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Why brand building is critical for B2B technology companies

Posted By Ian Blake, Squaredot, Wednesday 24 July 2019
Updated: Monday 22 July 2019

B2B brand building


When we set up our B2B marketing agency Squaredot in 2015 the word from the wise was that content marketing was the way to go. And who were we to argue,  a new kid on the block, we looked to other B2B agencies and thought leaders for direction and advice and they were doing content marketing in spades and waxing lyrical about the results.

The mighty Hubspot were and still are peddling their message to create more content. "Build it and they will come."

The lead generation template was to conduct buyer persona research, understand what their challenges are, where they hang out online, and what content they are interested in. Couple this with answering questions they have at each stage of the ‘buyer's journey’ and you’ll have your audience putting their hands up for your content in no time, not to mention the sales you’ll close.

This all made sense to us, we had seen it in operation before we set up Squaredot and believed it would work for us and for our clients.

So off we went, the good boys and girls that we are, we researched the buyer, understood our clients’ markets, created impactful content and distributed it to the channels that our target persona’s hung out on.

As we ran more and more campaigns for ourselves and clients the results were mixed. We were doing all the things that our more experienced marketing colleagues were doing, we were getting results but not in the volumes that we were led to believe would be realised.


Something was up

Most of our clients were small businesses, and in a lot of cases investing in marketing was a new venture for them and they wanted a return and quickly. And by return they meant closed won business. They also wanted results fast, like within 3 or 6 months and were disappointed when they didn’t arrive in volume.

We also noticed that bigger, more established B2B brands we worked with had significantly better results with the same effort. B2B brands that had a longer track record, and had been doing various forms of B2B marketing including content and digital campaigns performed much better than smaller newer B2B businesses.

Something was up, why were there so many agencies shouting about their results from the rooftops and companies like Hubspot waxing lyrical about the results their clients were having.

On our 4 year journey in Squaredot we constantly asked what we could do to improve our own results and our clients, we tried variations of the activity we were doing and some new tactics along the way.



During our many conversations and deliberations, our Creative Director in particular was asking what are we doing to build our clients' brands. What are we doing to ‘advertise and brand their content’ which were valid questions, and something that required further investigation.

These questions coincided with an event I attended delivered by the Marketing Institute of Ireland where a talk was given by Peter Field of the noted British researcher duo Les Binet and Peter Field.

Binet and Field are most famous for The Long and The Short of It, a popular 2013 book published by the UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) that recommends specific best practices in balancing short- and long-term marketing strategies. The two updated their findings in a presentation at EffWeek in London last year.

At the MII event Peter Field presented findings from their extensive research of over 500 brands. Some had invested their marketing budget on brand building only, some on activation (lead generation) only, and others had split their budget between brand building and activation. The conclusion of the research was that brands that split their budgets between brand building and activation out performed the others. Companies that focused on brand building only came in second with companies who focused on activation (lead generation or offers) only coming in third.

The research didn’t say whether it was B2B or B2C, so I assumed it was both. At the time I thought it would be great to have the B2B only version of this and wondered did it exist. As luck would have it, LinkedIn commissioned Binet and Field to study the same issues in a B2B context. The two presented their results at a private LinkedIn event in New York City a few weeks ago, 22 May 2019. LinkedIn exclusively shared the major findings with Samuel Scott  and The Drum in advance of a planned public release later this year. The new research uses Binet and Field’s prior methodology but isolates the B2B case studies in the IPA’s databank.

The findings validated Binet and Field’s prior research which advocated a general best practice of allocating, on average, 60% of spend towards long-term brand building and 40% towards short-term activation. The most significant difference in Binet and Field’s new B2B research is that, on average, the divide is reversed but a little more equal. Activation – or lead generation, in B2B terminology – should get 54% of spend while brand building should receive 46%.

“B2B is a bit more rational, a bit more activation-heavy,” Binet said.

This is very interesting to us, in that when we look at the results we generate for our clients the clients that perform the best with roughly the same amount of effort, distribution channels and content quality are the ones with the best, or most established brands. The ones that struggle are small, relatively new B2B tech brands making their first move in the market.



With this research, we can conclude that the reason our content marketing efforts were performing best with more established brands is that content marketing/lead generation/inbound marketing/activation, whatever you want to call it works better when you have already established a strong brand. When you have a strong brand you have built trust in your market so layering lead generation campaigns on top of a strong brand has a great chance of success.

I had also seen this whilst running B2B Marketing for Mobile Teleco Three. Launching a B2B content marketing campaign with a brand like Three with 00,000’s of website visits per month, great brand awareness and a number of ongoing consumer and business brand campaigns running was like throwing petrol on the fire. When you’re a B2B tech company starting out, running your marketing is like starting a fire with wet kindling and one match.


What does this mean for CMOs and CEOs

The problem with CEO’s of small tech companies and B2B Tech CMO’s and marketers is that they are fixated on leads and ROI and are rarely aware of or interested in brand building. B2B tech CMO’s will get that brand building is important, however they are typically under so much pressure to deliver leads that they take their eye off or ignore brand building in the quest for lead generation activities.

In addition to this, if you say that it’s going to take two years to build your brand their answer could well be that if they don’t win business in that time they may not be around to reap the rewards of these brand building efforts.


The Solution (small but mighty campaigns)

If you look after marketing for a smaller brand you have a bigger challenge. You need to split your budget too, but you have less of it to split and you are under pressure to generate leads.

Our advice in this scenario is to make sure your sales team are selling like the always did, lets face it, if your company is alive you’re generating sales. Assess where the best leads are coming from and do more of that lead generation activity.

To make a mark brand building, try this - pick an event or a piece of research to conduct, go all in on it, partner with an industry body to promote the heck out of it and own it. We are a small business and do something similar with our Irish B2B Digital Marketing Survey. This works very well to build our brand amongst our target audience of Irish B2B CMOs and marketers and generates qualified leads.


The Solution (big and beautiful campaigns)

If you’re a CMO of a bigger B2B brand with larger budgets you don’t have to worry, just be sure to apportion 54% of your budget to lead gen and 46% to brand building and make sure your brand building campaigns appeal to your targets emotional side.

In conjunction with your lead generation activations, plan and execute a campaign to help build your brand. We recently launched such a campaign for our client, Origina. They are the world’s leading, independent, third party IBM software support specialists. Their only competition is IBM themselves. Their challenge was to disrupt the market, get their message heard, and introduce more personality into their brand and do it all on a limited budget. While the campaign has only just launched, the early signs are hugely encouraging with over 200,000 full video views for minimal ad spend in just over 8 weeks.


About Squaredot

Squaredot is a creative B2B digital marketing agency based in Dublin, Ireland. We generate demand by connecting brands with the modern B2B buyer. Squaredot uses research and data to create targeted marketing collateral, combined with award winning creative, design and copywriting to craft engaging content that converts attention into nurtured leads. Squaredot’s services include research, strategy, persona development, SEO, content production, brand building, design and promotion.




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Age in the Workplace: Employment Report 2019

Posted By William Fry, Tuesday 23 July 2019

age in workplace 201961% believe older workers are inhibited by technological change 

  • According to a survey of 1,000 employers and employees in Ireland, 61% of employees believe they will have to work past age 66 years while only 32% would like to work beyond that age. The research published in the William Fry Employment Report 2019: Age in the Workplace looked at some of the current issues around two well debated topics - an ageing workforce and mandatory retirement.

    Survey findings include:

    - 35 - 54-year: 67% believe they will have to work past 66 although only 28% want to work over 66

- Over 55-year: 36% believe they will have to work past 66 but only 41% want to work over 66

- Retirement age: 53% of females have jobs with a retirement age in contrast to 44% of males

- Perception of older workers: 61% believe that older workers are inhibited by technological change

Commenting on the Employment Report 2019, Catherine O’Flynn, Head of William Fry’s Employment & Benefits Department, said: “According to recent CSO figures, there are 76,000 workers over the age of 65 in the Irish workforce, up from 69,000 in the previous 12 months. Factors driving these changes, include improved longevity, higher living costs and delayed receipt of State pension. With the majority of employees believing that they will have to work longer than ever before, now is the time for employers to act and prepare for a more age-diverse workplace”.

The Report also notes that there were 1,449 equality complaints made to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in 2018. Of these complaints, age was included in approximately 49% of all equality claims. These figures show a significant increase in age related disputes when compared to the 2017 figures, where discrimination on the ground of age was alleged in only 24% of equality claims.

According to William Fry, recruitment and promotion processes are particularly prone to age bias, whether conscious or unconscious. To avoid this, some of the measures that employers should implement include:

  • Ensuring that recruitment material is age neutral and non-discriminatory.
  • Providing training on unconscious bias to internal recruiters and decision makers.
  • Ensuring diversity amongst recruitment and decision makers.
  • Using objective assessment criteria when recruiting/promoting.
  • Never base a decision to hire/ not hire/ promote on any discriminatory grounds, including age.

In conclusion, Catherine O’Flynn, cautions employers: “Irish employers have introduced age-diverse policies and initiatives, such as raising the age of retirement, physically adapting the workplace, and aligning retirement age with the State pension age. However, all employers in Ireland need to plan for employees wishing to work beyond 66 years old. When this growing trend is added to the significant increase in age related disputes before the Workplace Relations Commission, many employers may be unnecessarily exposing themselves to legal risk.” 

Download the full Report at


About William Fry:

Leading law firm William Fry has over 320 legal and tax professionals and over 460 staff. Our client-focused service combines technical excellence with commercial awareness and a practical, constructive approach to business issues. We advise leading domestic and international corporations, financial institutions and government organisations. We regularly act on complex, multi-jurisdictional transactions and commercial disputes. Strong client relationships and high quality advice are the hallmarks of our business.

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A Day in the Life of... Darren Hardiman, Head of Operations, Marketing & E-commerce at DID Electrical

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Wednesday 17 July 2019

darren hardiman

What does a Head of Operations, Marketing & E-commerce at DID Electrical do?

DID Electrical is an Irish family business, which has been delivering, installing and demonstrating the latest in home appliances, TVs, technology, mobile and the best in customer service for over 50 years now. I develop and lead strategy and execution of the marketing, e-commerce, IT, customer support centre, and project teams in the business to support our sales teams across 23 bricks and mortar stores nationwide and online.

What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

I have a fairly broad background both in education and employment – which has probably been one of the biggest advantages in getting me to my current role. Having experience in a lot of areas:  design, media, communications, e-commerc, digital marketing, has helped lead me into an omnichannel retail environment – where all of those skills are very transferrable. Not ‘coming through the ranks’ in retail has also helped me perhaps have a different way of thinking or a different approach to certain projects/challenges, and that variety of thinking can bring something additional to support any business or team.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

The capacity for a plan to go up in smoke before the commute in - given the competitive nature of the market we operate in. Being dynamic in what we do as a business, though, is also a key strength of DID Electrical – it really goes right back to the origins of the business, the first in Ireland to deliver, install and demonstrate home appliances at a time when they were not commonplace. We try to champion that ability to out-manoeuvre the market in terms of bringing something different to our customers throughout the year, in-store and online.

What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

Having perspective and the ability to bring the organisation together in the right direction across multiple departments. It’s important to have the ability see all corners of the business at once: see the reality from the perspective of customer first and then back, through finance, sales, buying, marketing, etc. to ensure what we’re doing is right for our customers and the business.


Describe a typical working day.

Up at 5am or 5.30 (depending on how many snoozes on the phone I can get away with). The rest is a blur.


What do you love most about your role?

The people I work with in DID are the most passionate and energetic people I’ve ever worked with. Coming to work is easy if the people you’re with are in it with you – on good days and bad.

Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

Working for the last two businesses has taken me from graduating college to just turned 36. In that time, I’ve pushed myself and been given the opportunity to progress to new roles within each of those businesses. For me, I’ll do what I’m doing obsessively until I don’t obsess about it anymore – and then I’ll find a new challenge to obsess about!

To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

I’m terrible with this sort of question. I suppose, everyone you meet in life has a nugget or two. You take those nuggets, apply your own thinking to them and hopefully the output is better than the sum of all the parts. I think a lot of people get caught up with having a mentor, or hang on to every word of one or two key people, in or out of work. I think you’ve got to first and foremost look at yourself, be inspired by your own potential, use the ‘nuggets’ and keep challenging yourself to be better.

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Marketing Matters… with Gerard Tannam, Founder of IslandBridge Brand Development

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Wednesday 10 July 2019
Updated: Tuesday 9 July 2019

Gerard tannam Islandbridge

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role.

I set up Islandbridge in 2004, when my work with a number of clients both in Ireland and in Asia (where I’d spent ten of the previous fifteen years) suggested there was a real gap in the market for strategic and media-neutral brand development. Coming from a non-marketing background, I’d devised a range of tools to help clients survey, devise a brand framework, and prepare a brand action plan. One happy client in particular suggested that I set up my own business using these tools to offer a brand, or bridge-building, service to the market. Fifteen years later, we continue to work with that client, Michael Lennon of the Westport Woods Hotel, and many others, to build bridges that span the gap between buyers and sellers, between businesses and their markets, and between organisations and their audiences, in sectors ranging from financial services (Savvi Credit Union) to not-for-profit (Acquired Brain Injury Ireland) to hospitality (Maldron Hotels) and beyond.


Why did you choose a career in marketing?

In many ways, my career in marketing chose me! I’d served as a Senior Inspector of Police in Hong Kong, owned and operated an Art Gallery (Hong Kong) and an Events Management Business (Asia & Europe), and developed a seminal Road Safety Campaign (Ireland), learning from customers, colleagues and other marketers, and devising and adapting my own tool-kit along the way. My college studies in Philosophy had fostered my own life-long fascination with how things work, and people most of all, so I found myself building frameworks to enable me to grapple with questions such as ‘Why do people buy?’, ‘Why do people choose one course of action over another?’ and ‘How do people make sense of the world about them?’. These are all questions that concern marketers and influencers the world over.


In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge marketers are facing today? How would you tackle it?

The greatest challenge we face as marketers is the perception that marketing is more style than substance. For many people, marketing is seen as smoke and mirrors, part of the bag of tricks of the snake-oil salesman. Much of this perception is of our own making as marketers. In our work with Islandbridge, we tackle this by explicitly linking the work we do, the bridges we build, to the purpose of the service our clients offer to the world. When we frame the relationship between buyer and seller in this way, we set a standard for everything that our client says and does to build their brand. This gives substance to style. Our clients choose to work with us because we’re very demanding of them; we work hard to set the standards in their brand framework that match their purpose and then we work even harder together with them to meet and exceed those standards. Great marketing brings out the best in everyone concerned, and this is the great opportunity for us all as marketers.


What advice would you give to someone starting a career in marketing?

Get as much work-experience in other sectors as you can before and whilst you learn the basics of marketing. Hospitality, in particular, is a great training ground for marketers, and my own experience suggests that those who answer best the questions around why people buy are those who’ve served others face-to-face in often-challenging places such as hotels, restaurants and bars. There’s nothing like a happy or unhappy customer there to teach you a great deal of what you need to know about people and why and how and what they buy.  


What makes a great marketer?

Paraphrasing Julius Rosenwald of Sears Roebuck & Co, I believe a great marketer, like a great salesman, is able to stand on both sides of the shop counter at the same time.


What is your favourite marketing campaign of all time? Why?

Whilst I can’t trace this to a single campaign, I find the Toms’ One for One ( ) founding philosophy to be hugely attractive, particularly in terms of how it bridges the potential gap between its commercial and social purposes. Its campaign, and campaigns, to both make a profit and make a difference are a dramatic instance of the power and importance of marketing. Imagine if every marketer could span that apparent divide so effortlessly.


Where do you look for professional inspiration?

I look first to our clients and their customers. So many of them are working hard every day, doing the little things, the unnoticed things, the often difficult things, to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. As part of our work together, we spend as much time as we can walking the shop-floors, the factory sites, the hospital wards alongside them. Or chatting over a cup of tea. Hearing their stories. Understanding what’s important to them, what they value. Almost always, the inspiration for my work as a marketer, and the stories we might help our clients tell to bridge the gaps, comes from there.

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Five ways to improve your learning

Posted By Steven Roberts, head of marketing at Griffith College, Wednesday 3 July 2019
Updated: Tuesday 2 July 2019

5 ways to inprove your learning

Technology and globalisation are driving change at an unprecedented rate. According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering primary school today will end up in a job that does not yet exist. This has particular importance for knowledge workers – professionals such as marketers who rely on their skills and knowledge to perform and excel in their roles. As we reach the mid-point of the year, it is timely to reflect on how best to develop a learning mindset and maximise learning within a busy work-life schedule.

Knowledge workers will have to learn to stay young and mentally alive during a fifty year working life. Peter Drucker.


Develop a growth mindset

One of the best ways to approach learning is by adopting a growth mindset, as identified by the academic and author Carol Dweck. In her view, effort creates talent.

People with a fixed mindset focus on validating themselves in the eyes of others. Intelligence is seen as a finite resource, with all effort focused on being seen to be smart. A growth mindset, on the other hand, emphasises continuous development. Believing you can increase your mastery and knowledge is crucial. If you think you can become smarter, it increases your motivation and ultimately leads to higher levels of achievement.

It is the difference between a passion for learning and a hunger for approval. As Dweck says, “why waste time looking smart when you could be getting smarter”.


Use specific learning techniques

In A Mind for Numbers, Barbara Oakley talks about the benefits of alternating between focused and diffuse learning. She describes how famously creative people such as Thomas Edison used this technique. It involves switching between a meditative state and the focused effort required to complete complex tasks.

Oakley also highlights the dangers of procrastination. We all face this feeling at some point. The key is to push through this resistance rather than accept the immediate benefit of switching focus to another activity. Runners often face this with their morning jog – by working through the body’s initial reluctance they get into their running stride.

Author Cal Newport, meanwhile, talks about the benefits of Deep Work. Setting aside specific blocks of time, away from emails, phone calls and other distractions. Using time in this way, you can deliver projects that require deep thinking and significant effort. It could be building blocks of 2 – 3 hours into your day where you focus on a core project, or setting aside a longer period once a week to devote specifically to such work.


Use the compound effect – little and often

Process is a huge part of effective learning. You have to commit to putting in the time, making it a habit and part of your daily routine. We significantly underestimate what can be achieved over a long period. By adopting the compound effect, regularly undertaking learning and study over weeks and months, you can rapidly advance your knowledge in a particular area. No amount of talent or skill can substitute for the hard work and graft of continuous self-improvement.


Develop mastery

Mastery is one of the keys to autonomy, job satisfaction and security in the modern economy. The business world values knowledge workers – those people with deep knowledge and skills in a particular field; software engineers, legal experts and surgeons are just some examples.

Mastery requires time and effort. The 10,000 hour rule, popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, is one such example.

What are your strengths? Are there one or two key skills you possess that if you really focused on would lead to mastery? How can you build a routine into your day to make progress on your goals?

Brian Tracy talks about the golden hour, taking 60 minutes each day to focus on personal development. Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect, advises to bookend the start and end of the day for this purpose.

The key to both pieces of advice is consistency and routine. Concentrate your learning around particular goals or aspects of your life where you wish to develop excellence.


Keep ‘sharpening the saw’

Finally, don’t forget to keep ‘sharpening the saw’, in Stephen Covey’s famous phrase. Learning is a process, an ongoing project. We experience change on a daily, monthly and yearly basis – upskilling is the natural and required response, as Drucker’s quote advises. There is also a personal satisfaction and reward. We are committing ourselves to continuous improvement, and ultimately mastery in our chosen field.

So set aside an hour. Get out a pen and paper and start to identify the learning goals you need to achieve to deliver upon your overall objectives. Put in place a routine around these, one you can commit to, and soon you will see the benefits.


About the author

Steven Roberts MMII is head of marketing at Griffith College. A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and certified data protection officer, he writes on marketing, data protection and strategy.

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