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.

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Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) branding research.

2 thoughts on “The benefits of a strong brand in B2B markets

  1. Francis Aglen says:

    All good stuff, but worrying that a quarter of B2B marketing leaders do NOT believe that branding is critical to growth. And what is the percentage of B2B CEOs, CFOs and COOs who really believe the brand is important?

  2. Muhammad Asif khan says:

    All very good advantage but I would like to add one more that: ” We tend to think of financial donors, volunteers, and program participants as the brass ring; the prize for effective branding and strong communications. But there is another stakeholder group for whom the strength of your brand matters: paid and volunteer staff. Having a brand that powerfully conveys a big, appealing idea will help you attract the best and the brightest—and will help you retain them when another organization tries to lure them away.

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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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