Some don’t think that branding matters in B2B markets. They say that B2B decision makers are logical beings immune to any such irrational influences. And anyway, it’s all just fluffy marketing crap and a brand is really just a logo isn’t it?
B2B marketers disagree. In fact, our surveys have found that 77% of B2B marketing leaders believe that branding is critical to growth.
Why? Well first off, they realise that rather than simply being a logo, a brand is a perception held about a company. It’s a series of associations about:
- What you stand for
- What makes you different from others in your space
- The functional and emotional benefits (yes, even in B2B) to be derived from working with your organisation or products
So because a brand is a perception held by someone else, you have no choice about whether that perception exists. You can however choose to manage your brand. Those that reject the need for branding in B2B environments should contemplate this. They can be the master of their fate, or they can leave it up to others.
These enlightened marketers have also seen the benefits of building a strong brand:
- It makes you a must-have on short-lists. If your brand is dominant then you’ll often be considered by default as not to do so would raise eyebrows
- In riskier buying situations where the cost of making the wrong choice is high (either for the individual’s reputation or for the company’s effectiveness) a strong brand makes you the safe choice. As the old adage goes, ‘you won’t get fired for buying IBM’
- It simplifies the decision for buyers. The brand acts as ‘shorthand’ which quickly conveys a lot of meaning. Less well known brands require the buyer to work harder to understand the benefits they bring. This matters because despite what textbooks tell us, B2B buyers aren’t automatons following a thorough, logical process in every buying situation – they sometimes just opt for the easy choice
- It’s a point of differentiation, especially in commoditised markets where there is little apparent difference between products and services. A strong brand also comes into its own in situations where it is difficult to compare products and services (e.g. if the buyer has limited knowledge, if the product is complex) as it suggests inherent quality
- It allows you to charge a price premium because it implies that the product or service is somehow better, or it provides a sense of trust worth paying extra for
- It builds preference and loyalty. Positive brand associations make buyers want to be associated with you and increase the perceived risk of switching
All of the above translate into the most important benefit of a strong brand – commercial success. A brand has real tangible value. For example, Interbrand regularly values the world’s brands in its Best Global Brands series and in 2015 several pure B2B brands (and many more B2B/B2C brands) featured in the top 20 – IBM is ranked fifth with a value of $65,095 million, GE ranks 8th ($42,267 million), Cisco ranks 15th ($29,854 million) and Oracle ranks 16th ($27,283 million).
Maybe branding isn’t such fluffy marketing crap after all.
Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) branding research.