A glimpse behind the curtain: Architecting The APEX Index 2023

By Transmission |
5 minute read

A glimpse behind the curtain: Architecting The APEX Index 2023

We sat down with one of the team behind The APEX Index, Senior Creative Strategist & Planner, Louise Davis, to chat about what inspired the report, why we’re excited by the results, and what this means for all Marketers.

Last year, Transmission found that 71% of B2B marketing leaders worldwide reported that brand building had increased in importance to their leadership team or board – with strengthening awareness, perceptions, and consideration among their top five priorities.

One global economic downturn later, progress feels few and far between. Brand marketing is still seen as a riskier bet than other short-term demand-generation tactics. And CFOs still believe brand health doesn’t directly impact business performance.

So, against the backdrop of stymied brand-building progress, what drove us to create B2B Brand Health: The APEX Index 2023? We sat down with Louise to find out.

What was the inspiration for The APEX Index 2023?

Brand marketing is vital for B2B organisations to stand out and drive greater market awareness, trust, and credibility. However, proving brand’s value to commercial pipeline and growth remains a challenge for CMOs and marketing leadership – demonstrated by the fact that only 5-20% of marketing budgets are allocated to brand.

We’re keen to support CMOs and brand managers in making the case for brand-building investment. It’s long lagged behind demand gen and below the recommended levels to fulfil its potential impact. But senior marketing leaders need evidence and ways to measure brand performance to make their case.

At the same time, we’re conscious that while there are several league tables for B2C brands, virtually nothing focuses on those in B2B. They’re also mostly historic in nature and often centre on financial valuations.

We decided to shine a light on B2B brands with our Index as a talking point of what ‘good’ looks like in B2B brand marketing – illustrating how looking at B2B brand health can be used as both a benchmarking and diagnostic tool that acts as a springboard to form practical brand-building plans moving forward.

Why should B2B organisations take note of their brand health?

If you don’t know whether your brand is resonating with your audience in the way you intend (i.e., how your brand performs against your brand strategy) or in comparison with competitors, you can’t identify the strengths to double down on or the areas to improve.

Too often in B2B, we forget that the best technical, most innovative, and feature-rich brands aren’t always the most successful. Whilst they might be technically superior, perceived value in the minds of prospective buyers – how they get to the heart of their needs on a human level – is far more likely to determine whether a brand is initially considered at the start of the buying cycle. That’s not to say that rational evaluation of features doesn’t take place, it just usually happens later.

To capture future demand, we need to use emotion in brand marketing to plant memories in prospects’ minds. The brand that’s best known, most positively, and most easily brought to mind at the appropriate moment in the buying cycle is often the one most shortlisted for RFPs.

So, brand health – whether customers and prospects recall a brand in the relevant buying situation and what they think of it – matters because it strongly influences whether a brand is considered and purchased. In turn, this impacts future pipeline, growth, and ultimately, business health.

Are there any common misconceptions about brand health in B2B?

It’s not so much about brand health misconceptions, but rather that it’s overlooked as an opportunity to identify tangible metrics that inform proactive brand management – in turn, influencing revenue and customer loyalty.

Brand marketing is assumed to be difficult to measure. While it’s true that results aren’t as immediate nor granular as demand generation marketing, it’s not that it can’t be measured. It just has different metrics and time frames (ideally 12+ month intervals), so the two can’t really be compared.

Measuring brand health isn’t new, at least in the B2C world. However, B2B brands have been playing catch up on the need for brand marketing and the fact that they can and should measure brand performance. Rather than brand being a fluffy, amorphous concept, measuring brand health offers B2B brand marketers the opportunity to demonstrate the contribution brand marketing has on the success of their organisations.

Which findings did you find most interesting?

Across all verticals, the top three-ranked brands overall scored highly for the likeable brand virtue, meaning they’re brands buyers find attractive, approachable, and easy to like. Conversely, low ranks for likeability correlate with low ranks for the trust virtue. Probably nothing surprising there!

These findings corroborate what experienced brand marketers instinctively know: that it isn’t just rational characteristics that attract buyers to a brand, but emotive and human psychological factors too – particularly in the out-of-market phase and very early stages of the buying cycle.

Our results also highlight that brand awareness isn’t everything. Some brands have solid awareness but mixed buyer perceptions or brand experiences that don’t live up to expectations, leading to a mid-table APEX Index position.

On the other hand, others have only moderate awareness but amongst buyers who do know them, sentiment (perception) and experience are strong, with many of these brands ranking in the top half of the overall index.

Why should we in B2B be excited about The APEX Index?

B2B brand marketers have been on the back foot compared to their demand gen colleagues for too long, no thanks to the difficulties in providing data on brand performance.

By looking at how B2B organisations in four high-growth verticals capture the opportunity represented by brand marketing, we can help other B2B marketers think about how measurable, actionable data points on brand activity can create a stronger investment case.

There are several brand indexes, mostly for B2C brands and based on financial valuations. They undeniably have their place. But they’re mostly a historical snapshot. We’re interested in how brands succeed in the future. How they’ll fill up their demand pipeline. That means understanding which brands prospective buyers might consider next time they’re in the market.

At a brand level, that’s not based on whether a brand’s financials are robust. Sure, that comes into play later in the procurement process. But what potentially gets a B2B brand on an RFP list is whether prospects are aware of and have the right, positive feelings about it.

The APEX Index is the only index specifically focused on B2B brand health and is, therefore, based on the sentiment and experiences of B2B decision makers.

What’s the biggest takeaway for readers?

Brand marketing is a hugely untapped opportunity for many B2B organisations. Strong brand health is a leading indicator of growth; it’s a signal that brand strategy is aligned with business strategy. When that happens, there’s a multiplier effect on the organisation and its performance in every sense – be it sales, profits, employee motivation and retention, favourable supplier terms, or attracting top-flight investors.

A strong brand not only contributes to a business’ future pipeline of demand but also makes capturing that demand more cost-effective. However, businesses have to start by capturing the hearts and minds of their prospects.

What does the future potentially hold for The APEX Index?

Ideally, we’d love to revisit the verticals included in this year’s Index to see where brands have moved in the rankings. Brand health is a dynamic set of metrics, and small decisions in go-to-market strategy can massively affect how buyers perceive a brand. Longer term, we’d also like to expand The APEX Index into other B2B industry sectors to explore which brands are leading the way in brand health inside their market.

Where can you find The APEX Index 2023?

You can view the full set of rankings in addition to our analysis of the results by visiting the B2B Brand Health: The APEX Index 2023 site.

Moreover, if the business you work at is included in this year’s Index, you can request a free personalised brand health report breaking down your business’ APEX Index score in full. Simply follow the link on the download page!

Key takeaways:

  • Brand health and by extension, The APEX Index 2023 should be used as both a benchmarking and diagnostic tool that acts as a springboard to form practical brand-building plans
  • By understanding whether your brand marketing is resonating with your target audience, you can identify the strengths to double down on or the areas to improve in your brand strategy
  • Brand likeability isn’t something we talk about a lot in B2B, but it should be
  • Strong brand health is a leading indicator of growth as it highlights whether your brand and business strategies are aligned, making capturing demand more cost-effective. However, we have to first capture the hearts and minds of prospects