5 signs your brand needs a simplification audit.

In our experience, B2B portfolios are too complex and create a lot of confusion. Here are 5 tell-tale signs that your portfolio needs to be simplified.

This confusion is damaging because it equates to lost revenue. When customers can’t make sense of a company’s product offering, they don’t buy. Or they buy somewhere else. 

And two other quick facts* to chuck into the mix…

1. 37% of all B2B transactions end up in no decision and no sale.

2. B2B buyers are 57% through their journey to purchase before reaching out to a brand for further information.

Given the unforgiving nature of the B2B purchase, you can see it’s a real problem if brands aren’t presenting their products to the market in a clear, coherent, and navigable manner.

So, I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of the most common tell-tale signs indicating that your brand or brands are too complicated for your customers:

1. Too many brands, too much noise and no golden thread

No rights or wrongs here, but sometimes you can just tell that there’s too much going on, with nothing coherent running through it. The best test is to create mood board for all this stuff: brands, sub brands, ads, websites, brochures, packaging, social posts etc. Throw it all together to get a sense of how coherent it all feels. You’ll see the friction pretty quickly. This is such an easy, simple and revealing test for any brand.

2. Poor or confused foundations

If you’re not grounding all your brand elements with a clear set of foundations (ideally built off a meaningful vision, mission and values) then it’s going to be a challenge to hold it all together. And in this case, it’s more than a visual cue; it’s a sense of the fully rounded character or personality of the brand. Having clarity on your foundations will act as a rudder creating a sense of coherence throughout all marketing activity. It’s what gives your brand a point of view on the world. But remember, your foundations need to be made of more than the usual set of bland and generic values that give the world of branding a bad name. 

3. Overly technical names

B2B loves technical. The problem is, the customer probably doesn’t. So, a product called the ZX34-CS1 needs more explanation. If your whole portfolio is made up of what are essentially SKU numbers, then you know it might be time to change up the naming convention. In our time we’ve seen our fair share of B2B organisations who’ve gone to market with product names that were essentially the ‘project’ names they never got round to changing. Those lucky customers! Unbelievable, but true.

4. Ask customers if they know the specific sub brand they’re buying

The most common reason given by businesses against product or brand name changes is that their customers would be lost without them. We know this isn’t true because our research over the years tells us that most B2B customers can’t remember the product name and refer generically to the main brand. In B2B the brand equity is almost always with the mother brand, which makes a branded house architecture structure more simple, sensible and affordable. It’s expensive to support and promote a house of brands – just ask Unilever and P&G.

5. Reinventing the wheel every time there’s a new product?

I get it. It can be fun tailoring each product launch and it’s certainly more interesting for the marketing department. But it’s also extremely inefficient and ultimately the customer doesn’t care so who are you doing it for? The reality is that there should be a formula for bringing a new product to market, with a playbook that’s been proven: how it’s named, teased, launched, advertised, and promoted. If there’s a different dog and pony show every time there’s a new product, with no discernible upside then it’s time to have a word.

Ok, so there’s five signs your brand needs to be simplified. What have I missed? I’m sure there will be others. The bottom line is that when there’s too much noise, too much overlap and a lack of clarity for the customer, then it’s undoubtedly bad news for the business. If I was to describe what we most frequently do for brands to make them better (and driving more value), my response would be “we make them simpler”.


* Both facts from: The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results, by Dixon, Adamson, Spenner and Toman.