Category Archives: B2B Lesson Learnt

How to create immersive B2B customer – brand experiences

B2B purchasing decision making processes are far from being completely rational or purely fact driven. In fact, various studies confirm that even the most critical B2B decision making processes rely on personal value attribution or emotional value components. Some studies find that up to 70% of B2B decision making processes are emotionally influenced, even in commodity type pricing situations.  
With up to 50% or more of the decision making process being completed before the average B2B buyer engages with you sales representative (= wake up call to revise your content marketing strategy), it seems invaluable for B2B brands to create highly personal and or emotionally powered customer experiences.
Apart from many great examples of emotional branding, such as GE’s Ecomagination or even Maersk’s entire social media presence humanizing the brand, one widely under-deployed method is to excite your customers. That’s right, don’t put them to sleep with endless whitepapers or an automated triggered email for every click they do on your website but excite your customer base with either highly engaging content or even experiences that leave a mark and position you clearly in the mind of your customer base.

Some of the later are Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) applications. With the earlier I have been playing around since 2010 / 2011 augmenting various products or otherwise hidden processes for customers. With both enhancement on the hardware and also software (creative) side of things, it is now possible to create stunning and life-like augmented reality applications that allow the visualization of your product in completely new ways. There are by now almost infinite examples from the B2C, lead by the IKEA augmented reality catalogue or Lego’s augmented toy boxes. In the B2B world, you will however also find examples of industry giants like Bosch employing AR to their automotive product palette. For ingredient branding type products, AR concepts can help to showcase product on a system and functional level, thus greatly enhancing your sales argumentation by visualizing complex product features. This does not only allow your sales team and customer to engage on a completely different level, it also engages your customers’ inner curiosity to explore more.

The heart of engaging technology today is however, in my opinion, Virtual Reality. VR concepts allow a new level of customer immersion that has seldom been the case for B2B companies with somewhat limited budgets compared to their B2C colleagues. VR enables to transport distance (e.g. our latest example: a factory tour), experiences (e.g. product demonstrations or walk throughs) or size (well, how would you want to exhibit your newest excavation digger in expo hall 2?) with relative ease. More importantly however, it can almost be guaranteed that your customers will experience your products or services in a completely new and innovative light, often combined with a big smile on their face (yes, your initial success measure and great customer generated content if you ask for a few testimonials right after the VR experience).

The experience I have made with both technologies has been outstanding and very positive. Production costs for both are steadily decreasing with more knowhow on the agency side and an increasing number of providers for both technologies. Thus your MROI will also not be penalized (if you are among the 25% of B2B’s measuring your MROI at all). Both applications can be greatly developed within your live event budget but instead of being one off stunts, costs can be activated for continuous use over multiple quarters, thus creating a sustainable, up-dateable and very exciting customer facing application.

If you have any good, exciting B2B examples of this sort, please share below.

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What marketers can learn from 80 billion watched adult clips on one site

Pornhub, a streaming portal for porn has just recently publicised its 2014 site statistics. Despite the fact, that almost nobody on this planet would openly admit watching porn; almost 80 billion viewed clips (which statistically sums up to roughly 11 clips per human being on this planet) suggest something quite different. Before you run off now to delete your browser history, I am more amazed about what these statistics reveal about user behaviour overall and on a country level. On a side note, one has to give the Pornhub team credit for not only having established a major site in global porn consumption but for running the site and all its adjacent media on a high level of professionalism, e.g. the usage of social media, blogs and other features, that deliver funny, relevant and actually interesting content.

Here my key learnings:

1. Behaviour reveals the truth: when it comes to defining customer centric messaging, positioning strategies or product placements, observing displayed customer preferences through hard actions (no pun intended) allows marketers to not only assure high relevancy of marketing actions for the assumed target group but also an increase marketing effectiveness. Surveys, no matter how great, expensive and professional, do never reveal real underlying drivers. Digital data is thus of great help to penetrate the customers mind, understand root causes and determine action triggers. #Pornhub relevant fact: despite the steady global increase in online porn access, it is noteworthy to have a closer look at national key search terms. Despite the US, almost every country revealed a high national focus in search terms.

 2. Mobile is the king, yet privacy demands tablets: globally, particularly in less developed countries with holes in its telecommunication infrastructure, the spike in mobile usage demands an undeniable rethinking of media channels to target customers. Whilst the desktop driven Internet access was the preferred 24/7 channel a few years ago, it`s important to note how consumers change channels, screens and devices throughout the day. To reach consumers effectively, a continuous channel switch might be necessary to stay in the consumer`s mind and assure high message relevancy at the point of purchase. #Pornhub relevant fact: both mobile and tablets see an increase, which is inline with the overall global rise of mobile / tablet driven computing or media consumption. Yet, I hypothesis, that due to the nature of the consumed media (porn), tablets show a higher increase which is probably in line with their location of use (in-house), vs. on the go mobile media consumption. I am contrasting these statistics with the latest Comscore data on mobile marketing statistics.

3. Relevant content is king: Pornsites have probably the highest relevancy to its access groups, if one excludes personal preferences within the broader definition of porn, in the WWW. Why you ask? Well, they promise porn, deliver porn and people accessing them, are probably looking for… right: porn! The level of surprise is fairly low, the promise to the consumer is most likely kept and to top it off, most user probably leave the site with a positive experience. Marketers need to ask themselves, if broad content spanning sites which are created for multiple target groups can still be relevant in a generalist way. Investing in SEO and thus reducing bounce rates by increasing relevancy of the first point of contact might be one amongst many solutions. After all, one of the major access point to the web, particularly in the B2B environment are search engines. Instead of shoving traffic to your “about me” page or an index error message, linking to relevant content site on a search pattern basis is highly recommended. This becomes particularly interesting when investigating large B2B web profiles. #Pornhub relevant fact: user expectancy = site delivery = porn

4. Statistics are cool: Most companies I have yet had the chance to interact with base a lot of their actions on assumptions or the fallacy of experience. B2B, particularly industrials, are prone to assume that 20 years of industry experience make up for not having or not understanding the use of data. If it weren’t for privacy reasons, pornhub could probably go down on an IP basis to reveal all sorts of data. Thus recurring visits, duration between visits and average site duration, correlations with search terms and and and… which B2B business has access to that sort of data? Well, almost all, but data collection is still not seen as a top priority in many firms, particularly not if business practices involve a high percentage of relationship building tactics. Just ask about your web demographics and or connecting the dots from the web to your CRM… #Pornhub relevant fact: Pornhub serves not as a silo platform but links to full scale porn content on other pages, thus the more pornhub can learn about visitors, the more relevant the site can become, the higher its conversion rate for partners, the more $ it makes.

5. Glocalisation rules: We live in a globalised world, yet national interest, cultural heritage and other factors do still play a role in purchasing decision making. It is for a reason that supermarkets increasingly advertise local produce to consumers. B2B`s do yet again mostly discount this fact. Thus a costumer in China has to view the same or similar content to a customer in Europe or even North America. Although one can assume a more professional purchasing decision making process, underlying drivers, particularly non-rationals to make up for missing data in the decision making process, are being subconsciously influenced by cultural factors. #Pornhub relevant fact: Despite the US, all major countries by access numbers reveal a high level of national search terms.

6. Don`t scare customers with insights but be brave enough to make use of them: if you have continued to read this article after your cache cleanup, you will have probably noticed or thought about that Pornhub could have gone in much further detail on a country level, probably down to individual IP`s. Don`t worry, it would be a fatal error for Pornhub to go that far, as the key point of their statistical review is not to scare users away but to provide them and the general public with the confidence to access a highly professional site while having social affirmation. As the saying goes “a million flies can`t be wrong – eat shit”, social affirmation works in porn as well as in other business. Thus the key is not to tell your customer that you were surprised about his Sunday night reading habits of your email but to build necessary conclusions and work with statistical data to your advantage. Did you know, that 75% readers of this blog seem to have a very high level of education? Charming, ha? #Pornhub relevant fact: the use of both movie ranking and viewer statistics is a smart move to give other users an easy selection of good content based on social rating schemes. Every B2B should have enough data to highlight its no 1 product in 2014, Q1 or of all times – the only difference to Pornhub however is, that Pornhub is already working in porn, it has crossed the boundary of society, which I assume does also lead to quite some freedom for its marketing team in the content creation space. You won’t have that freedom in your company as product managers, sales mangers, general managers and the rest of your team will state their biased opinion, which are most likely entered around reducing risk.

 

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From #classification over #segmentation to #extrapolation

Many B2B organisation have grown a very loyal customer base over time. Usually, this is a good thing. Achieving customer loyalty is amongst the top goals for marketers in almost every organisation. Particularly in B2B industrial settings or niche industries with an oligopolistic structure, market players often grown and nurture these relationship over years. It is seldom that organisations in these industries apply Customer Relationship Management (CRM) methodologies or some form of customer analysis, mostly due to the lack of knowledge, the growth path of the organisation, the missing intrinsic driver for adoption and in many cases, missing external influence through cross-industrial employee fluctuation. Over the course of my career, I have experienced various of these organisations already with often stunning rationals as to why customer analysis has not been applied; yet buzz words like CRM or Key Account Management (KAM) often surface in presentations. One could of course start a philosophical argument whether a rigid CRM application depends upon formalised methods or tool or if uncodified knowledge is good enough to run a business which has obviously grown successfully over the years. Despite the weight of the growth argument, many businesses will find unprofitable customers once digging into a customer base analysis. A change in the external environment, e.g. through a change in competitive forces, directives or product innovation often confront these businesses with sales and cost pressures demanding changes in the way they conduct business.

The shift from “business as usual” to some sort of analysis driven customer management is often initiated by way of customer classification, which often finds the wrongfully attributed label of segmentation. These classification are usually done on an aggregated level to resemble ABC analysis. With a growing customer base and or increasing environmental complexity, these classifications are however not enough to streamline customer efficiency programs and or to help businesses increase their bottom line contributions. A shift from classification to traditional segmentation is the logical next step. Approaching segmentation efforts challenges organisation on 2 levels. First, the segmentation model has to be created and can hardly be copied from an existing blue print. This means that various stakeholders in the organisation need to come together to identify value defining parameters for an initial segmentation model. Furthermore, these models need to be tested, deployed and run for some time to validate underlying assumptions and assure high cause effect correlations of the model to the organisational value creation process. To achieve the later, organisations need to face a second challenge which is as much about system change as well as cultural change. To support a segmentation model, it is very likely that the aforementioned organisations, do not have supporting CRM systems to allow a data based segmentation effort. Defining system requirements and locating third party IT resources is the easiest of tasks, yet assuring the buy in of key stakeholders is a completely different challenge. The cultural change most organisations need to go through is hardly quantifiable; yet it will determine the success or failure of such an endeavour and should thus not be neglected. External project stakeholders, e.g. consultants, are however usually less likely to touch this subject due to its very intangible nature and thus difficulty to capture its essence in form of project budget requirements. A savvy marketing manager should nevertheless be aware of this challenge and factor in adequate time to engage all necessary stakeholders in the organisational change process.

Once this is achieved, an extrapolation of existing customer data to market potentials is the next step to extrapolate lessons learnt, existing segment strategies to other likely market targets to further streamline efforts and optimise the use of resources. This requires further customisation of CRM systems to shift from static to dynamic models. As with the segmentation implementation effort mentioned above, it also requires various internal stakeholders to be ready for further change processes to amend both service levels, product offerings, sales and marketing efforts to identified potential and existing customer segments. Codifying such a change into organisational processes demands further internal process review cycles and disciplinary structures to enforce the change in process setups.

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#breaktheinternet for brands without big bu(dgets)

Kim Kardashian just came out with a cheeky headline in one of her latest front covers; suggesting her rear side could ‘break the internet‘. A surely ambitious endeavour, even for a celebrity of her status. Juicy photos of Kardashian`s most valuable asset surely helped to partly do the trick. More can be viewed on the celebrities social channels, e.g. Instagram. Side note, with a little over 21 million followers in Instagram alone, Kim Kardashian managed to build a solid social follower-ship, which amassed roughly 0.5 million views of below`s cover page in her Instagram feed alone. To contrast, some major global brands, e.g. Nike with an in-house social media team and a multimillion dollar social media budget, have a “mere” 7.8 million followers in Instagram. Microsoft`s official channel clocks in with 15K followers… this should really put Kardashian`s backend achievement into perspectives based on the free media coverage she (and her agency) managed to unlock.

Frontcover Kardashian #breaktheinternet

 

What can and should brands learn from this? Has Kim Kardashian`s attempt to #breaktheinternet failed?  Some websites discuss the success of Kardashian`s ambitious attempt to break the internet, such as the Wall Street Journal, comparing total #breaktheinternet tweets with #cometlanding.

I do argue, that despite the failed attempt to the break the internet, thanks to all forces involved, Kim Kardashian surely boosted herself into each major press outlet on this planet and made the headlines from the Time to countless others.

Without having Kardashian`s natural social media follower-ship, most brands will struggle to get the free media attention Kardashian assumed over the last couple of days.

Nevertheless, a few brands stood out by taking advantage of the Kardashian stunt to propel their brand into the discussion and surely score some new fans.

Advertising week listed a few top brand reactions, a few of which I believe are worthy to being mentioned again.

The most outstanding brand reactions are clearly shared amongst Nissan, JetBlue, Jolly Rancher, the Metropolitan Museum and Budweiser. Scroll down for some of examples – Nissan is my clear winner, followed by JetBlue and Jolly Rancher.

What all these brands however have in common is a to react timely with relevant content in the right media channel. If one wants to argue about the headline of this blog entry, one could of course say, that all brands mentioned will have a reasonably sized social media budget. Nevertheless, the above effort could very well be done on a budget. Social media monitoring tools are available on a paid and freemium basis, which allow brands to monitor for high engaging content.

The crux however will be to react timely upon this discovery. E.g. if MarCom needs to get sales, legal and or IR approval before being able to take any action, any endeavour of this sort is almost surely doomed to fail. Establishing brand guidelines for the social media follow up space might help to get stakeholders on board and assure a timely reaction and thus a ride along this freely available media attention.

Content and channel are almost self-explanatory. If Twitter goes crazy, no sane social media manager would attempt to shift the attention to another channel. So engage in Twitter, as all brands below did. Shoot for brand exposure and brand attention and not for channel conversion. This assures that your content is likely more relevant to the wider audience in reach and does not stir up an advertising aversion or even a messaging conflict in that matter.

Budweiser`s reaction to #breaktheinternet

 

Jolly Rancher`s reaction to #breaktheinternetNissan`s reaction to #breaktheinternet

JetBlue`s reaction to #breaktheinternet

JetBlue`s reaction to #breaktheinternet

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The value of internal communications to tighten the identity – image gap

I have recently given a seminar  about the basics of communication to an IT department of a large multinational organisation. Like many internal service providers, they were struggling to be accepted by the organisation as a value providing business partner. This manifested itself in late project inclusions from the business side, political in-fights, a misunderstanding of the value of IT to the business and worst of all, a continuously decreasing self perception of IT staff.

Within the first day of the seminar, it became clear, that the gap of self to outside perception was much attributed to the department’s missing strategic alignment. Whilst a change in the departments top management has already brought some noticeable and positive change, the overall direction (vision & strategy) of the department was however largely unknown to workshop participants. With that, any outside reflection, argument or negative notion would hit IT staff unprepared and in negative spiral of ever decreasing self perception. On the other hand, IT staff knew, that some of the things they were working on was on the cutting edge of IT operations.

They were thus faced with a classical problem many organisation and many departments face. To align their departmental identity with the their perceived image within the organisation.

It did not take long for everybody to understand, that a creating a logo and or a claim for IT to pimp up their internal marketing would not be the sole solution to their problem. Whilst creating a logo and a claim is fun, creative and much more fun than anything analytical to most people, it would completely neglect the foundation of a solid brand architecture. Instead of running a pure image campaign, much work had to be attributed to internal alignment within the department to assure both managers and staff understood the department’s strategy and were readily trained to take this new message out to the organisation. A myriad of examples from their daily work helped to clarify why a pure image campaign wouldn’t cut it.

Overall, this was a very fun project which continues to be interesting throughout the current and impending implementation phase.

 

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book review: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

I have recently purchased JAB, JAB, JAB, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuck (Amazon Link). Although the delivery took a little longer than usual (Amazon’s drones seemed to be grounded) I was quite thrilled to be getting this new bible of social media marketing. The book is heavily based on a boxing analogy (JAB, JAB, JAB, Right Hook) which is refreshingly funny in the first few pages but starts to become slightly annoying and repetitive after the first one or two chapters.

The book itself is structured in 12 rounds (according to its boxing analogy). Round 3 to 7 are the main chapters of the book and cover the biggest social networks by active users. Thus Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Each chapter briefly describes the social network and then provides plenty of examples of both good and bad jabs, hooks and knockout blows.

Table of Content JAB JAB JAB Right Hook

Review:

For first time social or digital marketers, this might be enough to get a brief overview of what is going on and or what works on the premiere social media platforms. The book is nicely structured and provides ample of examples for most networks. The book’s main stronghold, its entertainment value, is however also its biggest weakness. It completely lacks subjectivity in example reviews (e.g. basic analytics of user reactions). A little demographic introduction to social networks would also be quite helpful to give people a feel of what or whom to expect in which network. Although the examples are nicely picked from all sorts of industries and companies, many seem very subjective in description. Providing some strategic brand perspective to it would undoubtedly help to make the book more useful for marketing professionals. Another shortfall is the missing link of social or digital to traditional media. Either one is hardly to be seen in isolation these days but needs to work together with other networks or channels.

To conclude: If you shoot for a book to provide you the background for a social media strategy or to build up your knowledge on the usage social media for brand purposes, you might not find enough meat on this one.

 

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B2B’s miss the mark in their brand communication

It is not long ago, that the B2B content marketing institute released its annual content marketing prediction (in this case for 2014 – more here). Throughout the report,  two things became apparent, content marketing has grown widely (with 93% of B2B engaging in some form of content marketing) and thus gained more attention in yearly budget rounds.

Content Marketing Engagement

However, at the very same time, only 42% of B2B content marketers judge their own efforts as effective. Although this is an uplift from 2013 of 6%, we can see still a large number of marketers engage in a practice doomed non-effective by themselves.

Content Marketing Effectiveness

Even more interesting is the fact, that over 73% of marketers state to produce more content than the year before; with a large percentage even having a dedicated person to content marketing and a documented content marketing strategy.

YET, if we contrast the latest McKinsey study (more here) on B2B communication (although brand focused), it becomes apparent that the effectiveness rating giving by content marketers (most likely on the skewed goal setting and remaining issues to measure the success of their programs) are in contradicting to the perceived brand strengths (post communication) in the market. Brand Awareness was stated as the number one content marketing goal by B2B’s for 2014 (82%); but as it seems, the focus remains on internally centred and not customer centric.

McKinsey study on B2B brand communication

I am thus wondering if the stated success metrics and effectiveness rating of B2B content marketing programs are in line with customer perceptions or if B2B’s are still largely trapped in using gut feeling or sales as an overall measure of success. Contrasting both studies on that aspect, I have my ongoing doubts.

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To conquer the marketplace, you have to win the hearts and minds of your employees first!

According to a recent Gallup study, spanning over 142 countries, only 13% of the active workforce is engaged at the workplace. Most shockingly, actively disengaged employees outnumber actively engaged employees by a ratio of 2:1. The effects are only all to visible on both micro and macro levels. Chances are, if you turn your head to either side, you will most likely see an actively disengaged member of the workforce. Thus, before starting amazingly expensive and externally focused marketing programs, you might want to look at engaging your own employees at the same time. Little tricks can help, as will be shown later.

Gallup study employee engagement

Source: http://www.gallup.com/strategicconsulting/164735/state-global-workplace.aspx

 

Whilst there are numerous reasons for the continuous increase of disengaged employees, such as questionable hiring practices, inadequately trained managers for leadership positions or organisational politics, a common denominator found across many organisations is the focus on extrinsic motivation; or in other words outdated incentivisation structures.

 

The truth about motivation

The following clip, provides an interesting dive into sources of motivation and how current organisational performance management systems and therefore incentive systems, fail to acknowledge the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

YouTube Preview Image

Source: Daniel Pink, The surprising truth about what really motivates us

If you have made it thus far, you have learned, that it is hard to almost impossible to incentivize creative or intellectual tasks with monetary rewards. In other words the reward structure does not fit the underlying motivational driver.

With the ongoing shift from a labor centric to a knowhow centric workforce, it is inevitable for organisations to change incentive systems to account for the increase in intrinsic stimuli needed.

 

Workplace Gamification to account for a shift in motivational drivers

To quote Dr. Stuart Brown, “Play is not the opposite of work. Instead, think of play as being at the root of gamification and when done well, people can engage in playful activities and still do business at the same time.” Workplace Gamification combines motivational theory with game techniques and design principles to engage employees in new ways.

About Gamification

Why is it that Angry Birds, a popular smartphone game, has been downloaded over one billion times, thus by almost 100% of the smartphone population with no incentive whatsoever. People seem to find time to play games in all walks of life which, according to Wharton Professor Kevin Werbach, is attributed to their inherent intrinsic motivational force paired with a positive neuro stimulus, also known as fun. Extracting the learning from years of digital game developments lead to the birth of a new practice called gamification, which is applying game mechanics and game design techniques to non-gaming environment, such as the workplace. Some public examples of applied game mechanics are the LinkedIn profile progress bar, which lead to a large increase in user profile completion or widely used loyalty programs, building on status, ranks and points.

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B2B customers are ready to be socialised

According to a new Forrester Research study, the majority ( I question the “all” in their report) can be reached via social media. As they claim, 98% of business decision makers can be reached on social channels these days.

Forrester B2B Report

Forrester B2B Report

 

 

It is even more staggering to then contrast the social media habits of B2B organisations who often fail to move beyond the publication stage (from print to electronic to social). Interactive marketing (meaningful, time and location sensitive and most importantly behaviourally induced) should be used to bridge the gap from publication to interaction. The start might be to build listening capabilities in online channels to not only learn about customers but to also develop a feel for all available channels. A further rollout should be well prepared and accompanied by enough resources to be able to react on potential pitfalls and market responses. After all, every journey is accompanied by great learnings and new insights – the jump into social media engagements is nothing else.

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silos kill great branding – organisations need to rethink organizational structures

Brand and marketing management is often focused on external image analysis to mirror image to identity gaps to define improvement processes. In most cases, these process definitions happen in a certain degree of isolation from the rest of the organisation and lead to an inevitable image incongruence across multiple brand touch-points, particularly if measured along the entire brand value chain.

Figure-1-Brand-Audit

Figure-1-Brand-Audit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two of the easiest image to identity gaps to uncover are highly public yet often badly integrated organizational functions such as marketing or customer support. In a recent field test of roughly 170 organizations across multiple sectors in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the UK, Ireland and the US, all of mid to large size market cap, I was able to identify tremendous image gaps in either of the two mentioned functions. Particularly HR stood out negatively by completely diverting from organizational branding aspects through evidenced actions, behavior and conduct. In some follow up interview, however of non-statistical relevance to the study, interviewed brands revealed a 180 degree diversion from the overall brand promise and even suggested contrary behavioral elements to be of higher importance than explicitly stated values or brand elements in publicly available material (e.g. websites, social media). Whilst I haven’t finished accumulating and analyzing results, preliminary results do not suggest a high integration of brand values throughout organizations, similarly to the often in isolation formulated organizational value statement. For marketers and general managers, it is thus of importance to reflect upon organizational and brand core values to define stringent and coherent organizational processes adhering to set core value statements. At this point it is even argued that a general core brand value audit, as conducted by numerous consultancies, is not going to discover these evidential discrepancies due to their complex and cross-functional differentiation.

Preliminary outcomes:

> brand image and brand identity differs in 9 out of 10 organizations when it comes to assess explicit HR behavior (e.g. reaction on hiring requests, phone support, interview scheduling, reply time etc)

> brand image and brand identity differs in 6 out of 10 organizations when it comes to customer support; in highly competitive and or retail oriented organizations, these numbers even increase!

> employees, particularly in HR, do not seem to understand brand value concepts and what the brand for whom they try to source staff stands for. With that cultural aspects need to be assessed, too.

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