amazon-logoTSN Communications made some really good points in a blog entry it posted last week about web design. The bottom line is that form follows function; the look is dictated by what you want your followers to do when they are there.

I loved the line that “Buy stuff” isn’t exactly the right answer when it comes to what you want your visitors to do at your site. No, the more important thing is to have each and every visitor positively engage with your brand which may – or may not! – result in a sale.

Why? I made the point in a recent client meeting that we live in a social, shareable world, and this isn’t only social media, mind you. Think of review sites and even message boards – places where information, and links, are shared with abandon.

Would you be willing to sacrifice one potential sale to get a dozen more when a person raves about your site where they congregate online, especially via mobile?

A brand isn’t what you say it is – it’s what “they” say it is. Wherever they say it, online or offline.

I think the example of Amazon in particular is a good one when it comes to this equation. The design is clean, search functionality is simple, and it seems I can always find what I’m seeking – my end goal, which again, is not necessarily a sale. That even extends to the simplicity of the name, how it rolls off the tongue, and its color palette.

But how do you think Amazon became, well, Amazon? Word travels fast online, and by extension, offline. I myself have raved about Amazon in both arenas.

Another good example is Google, which has always had that simple, easy-to-use interface. The brand engagement has turned the Google name into Kleenex, a catch-all term for search. Really, who uses Yahoo! for search anymore? I use Yahoo! for email, but I’ll open a separate browser to Google a search term. (Note use of Google as a verb.)

Like TSN’s blog post said, “really cool” websites with lots of bells and whistles aren’t necessarily building the brand. It’s what visitors take away and say later that matters.

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Jared FogleI observed with interest last week the situation involving long-time Subway ad spokesperson Jared Fogle, and it became quickly apparent that this tale has implications for B2B brands.

Namely, take particular care when you choose to associate a personality as a spokesperson for your brand.

By now, you know Fogle’s story. He weighed more than 400 pounds in the late 1990s and lost a lot of that weight through a regular diet of Subway sandwiches. As a spokesman, a post he held since 2000, he was a real person – a believable guy who wanted to live a healthier life and found what worked for him.

And then, state and federal authorities raided Fogle’s Indiana home last week, in connection with serious charges levied against the executive director of his foundation. It’s important to note that Fogle hasn’t been charged with a crime himself, and that he apparently has fully cooperated with authorities. Nevertheless, Subway and Fogle have determined to “suspend” their relationship for now; USA Today had a good assessment of what that could mean going forward. I personally think that ship has sailed.

So what does all this mean for B2B brands? In my personal experience, such brands usually don’t often work with high-profile celebrity spokespeople for various reasons, primarily cost. But I have seen renowned industry personalities that represent brands. In the model-hobby industry, for example, many of the top radio-controlled car drivers and aircraft pilots are regular endorsees and spokespeople of the brands they use.

These aren’t celebrities. They are average people – like Fogle – who have an extraordinary talent to operate the products that these manufacturers make. But they are also people, who can be seen at their best and, quite possibly, their worst.

WSJ made the great point that the raid on Fogle’s home raised “the question of how closely brands should link themselves to individual personalities.” And that’s definitely a point to ponder for B2B brands. You may have a larger-than-life industry “name” that just loves your products or services. “Everyone” knows this person, so what better spokesperson could there be? Plus, the cost is usually right.

But my counsel is to monitor those people before, and especially during, a spokesperson relationship. Listen closely to what they say, and what others say about them. (Remember our credo here at Branding Bricks: A brand isn’t what you say it is – it’s what “they” say it is.) Watch what they do – how they conduct themselves, and how they interact with others. Are they gracious and a good listener, or opinionated and arrogant? Either way reflects upon a brand.

I’ve seen it where an industry “name” has their own agenda, and lets their personal biases become part of their narrative on behalf of a brand. The question is whether that brand supports those ideas. And if not, how should that be addressed? It can get sticky.

I don’t say all this to make B2B brands gun shy or paranoid about their spokespeople. Such relationships can make a lot of sense, and associate a brand with the success and/or thought leadership of an industry winner.

But as with most things, it’s better to be prudent and do your homework up front. That’s a lot easier than damage control later.

Image credit to WBLS.com

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Simple Messages Build Brands in Today’s Shareable World

June 28, 2015

I was making a presentation at a new client’s offices this past week, and we were talking about the importance of delivering key messages consistently, across all communications mediums, whether that’s a humble press release, an ad or a social media post. This is the lifeblood of not only PR and B2B marketing communications but […]

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Book Review: Romancing the Brand

June 7, 2015

My note: I’m always on the lookout for good, strong brand thinking and it looks like my Cameroonian colleague Patrick Mayoh is as well. This is a book I’d not heard of previously, but you can bet that thanks to Patrick’s review, I’m going to add it to my list of must-reads. How to make […]

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#BMA15: A Whole New Train of Thought: Delivering Customer Outcomes

May 27, 2015

Speak the customer’s language. Tell the stories that matter to them. Find the outcomes and then design a solution. Those were the key takeaways from this afternoon’s #BMA keynote from Russell Stokes, president and CEO of GE Transportation, a $5 billion division of GE, and Kristi Lundgren, a GE Transportation marketing executive, titled A Whole […]

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#BMA15: The Changing Face of B2B Marketing

May 27, 2015

Here’s a freaky stat: The average person spends more time online than TV and all other media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) combined. There is even statistical data to back it up, courtesy of Jim Lecinski, Google VP of U.S. sales and service: Digital time: 5 hours, 38 minutes TV time: 4 hours, 15 minutes Newspapers: 11 […]

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#BMA15: Stand Out and Win More New Business

May 27, 2015

Agencies have it tougher today than ever before to not only win new business, but to even be in the hunt. According to Steve and Robin Boehler from Mercer Island Group in their #BMA15 presentation this morning Stand Out and Win More New Business, there are four growth-limiting problems agencies face today: 1. It’s tougher […]

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An Ability to Connect the Dots Leads to Innovation, Brand Building

May 5, 2015

Just finished a remarkable little book which proved to me that the ability to innovate and thus build a brand – corporate, product, personal, etc. – comes down to processes that connect the dots. That was the point of Madan Birla’s short book (149 pp.) Unleashing Creativity and Innovation. “Groundbreaking new ideas are the results […]

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#BMA15: Listening Is the Zen Needed to Build B2B Brands

April 13, 2015

I just got my media credentials for the Business Marketing Association’s BMA15 B2B conference, slated for May 27-29 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, and I couldn’t be more excited. I guest-blogged at BMA14 and was amazed at how much I got out of the experience by simply by doing one thing: Listening. Sounds […]

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The Moral of Google+: Create Great Expectations

March 9, 2015

Gizmodo reported this week that it looks like Google+ is going to be split into two services, called Photos and Streams. So does that mean G+ is dead? Maybe not yet, the Gizmodo piece said, but “it does suggest that Google is moving away from the pure Plus branding, which suggests an overhaul may be […]

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