The enduring premise of brand equity, as defined by David A. Aaker in the early 90s, relies on the ability of a business to grow and nurture:
Most firms are well used to influencing one or more of these five dimensions through their use of the traditional marketing mix. But an overreliance on these tools as the only remedies for a continuous growth of brand equity has never been a successful strategy for brand management in the B2B setting, because it ignores the contributions of personal interactions between employees and clients to a client’s experience with a firm. So for a long time, smart firms have also heavily invested in human capital, i.e. attracting and hiring the ‘best’ people for the job, and in ensuring that these individuals are well versed in the traditional means of relationship building through face-to-face business meetings, industry conferences and so on (‘relationship capital’).
The marketing mix was traditionally considered the province of the marketing department, while HR managed a firm’s incoming human capital, and BD managers and managing partners were relied upon to nurture relationships. Between these three functions, a firm could largely control the drivers of brand equity, but today there are activities affecting a firm’s brand that are literally out of the hands of its traditional brand guardians.
The new sources of capital
It is clear that the way in which firms connect with potential buyers and the market has changed. The internet is enabling conversations that were simply not possible in an era dominated by mass media, such that many buying decisions now start, progress, and in some cases even close online without any face-to-face meetings. The increasing online presence of firms and their professionals in response to this market demand means that there are now other inputs feeding the growth (or demise) of brand equity in the digital era, which firms must recognise and actively manage:
How connected your firm and its people are to the market in an online sense – and what contributions you are making in this space – is now contributing to brand equity, either positively or negatively. The question has become: how do your firm’s marketing activities strengthen your employees’ personal networks across social platforms like LinkedIn, and align these with the sales funnel, in a way that builds trusted relationships and supports meaningful discussions with the right people at the right time?
This post was contributed by Candice O’Sullivan, Director and Head of Strategy at Wellmark. You can find Candice on Google+ at +Candice O’Sullivan or follow her tweets on brand strategy, content marketing and related topics @candicepill.