sounds, it’s an emotional aspiration for many of us whether we care to admit it or not.) Or we buy an iPhone because it shows we are ahead of the game. Or a Harley-Davidson motorcycle because we like to believe we are closet rebels.
Logistics Marketing and Branding Must Still Be Emotional
It works the same way in business-to-business because those emotional drivers – aspirational self-reflections – often determine who is considered and who’s not. In addition, what buyers in business to business marketing seek is affirmation, one of the strongest emotions that drive decision-making. Many fear making the wrong choices, especially when you have taken responsibility for a decision that affects others. It is the foundation of logistics marketing. (Read about work we did for New Breed Logistics here).
Once upon a time, the cliché in sales was that you couldn’t go wrong with IBM. That is, if you were ordered to find a new provider of computer equipment for your business, you could go through the vetting process, talk to a handful of companies and, in the end, pick IBM because who was going to question that?
For consumers and business people alike, affirmation reigns supreme. But it is even more of a driver in business because fear has such a strong pull when important decisions are made. You want to align with something that feels right for you and those around you, so that you can say, “They get it.”
If the brand feels wrong, then it’s eliminated from consideration.
It’s a little like this. In the early 80s, Bruce Feirstein wrote a tongue-in-check book called “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.” Even though Feirstein was actually mocking the idea, for years men wouldn’t be caught dead eating quiche. Even though it only contains eggs, cheese and ham on crust. It is basically a southern biscuit masquerading as a pie.
Nonetheless, the brand of quiche took a hit because it lost affirmation.
Branding in Business To Business Marketing
The same is true in logistics branding, that brands can eliminate themselves because some have a brand face (the reflection of the “customer”) that doesn’t jibe. (Read our case study on Trivantage logistics here) For example, one of the many mistakes logistics companies make is that they appear “dumb.” So many logistics brands are just about transportation. Yet, the reason to outsource those capabilities is to acquire “smarts.” Not steel and wheels.
Nonetheless, even logistics brand giants such as CH Robinson, Menlo, Expeditors and Kuehne & Nagel feel just like transportation companies (and most of them do have freight services). Meanwhile, others are getting smarter. Exel and DB Schenker focus on smart and technology, even if their messages aren’t terribly emotional.
“Smart” does feed into the affirmation of the right choice much stronger than simply sounding and looking and feeling like a trucking company.
However, there’s another step. If affirmation is a key trigger in being in the considered set, then why not make the reasons why it’s the smart choice so emotionally powerful that you are always in the considered set? (Read how to analyze a market here)
If you tap into the emotional reasons why “smart” is so coveted, then you have a brand that makes prospects incapable of not including you in the considered set. It becomes a real brand that’s is coveted, remembered and taken seriously.
This is the step most logistics companies don’t make. Even in the entire B2B market, few do. But the ones that do succeed: Xerox, NEC, Hewlett-Packard, FedEx, Intel, General Electric and others.