Redefining the standard of B2B tech branding, with Blair Josephs Jansen, Senior Brand Strategist at Equinix
From starting a marketing career in TV, working on shows like Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad, to pathing the way of B2B tech branding, Blair Josephs Jansen knows a thing or two about storytelling.
As Senior Brand Strategist at Equinix, Blair questions the current standard of B2B tech marketing, its seriousness, alienating use of jargon and ideal target personas. On this FINITE Podcast episode, you'll hear a fresh perspective on B2B tech brand marketing for a more impactful, holistic brand.
This episode covers:
- Why did Blair shift from Netflix to B2B tech?
- Why is brand a holistic experience for customers and employees?
- Why is consistency so important for building a brand?
- Can B2B tech branding be fun?
- Should we use jargon and acronyms in B2B tech branding?
- What elements of B2C have influenced Blairs B2B branding?
- How should we differentiate our B2B tech branding for younger audiences and why?
Listen to the full episode here:
And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here!
Hello everyone, and welcome to this episode of the FINITE Podcast, where we're talking all things brand. We don't talk enough about brand as B2B tech marketers., and so whenever the opportunity comes, I'm always keen to do so. On the FINITE Podcast today, I'm joined by Blair Joseph, Senior Brand Strategist at Equinix.
Blair has a really interesting background in the media entertainment world, working for companies like Netflix, and so it brings a whole interesting perspective on branding from a B2C background into her work in a B2B environment. We're gonna be talking all about creating holistic brand experiences, thinking about audiences, and much more. I hope you enjoy this episode!
Before we continue with the episode, I'd like to give a quick shout out to our partner Terminus. The only account based engagement platform built to deliver more pipeline in revenue through multichannel account based marketing as the only native multichannel marketing platform that helps you convert target accounts through orchestrated campaigns using personalised advertising, email signatures and chat bots. Visit terminus.com to learn why doing effective ABM at scale means better marketing.
Hello, Blair. Welcome to the FINITE podcast. Thank you for joining me.
Thanks for having me, glad to be here.
Looking forward to talking. We don't cover brand related topics enough on the FINITE podcast. And I think I mentioned when we first spoke that we're on a bit of a mission to bang the drum for all things brand within the B2B tech marketing world. So I'm excited to be having this conversation with you. Before we dive into everything B2B tech branding, I'll let you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, your experience, and your current role and team.
About Blair and her background
Sure. So I love talking about brand and I do it every day in my current role, but I don't have a traditional B2B tech background. So it's especially fun for me to talk about it. I actually started my career in B2C marketing, in entertainment marketing. I built my career at HBO building marketing campaigns, integrated marketing campaigns for original series.
So one of my first campaigns was for Boardwalk Empire, then I left and went to AMC where I worked on shows like The Walking Dead and Mad Men, super fun, and then went to Netflix when they were changing the landscape and really disrupting the industry for streaming content. My baby over there was Orange Is The New Black, which was an amazing first foray into streaming content.
And then I went into branding for Netflix and started in branding for their North America brand marketing team, and then continued to foster my career there. And then a friend of mine pulled me over to a company called Equinix, which is where I've been for the last five years. And that's been my entry into really hardcore B2B tech marketing. And I can attest it's night and day.
So my current role there is senior brand strategist and I work very closely with creative and content. And so my team is considered the brand content and creative services team, and we do everything from building the brand strategy, the messaging and positioning, and then actually building out what does that actually look like and feel like for both internal and external campaigns and we work with everybody under the sun.
I can imagine. I mean, of all the pathways into B2B tech, you're the top of the leaderboard. That is a very cool career history and interesting projects. I think this comes up quite a lot when I have guests on the podcast, it's not unusual for B2B tech marketers to have come from more consumer backgrounds, but do you think that, and I'm sure we'll come on to talk about this a little bit more, but, I'm sure the whole B2C entertainment background has shaped the early part of your career and is something that you've carried forwards.
Definitely. I think it shapes a lot of my conversations internally and forces me to look at things really differently. I am a storyteller at heart and I know everybody says they're a storyteller nowadays and looks at the content they build, whether it's for social media or a video and they say they're a storyteller. But everything I've ever built has really truly been for storytelling purposes.
And so I can't help myself but to look at things and for B2B tech, it's always why are we saying things in such complicated fashion. These words are long and complex and difficult to understand. And if we're trying to get people to read this and they have limited time, why wouldn't we say things differently, or if this video is going up on YouTube or our social media channels, and we only have 15 seconds to do that, let's do it in a fun way.
And let's use interesting music and cut the clutter and the noise and do it with storytelling purposes. So it's definitely changed the way I look at things. And I think it's just the background that I have. It's all about the medium and the context in which you're telling that story.
Why did Blair shift from Netflix to B2B tech?
You mentioned that you said it was a friend that brought you over to Equinix. Was that a hard move to make? Because it sounds like I'm sure lots of people might be thinking she left Netflix, she was doing this and that and that sounds amazing. Why go to B2B tech from working on Orange Is The New Black and all these kind of things?
I was at a juncture in my career where I was actually going to take a step from corporate. And I feel like I'm at an incredibly corporate structured place right now, but I was actually going to take a step back and fuse my background and do coaching and marketing and work with companies on the outside looking in.
And then what brought me to Equinix was the people, and then the more I learned about them, I learned about their growth trajectory and now we're 77 straight quarters of growth. And then I learned how there's not an industry we don't touch and help. And we're really the backbone of the internet and as we continue to grow and dive into new digital services, we're continuing to diversify our platform and help more businesses get digital faster.
So that to me was truly fascinating, but what brought me in were the people and the culture, and there's a humility to our team that was just, it reeled me in and has kept me there for five years.
Why is brand a holistic experience for customers and employees?
Fair enough. Exciting. Let's dive in then and talk about reinventing the standard of B2B tech branding. I guess, to set the scene, we're gonna touch a little bit on why you think brand is a holistic experience, both for audiences and employees, and I guess thinking about brand from the angle of customers and internally.
Well, this is interesting having just said the people brought me to my current place of work, and I think it goes unspoken or maybe not spoken about enough now. So I think employer branding is a big topic of discussion, but brand is definitely a holistic experience for both internal and external employees.
But the topic of discussion is always about external, maybe because the budget is so much bigger for external branding, but the truth of it is that brands are built from within right? That's where your culture gets identified and that's where your brand attributes are first established.
And if you don't get it right from inside first, and you don't establish your purpose, your identity and your brand attributes and your differentiation from within and talk about it consistently and often enough, then you're going to start breaking down the consistency factor when you start doing your marketing externally. And that holistic experience is really important, right?
You need to have holistic experiences when you are talking to your customers, whether they're coming to you for a sales pitch, whether they're coming to your offices and experiencing you face to face, whether they're getting a piece of swag. And if you look disjointed, the experience breaks down, it causes confusion and it waters down the awareness and effectiveness of what the brand is ultimately trying to do and trying to achieve. So, absolutely, I think the brand is a holistic experience for both audiences and employees.
Why is consistency so important for building a brand?
And the last part of what you just mentioned actually is more about consistency too. And in terms of, I think we see this a lot in, particularly as B2B tech companies start scaling, is how key consistency is in terms of building global cohesive brands. Why is consistency such a key piece of the puzzle for building a brand?
So I mean, there's consistency and it doesn't mean you can't have flexibility, right? So I want to say that from the beginning, B2B consumers wanna buy from brands. They know, and they want to have experiences that feel familiar. They want to have a consistent brand, voice and aesthetic. So there's some piece that's recognisable to them and that's the piece that's going to build that brand loyalty.
That all being said, there's an element of flexibility. That's also important. You don't have to be redundant, but consistency is important, right? Like that's why the Nike swoosh has become an icon, but it doesn't mean the sneakers are the same over and over again, there's still personality and there's still beautiful colours and design elements, but consistency is key. It is what drives that customer loyalty and trust.
Yeah, absolutely. So does that mean there's some parts of a brand that need to be consistent? Whereas there's others that you can, as you say, be a bit more flexible with. And I mean the Nike swoosh is such a great example of the consistent part, but just so much creativity around the edges.
I guess you can't change everything, otherwise you lose all that consistency, but as long as you've got some central pillars, either in terms of, I guess it can be the identity or tone of voice, or as long as there's a consistent theme or thread running through everything, you've almost got probably more flexibility around the edges.
Definitely. And I think it depends on the brand, right? What are those pillars that are consistent for you, for your brand and your customers rely on that? And that's why talking to your customers consistently is pretty important to hear from them. What is it that you rely on us for so that you can remain true to those pillars for them?
Can B2B tech branding be fun?
I guess a theme that we run into a lot whenever we have these brand focused discussions in the B2B tech world is that B2B tech is pretty serious and pretty boring. And a lot of brands reflect that, they're afraid to push boundaries, afraid to have fun. They think our stakeholders, customers are serious people. Everything's just pretty serious. What's your perspective on that, especially coming from your background, having been in the entertainment world and in media world?
Well, I do want to copy out that this is just my perspective, but I absolutely agree. I think there is this seriousness, or there has been a seriousness and a pressure and a weight to B2B tech branding, tech marketing. I believe it's exactly what the essence of it is, right? B2B business to business.
It's maybe, and this is me surmising, but it's traditionally these business people wearing suits and ties, and especially in B2B tech, it's really smart people with a lot at stake, right? If your business is successful, you're going to reach more businesses. You're going to sell to more businesses. It's how high your stock is going to climb how financially successful you're going to be.
And I think there's this looming threat of that's what it means to be successful in this industry. And in my opinion, at the end of the day, we're all people and we're humans and that doesn't mean you have to be any more serious or complicated in your speak, but for whatever reason, B2B tech industries have definitely been shrouded with this seriousness and complicated marketing jargon.
And I think that it's plain and simple when you're talking to another business. That means there's suits and ties, and there's all this financial pressure and strain attached to it, which isn't untrue. It's just there's this looming pressure and weight attached to it.
Should we use jargon and acronyms in B2B tech branding?
Absolutely. And let's talk about the jargon and the acronyms, because I think it's pretty, I was gonna say it's very B2B. I feel like to some extent every industry, probably even the media entertainment world and jargon and acronyms are everywhere. And I guess it almost feels like sometimes it's part of the identity of an industry to have terms, and it's almost like it creates a space for the people that work within it. And it gives people a sense of identity of sorts. But yeah, what's your perspective on all the jargon and acronyms?
That's exactly my perspective on it. I think there is a secret language and club in every industry. So exactly right. I think with the media industry entertainment, there's sort of the name game, and you're just listing off like IMDB references. But B2B tech is definitely its own club with its own secret language and it is just jargon and acronyms, abbreviations for everything.
And I have to be honest, when I joined a couple years ago, I had this experience of gosh, they let me in, don't let them know that I don't know all these abbreviations and what they mean. And I'd be on calls and I would be Googling MQL, ABM, every single acronym there was. And my point of view is I think that it sometimes takes more time and more effort, but it is worth spelling things out in layman's terms.
And it's not just the jargon and the acronyms, but it's, how do you explain what you do and what you're offering to someone in layman's terms? And that's how you're going to cut through this clutter because everyone is offering the latest and greatest SaaS cloud offering.
And if you can cut through that clutter and take a little bit of time to say it simply and succinctly, and maybe with a little bit of a unique, fresh perspective, that's how you're going to win this game. Of course, you have to have a product that's differentiated in some way. And of course, how is it going to be something that's going to be worthwhile in five years from now or 10 years from now? But if you can cut through that clutter, then your marketing will win a little bit more than your neighbours.
Absolutely. And I guess of all the industries, I mean, the world in which Equinix works is full of loads of acronyms, right? Like there's so many across all the data we have.
A dictionary, we have a dictionary.
Yeah. I'm sure. It's interesting. But I guess, playing devil's advocate, is there a positive side to all the jargon acronyms? Like just having them create that sense of identity, people feeling like they're part of a club have benefits or actually is it just a bit pointless and a bit elitist and there's more downsides than positives?
I think to those who have been in this industry and who know it, they know it. And so it definitely works for some, I definitely think it is a club and there are definitely people who are in the club.
What elements of B2C have influenced Blairs B2B branding?
Absolutely. Let's talk a bit more about your background and the entertainment stuff and the B2C stuff. Cause I think it's fascinating, we touched on it at the start and you talked a bit about some of the things that you've have carried across into the B2B tech world, but I'm just intrigued as to specifically what parts and any more tactical elements that have shaped the way that you think, or the way that you've added value to what you do now?
Yeah. I think something I said earlier about storytelling and in my entertainment career, it was all about making noise. And I don't really hear that in my current industry. It's not something that I often come across, make noise, get buzz, is maybe heard a little bit, but there's definitely... you want to be regarded in the industry and you want to be regarded by your peers. But it's not really the same as making noise with consumers. That that was our end goal.
You mentioned earlier, do you think the whole tech world is just a bit more focused on tangible numbers and the performance side of marketing?
I think consumer side is equally focused on numbers, especially given that there are plenty of consumer focused businesses that are tech businesses. Netflix is constantly looking at numbers and each new show or each new season is fighting to gain subscribers and keep them there, retain them.
So, no, I think they're equally as interested in, in numbers, but I just don't think it's about, about buzz, I think. And I, I don't know exactly why I think maybe it has to do with the audiences, but what's interesting and this is a question that is coming up for us, but I wonder if it's about the traditional audience set and thinking about the traditional look of B2B?
And it's more serious and we wear suits and ties and this is about, we have a product and we're trying to give you something that you need and operationalise your business and make you stronger to make more money, right?
Like that's the essence of B2B versus B2C, it's you either need something or want something to delight customers. So I think there's just a difference in mentality and I think you can still have fun. And I think we're seeing a little bit of a shift. I think I saw it a couple years ago. I think Slack did a great spot where they did a riff on the office. They still had all of their key differentiation points and their offerings within that spot, but they did it with a tone of humour. And they riffed on a series that we all know and love. And we can do that, we can do that in B2B marketing.
How should we differentiate our B2B tech branding for younger audiences and why?
Absolutely. And let's talk about that audience piece, because I think it's a really valid point and one that I think a lot about, I think I have a strong perspective on this in terms of I'm always fascinated at how much B2B tech companies obsess over C-suite personas as the ultimate decision maker and everything has to be built for them. And yet often when you dig into it, the people doing the research and who actually have a bigger voice in a B2B purchase decision more often than we think are actually much younger.
The CIO might be the person signing on the dotted line eventually, or the sponsor, but actually there might be a whole team of people that are potentially much younger and think about things a bit differently compared to maybe a slightly older audience of more traditional C-suite personas. So how do you think we should consider younger audiences in our branding activities, branding decisions?
Absolutely. And I was reading some articles and what I have learned is, and I think that you've probably been seeing the same thing, is that millennials are the largest B2B tech buyer group. So they are either starting to form more of the startups, but soon to be the larger conglomerates.
But millennials are going to be, I think 60% of those B2B buyers. And I think probably a smaller, roughly 30% of them are the lead buyers for B2B brands. So give it time, they're going to soon start to become those lead decision makers. And the oldest part of millennials are turning 40 this year. So you're gonna start to soon see a shift. And then the next generation are gen Z. They're entering the B2B workforce.
And we're seeing a lot of those people entering like the tech marketplace or they're going into developer workspaces. And that's definitely one of our audiences that we're watching. And so what all of this is saying is the B2B tech audience is getting younger and they're becoming more of a decision maker that we need to definitely watch out for. And what we need to look at is how do you shift that branding to resonate more with a younger audience? What do they care about? And I think that the pandemic has also shifted a lot of this, right?
There's less in person interaction. Everything has shifted to online interaction, to Zoom meetings. Everyone's at home shifting the way that they operate. But there's definitely a couple key themes that we're seeing that I'm excited about. I mean, advertising definitely needs to feel more creative, more personalised, again, to cut through that clutter. Like you can't just do the same white papers over and over again. I'm sorry, it's boring.
Brands need to feel transparent and trustworthy. People actually wanna know what's going on, not just your numbers, but they wanna know what you are doing behind closed doors? They want to know how you are helping your employees? What are you doing from a sustainability standpoint that matters to millennials and gen Z, for sure. Human connection is invaluable. And this comes back full circle to what I talked about at the beginning, your employees are your greatest brand ambassadors.
So try to get your employees to do more for you from a social media standpoint. And also nothing resonates more than a happy employee. And we're seeing within the pandemic, a lot of people have been leaving their jobs. I hope that with what's to come, I think people are starting to get a little nervous that there's a recession coming in a few months from now.
I hope people are okay and sit still and feel happy where they are, but employees are the greatest brand ambassadors. So all of those points of differentiation come bubbling up. Having conversations when you're on a sales call or talent acquisitions doing that initial pitch for a company, I mean, nothing rings more true than talking to people. And then diversity and sustainability are huge topics. I think that we're all seeing things that are immensely important to these audiences.
And then there's the table stakes. I think these aren't even things that we take for granted now. But a seamless digital experience are things that millennials and gen Z just expect now, but this is like a seamless, universal portal. Things like that, people are expecting to have when they operate with a brand. And yeah, I think those are things that brands need to make sure that they are bringing awareness to when doing marketing.
Absolutely. I love your perspective on the importance of brands being built from within and the focus on employees and the team, not just the outward facing stuff. I think that's so key. We are basically out of time. So I think we're gonna have to wrap up there, but thank you so much for sharing everything, particularly with those last points. I think there's some very thoughtful things for anyone that's busy brand building at the moment in their B2B tech SaaS business right now, to go away and put a lot of thought into. So, yeah. Thanks again for joining!
Thank you for having me.
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