Canon applies consumer thinking to B2B marketing strategy

Consumer marketing techniques brought in to help the vendor shake up brand assumptions and reposition its wider business offering in the market

Following the acquisition of two IT companies to expand its business offerings, Canon has launched a new brand concept after applying consumer marketing techniques to the world of B2B.

After acquiring Converga, a business process outsourcing company, and IT services provider, Harbour IT, Canon faced the challenge of how to reposition its brand as more than a provider of printers and other imaging devices. Both acquisitions facilitated the vendor's expansion into outsourcing business processes, including IT Security Essentials Assessment, IT Help Desk and Office 365, and Document Scanning Solutions.

Cue a total rebuild of the marketing leadership team to incorporate more consumer-driven skills, and the appointment of Simon Russell from Canon’s consumer imaging business as the new B2B general manager of marketing.

“We had a number of key acquisitions, so the big challenge at Canon was how to bring these three brands together while focusing on simplifying business and driving costs out,” Russell told CMO

A year ago, Canon started to look at how it could craft an engagement story for its customers using these three distinct brands. After resetting the marketing team, it also realised it needed to rebuild the brand concept from the ground up.

“Our brand has great emotional power and engagement. But our approach to business has been focused on products, on being corporate and being rational. There was little consistency and our brand was failing to connect with people in the same way that we connect with our consumer audiences. We needed to change our approach,” Russell explained.

The new team’s first task was to understand who Canon’s business customers were and what was important to them.

“We invested a lot of time into researching our various business audiences, to understand not only their businesses and their industries, but also them as people. What became clear very quickly was that, for our customers, business is personal. They feel the highs and lows deeply. This has formed the focus of our marketing approach,” he said.

“It’s been exciting to bring that consumer-led marketing dynamic into the business part of the company, particularly in the IT space, where traditional technology becomes a bit of a blur of sameness.

“Everyone in the industry is talking the same jargon, everyone’s got the same principles. So we had to look at how to we bring a new approach to market and engage new customers."

From there, the team worked crafted the proposition ‘no one does it like you’. Russell said this offered a lot of synergy between the business and consumer divisions, which over the last six years has built up a lot of equity around ‘no one see it like you’.

The idea is to celebrate what customers do with Canon products, rather than just pushing a particular technology.

“Many brands spruik how good they are, but there are so many great products out there," he continued. "We’ve got great products, everyone knows that, now we focus on how we celebrate what our customers do with our products, and how they benefit from what Canon can do for them.

“In the business space, printing is at the core of what we do, but now we offer full business process outsourcing, focussed on the small business end of market, to accelerate the performance of Australian businesses.”

Having a more consumer-driven team has meant the conversation around what Canon does started from the inside out, and galvanised the business behind the narrative, Russell said. He labelled it the single biggest shift Canon has undertaken from a business perspective.

“It shifted the language we use as an organisation and allowed us to consolidate a concise story about what the business can do and deliver,” he said.

There is no big advertising push, rather Canon will focus on empowering its sales teams to deliver the message face-to-face within different channels, including providing customer experience stories digitally.

“Our new brand concept is really just the beginning. We are taking everything we’ve learned though our customer experience research, led by Julie Rangan, to change our entire approach to how we do business and to deliver a better experience for our customers," Russell added.

"We want to live and breathe our brand ethos and make sure it’s reflected in everything we do."

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