Earlier this year, SiriusDecisions embarked on an extensive research project to determine what brand attributes distinguished high-performing companies, as measured by exceptionally strong revenue performance. We built a unique data set describing brand performance over a full year for about 100 B2B companies, drawn from the Fortune 500.

What we found is that high-performing companies have much higher levels of awareness and engagement and incite stronger reactions from the audiences they attract. They are leaders in their markets, with strong opinions, large followings, and passionate advocates and detractors.

marketing-strategy-concept-brandOur findings are echoed in a new research report just published by the B2B Institute sponsored by LinkedIn and conducted by Les Binet of Adam & Eve DDB and Peter Field, an independent marketing consultant, using data from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. The new report focuses on B2B companies and draws on a string of thought-provoking research reports that examine what blend of marketing activities drive exceptional performance.

One of their key findings is the need to balance what they describe as “brand activities” and activation activities in a roughly 50:50 mix. Activation, which roughly equates to demand marketing, focuses on converting potential buyers into near-term sales. Brand building, which has a longer time horizon, focuses on building brand preference and reducing price sensitivity.

In an interview, the authors of the study acknowledged that very few B2B companies follow the 50:50 rule and instead under-invest in brand. There are many reasons for this: a preponderance of short-term thinking, a weakness in being able to actually measure brand performance, and the rise of marketing automation that drives resources toward short-term, demand-centric programs.

The authors have a prescription for righting these wrongs. It includes rebalancing brand and demand investments, focusing on expanding the customer base, and thinking more about building emotional connections with audiences. Although the research has its flaws (the authors acknowledge that the sample size for their work is small, and the results tentative), it’s hard to disagree with their overall findings: B2B companies do need to reconsider marketing investments and think more about long-term brand building.

Our data shows that organizations that invest in building awareness, positive perceptions and preference for their brand have objectively better revenue performance — and our most recent benchmark data shows some encouraging early signs of increasing investment in brand-building activities. Brand matters.