Interview with Brian P. Brown
Brian P. Brown
Dr. Brian Brown is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Virginia Commonwealth University. His research focuses on B2B brand strategy. His work has been published in several of marketing’s top academic journals including the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Industrial Marketing Management, and Journal of Business Research. Prior to embarking on his second career in academia, he worked in corporate America for around 15 years. His experience includes a number of brand management positions, including several years in brand management at The Coca-Cola Company. His last position was as Vice President of Marketing at Snapper Power Equipment.
Brian, can you please tell us about your main areas of research?
My research focuses on branding in B2B contexts. My early work studied the nuances of branding in business markets relative to consumer markets. I considered the implications of perceived risk or the dynamics of buying centers on buyer “brand sensitivity”, for example. More recently, I’ve explored B2B branding in the social media environment, the effects of price strategies on brand phenomena, and the role of trade shows in relationship marketing. Currently, I’m working on a couple of projects related to global versus local brands, branding in the professional services sector, and B2B advertising. In fact, I’m co-editing an Industrial Marketing Management special issue on B2B advertising at the moment.
Your article “Should Tweets Differ for B2B and B2C? An Analysis of Fortune 500 Companies’ Twitter Communication,” Industrial Marketing Management (2014), 43 (5), 873-881 was ranked by Elsevier Publishing as Top 10 most downloaded Economics articles since January 2014. What are the main findings of this study?
My work in the B2B social media arena has been fascinating. In this particular study, my co-authors and I uncovered a number of notable findings. An important finding was that B2B social media communications include a significant amount of emotional content, not just functional content. Also, B2B social media communications avoid “hard selling” tactics. Instead, social media is used to share information or encourage additional information search.
The bottom-line is that B2B marketers appear to have an opportunity to create emotional connections with their brands, improve customer relationships, and establish sustainable competitive advantages via non-traditional media like social media.
As you know, the theme of the International Conference is “Sustainable business models: integrating employees, customers and technology”. How relevant is it that employees, customers and technology are integrated into the marketing strategies of companies? How can it be implemented effectively?
When I worked at Coke, a frequent mantra was “everything communicates.” In other words, it’s essential that marketers communicate the value of their brands comprehensively — every detail matters. Of course it’s essential that a brand’s value is communicated to the appropriate target customers, but I could make an argument that it’s more important that employees at every level understand what makes their brand different and special.
Furthermore, marketers need to utilize technology and other resources efficiently and effectively. Studies show that many B2B companies fail to utilize technology (e.g., CRM software or social media) efficiently if at all. It’s easier said than done, of course, but I believe effective integration starts with a focus on clearly defining one’s business and brand position. What is it that your company does best? Which customers will find the most value in your proposition? Once these questions are answered, find the best ways to share a compelling narrative internally and to all key constituencies.
What message do you have for young researchers on marketing?
I’ve had an interest in brand phenomena for decades, as a practitioner and now as an academic, and I’ve just stuck with it — albeit with an emphasis on branding in business markets now. This has allowed me to focus, publish, and work to build my reputation.
Relatedly, I would encourage young researchers to focus on finishing the projects they start. This requires prioritization, patience and persistence.
Last, I would suggest that they develop their network of co-authors. I credit any success I’ve had to my co-authors. We tend to have complementary skills, similar values, and ultimately a lot of fun when we work together.
You will chair a panel about Branding at CBIM2018 next June in Madrid. What are the main challenges that firms are facing from a branding perspective in Business markets?
A key challenge facing B2B firms is that too many have failed to recognize the power of marketing. As such, they fail to allocate sufficient and consistent resources to defining and building their brands.
Another challenge is their lack of focus and, accordingly, tendency to chase too many customers rather than first determining the right ones to chase. This relates to branding because without a strategy to reach the right markets, optimize their firms’ competencies, and provide value to the right customers, it’s virtually impossible to meaningfully differentiate yourself, communicate a compelling message to your key stakeholders, and maximize firm performance.