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B2B brand development research

Circle is an expert in B2B brand development research.  Through a programme of primary research we’ll:

  • Probe the conscious and sub-conscious to uncover your brand signature
  • Identify the ideal signature – one which is compelling, differentiated and credible
  • Ensure this signature matches the internal point-of-view so it can be lived day-to-day

Based on these insights we’ll then make clear recommendations about the optimum brand positioning and map out the journey needed to reach this.

Over the last decade we’ve supported the development of dozens of world-leading business-to-business (B2B) brands. Brands like Wiley, Microsoft, Old Mutual and Ericsson. We couple this extensive experience with a deep understanding of B2B branding and a suite of smart research techniques which probe far beyond the superficial.

The result is research which makes a real difference.

Our guiding principles

Our guiding principles

Based on our extensive experience and the self-funded research undertaken by our CircleLabs™ team, we’ve developed an exclusive model which explains the dynamics of branding in B2B markets. This model guides (but never constrains) our approach and is based on four fundamental observations:

1. You don’t own your brand. That’s because it lives in a customer’s mind – it’s the sum of all their perceptions about you. Furthermore, these brand perceptions are both conscious and sub-conscious, with even the former being hard to articulate accurately. This means that to effectively develop and manage a brand you need to a) get inside the mind of your target market and b) use smart techniques to uncover their true perceptions

2. Brand perceptions are formed in three ways. Most powerful is interaction (every experience a customer has with your brand and its representatives) as this reveals the true face of the brand.

Brand perceptions are also influenced through communications (everything seen or heard directly from your brand) and reputation (everything seen or heard about your brand). Mis-alignment between these three sources can breed dis-trust and lead to confused brand perceptions. This means that in identifying the optimum brand positioning you need to ensure that it can be lived day-to-day by your organisation

3. Each member of your target market has a space in their mind dedicated to your product or service category. Your brand (and competitor brands) lives in this space and has a mental signature which represents what it means to the individual.

There are five core elements to the brand signature in B2B markets and these tend to be tied to decision making and more rational than in consumer markets. They are:

  • Distinctiveness – extent to which the brand comes to mind and stands out
  • Activities – beliefs about what the brand can offer
  • Fame – the one thing, if anything, the brand is best known for
  • Performance – brand’s strength in areas which drive buying decisions
  • Sentiment – liking of and attachment to the brand

This means that you need to understand your brand’s unique signature, how it relates to competitor brands and what the ideal signature looks like – one which is compelling, differentiated and credible

4. When buying decisions are being made, the signature of each brand determines whether it comes to mind and the thoughts and feelings triggered about it. In turn, these perceptions influence judgments and buying decisions. This means that in identifying the ideal brand positioning you need to ensure that it will translate into commercial success – higher levels of consideration, preference and advocacy

Read Case Study


Ericsson, a manufacturer of telecoms infrastructure equipment, had seen its market undergo radical change.  Telecoms used to be about voice calls, but now smart phones meant it was all about data and content.  Mobile operators wanted their customers to be streaming video, downloading music and surfing the internet.  Fixed line operators had reinvented themselves as quadruple-play providers of phone, broadband, internet and TV.

Ericsson needed to ensure that they remained relevant in this new environment.  They took several commercial steps to do so including a number of acquisitions which provided new technological capabilities.  This saw three key brands being added to the Ericsson portfolio – Redback, Tandberg and LHS.

Whilst these acquisitions created a strong proposition, something was missing – a brand to hold it all together.  Not a brand in the sense of a visual identifier.  It had already been decided that the new entity was going to adopt the Ericsson identity.  But a brand as in the associations the ‘new’ Ericsson’ should trigger in the target market’s mind; its meaning.

So Ericsson turned to their long-term research partner Circle Research.

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