Innovations in consumer applications increasingly find their extension in B2B, and the chemical industry continues to seek those that have the potential to add value to the entire supply chain, all in times of an unprecedented change. We speak with Natalia McDonagh, left, on the role of brand, innovation, and organisational empowerment.

A strong brand equity is a prized asset. Change management can increasingly be found on the list of essential skillset for leaders across various business functions, the actual process to address the need for change must come second. First is the vision, the company culture, values, beliefs, all of which intrinsically define the essence of the brand.  Whilst being the staple of a successful organisation, brand is an evolving concept where so many elements weave their strengths together to create a story; the story which conveys the thoughts, feelings and emotions that people have when they hear the name.

There is not one department who is to assume the main responsibility to nurture the positivity of the organisational culture and identify daily opportunities to take the company forward. And as brand touchpoints grow, it is vital to stay true to that story. An organisation relies on their employees to create memorable experiences to bring the brand promise to life, and the inherent process of change we are discussing here will have an impact on the perception of what brand is about from everybody within the organisation. The memorable experience will differ between individuals, their roles; will depend on their daily pressures and challenges.  Effective brand management is a continual process, and each decision should be based on the careful evaluation of the market conditions, the market forces, to give the company the strongest possible ground to build on for their brand value proposition.

The process of change also comes from an understanding of where the world around us is heading. Everyone today is more informed than ever before – the evolution of the Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things continue to reshape our perception of daily experience. This includes how we evaluate our need for certain purchase, how the decision is made and the experiences both ourselves and our business partners expect to have as we all interact on a B2B and B2C level. 

As consumers we are able to find out almost anything we want to about a company in seconds. How does that affect the speed of response we expect?  How fast is now considered fast enough?  Three days?  A day?  An hour? Expectations are on the rise exponentially, affecting the perceived value of the brand and the customer experience.  The brand consistency matters like never before: each of the many customer interaction points can make or break the experience, customer business and customer loyalty.

The concept of digital convenience, where product availability and the assurance that the product will be delivered on time, in full, and in compliance with specifications, are often named as the two most important criteria. It is receiving much debate in the marketing community across all industries including the chemical industry. The strong brand comes from truthful realisation of what the customer needs, built on the solid base of accurate self-awareness.  Whilst speed has now become a prerequisite, customer experience is based on so many more aspects: the quality and availability of products, new ideas, provision of added-value services, technical and regulatory support, ability to have a discussion in a forum of industry experts, interactive tools at our fingertips, ease of information access.

Successful marketing is about enabling sustainable growth. Planning would invariably start with an audit: evaluation of the strategic objectives short and long term, what resources the company has currently and also is within their ability to obtain and apply, the operational reach, the structure and level of diversity of their teams, those cultural stories that would have their strong reflection in the daily working experiences of the teams, all undoubtedly having their influence on the experiences of customers receiving the service.  The teams with their customer interaction points will mirror the company in how they carry the brand, and the topic of Employee Experience and Engagement should rightly be elevated to the top of the list of a strategic marketing action plan.

The call for innovation permeates across functions.  Not too long ago, for instance, the value of trade events was questioned, and online conferencing was predicted to take over as the preferred channel of communications. However, instead of combatting for power, these two marketing vehicles now work in harmony, as digital innovation continues to be embraced by all. It is fantastic to witness the power of industry collaboration: I am delighted to see the chemical industry events going from strength to strength, offering some of the essential platforms to foster innovation and facilitate the share of knowledge, expertise, and passion, to benefit us all, the industry and consumers alike. The CHEMUK EXPO had a remarkable launch last year, SPE Offshore, SCS Formulate, Surfex, H3i, Interplas, Making Pharma, industry gatherings in the food & nutrition and animal nutrition, among others all continue to deliver year on year, providing an unrivalled opportunity to engage with the new generation of professionals entering the industry. The support of the industry associations has been truly invaluable. I personally encourage every exhibitor to bring forward their suggestions on how to further enhance industry collaboration.

During the Q&A at a recent professional marketing event, I was asked to comment on the skills that are essential for the modern marketing leader. Have an open mind, boundless energy and never stop asking questions. The expert knowledge of your colleagues, the daily examples of your company’s brand promise in action, the examples of the ongoing R&D, operational, eco-innovation across the many applications which will make that important difference in the lives of many people as per the very definition of the chemical industry, is what makes it all a compelling story that needs to be told. Never stop learning – every day brings new experiences and the chance to experience that certain buzz of the moment, when you and your teams are onto a winning concept that you cannot wait to make happen. Enable your teams to bring their ideas to the table: if empowerment is in the core of a company culture, then you have an exceptional prerequisite for the long term vitality of the business and your brand.

Natalia McDonagh
Head of Marketing, Brenntag UK & Ireland
With a background in strategic consulting, advising companies across the B2B, B2C and the NFP, Natalia joined the chemicals and ingredients distribution industry in 2005, before joining Brenntag over 4 years ago. With a PhD in Strategic Marketing, Natalia is a Chartered Marketer (CIM) and Chartered Manager (CMI) and is a regular contributor to the industry and strategic marketing publications.