Brands are an indispensable aspect of business and integral to cultures across the world.
Being much more than symbols, logo or names, brands evoke emotions, expectations, and perceptions in consumersâ€™ minds.
Successful brands are consistent in winning the â€˜two moments of truth.â€™ The first is when the consumer selects the brand after evaluating other offerings, and the second is when the brand is experienced or used. Brands that win these moments of truth consistently experience customer loyalty, trust, and re-buys.
â€˜Brand buildingâ€™ goes beyond awareness creation and is a journey undertaken with a strong focus on communicating the corporate soul to connect the customers to the brand promise.
While business-to-consumer (B2C) companies have developed strategies to adapt to market and technology disruptions, many business-to-business (B2B) companies consider such efforts as irrelevant. As the brand is the most important asset for the company, it is crucial to develop and sustain a sound brand management strategy.
Step 1: Being Known or Being One of Many
While no company neglects â€˜brandingâ€™ in B2C, many B2B managers believe branding is confined only to consumer markets and products. In B2B, brands serve the following purposes:
- Identification of products and services
- Differentiation of the business from the competition
- Communication of the value and benefits of products or services
- Guarantee of quality and performance
- Increased information efficiency
- Risk reduction
- Value creation
B2B branding enables the company to reach out to other stakeholders, including investors, suppliers, partners, and regulators.
Step 2: To Brand or Not to Brand
The key differences between B2B and B2C markets relate to the:
- The complexity of services and products
- Diversity of demand
- Lesser number of customers
- Larger volumes of business with each customer
- Longer lasting and closer relationships with customers
Businesses can boost success rate with a holistic brand approach where â€œeverythingâ€ ranging from conceptualisation, development, and marketing to other processes, matters.
Step 3: B2B Branding Dimensions
Brand management involves planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating brand strategy. Active involvement of all external and internal stakeholders is integral to the success of a holistic branding strategy.
It is important to note brands can only capitalize on their intrinsic values as even the best of advertising cannot bring about a brand value that does not exist in the first place.
Key takeaways for value creation in B2B branding
- Aligning the branding strategy with the business strategy helps build lasting customer relationships.
- Consistency at all customer touch points is the key branding success.
- Ingredient branding is multi-stage in nature and is increasingly relevant for OEMs and supplies.
- The key communication channels for B2B are direct sales, marketing, PR, e-marketing, press, sponsorship, exhibitions, and trade shows.
- B2Bs have to develop and implement an effective measurement system which is crucial to measuring branding success.
Step 4: Acceleration Through Branding
The real value of a company lies in its intangible assets such as customer relationships, market knowledge, brands, intellectual property, and distribution coverage.
- The salient points B2B companies need to focus on to accelerate success through branding are:
- The process of brand building encompasses brand planning, brand analysis, brand strategy, brand building, and brand auditing.
- Defining the brand mission is the first step in brand building, while the second step is adding brand values and brand identity.
- Consistency, clarity, and constancy are the three â€œCsâ€ of branding with the fourth and fifth elements being visibility and authenticity.
- Brand auditing and brand metrics enable an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the brand portfolio and the brand.
- In-depth, fact-based understanding of brand equity and economic impact on the profits is key to developing a successful brand portfolio.
Step 5: Success Stories of B2B Branding
Some of the B2B success stories include:
- FedEx â€“ Effectively communicates one brand promise across B2B and B2C.
- Samsung â€“ Leveraged and replicated its successful B2C strategy to B2B branding.
- Cemex â€“ Adopted dual branding with individual branding for B2C clients.
- IBM â€“ Branding success through an integrated communication approach.
- Siemens â€“ Effectively communicated the brandâ€™s cross-business activities.
- Lanxess â€“ Successful brand positioning and alignment of marketing communication.
- Lenovo â€“ Focused on leveraging quality for brand promotion after streamlining processes and overcoming cultural barriers.
- Tata Steel â€“ Effective branding and development of high value add products backed by segmentation and streamlining of operations.
Step 6: Beware of Branding Pitfalls
It is quite common for branding efforts to fail, but the lesson to be learned from such failures is that B2Bs should not jump into branding without considering the above-mentioned aspects.
The five most common branding pitfalls include:
- A brand is something the company owns â€“ The brand is a sum total of what the customers perceive about the brand, the brand promise, and future expectations.
- Assuming brands take care of themselves â€“ Just as any other asset, branding needs investment, maintenance, and proactive management on an ongoing basis.
- Overrating brand awareness as opposed to its relevance â€“ Creating awareness about a brand is only the first layer in branding. B2Bs have to focus on brand relevance.
- Wearing blinders â€“ Developing branding strategies based only on the internal image that the companies have on their own brands is a huge mistake as this image can be totally different from the one that customers have.
- Letting outsiders do the branding â€“ While professional brand agencies can help create the branding elements, it is important for businesses to be actively involved in the branding process.
Step 7: Future Perspective
With constantly evolving technologies, economies, and customer expectations, winning companies are those that disrupt old practices, exploit major trends, and quickly adapt to emerging market scenarios. These trends should be monitored and incorporated into the branding strategy:
- B2B branding will take a center place as â€œfuture of brands is the future of business.â€ Companies on the right track are the ones that are focused on brand management and branding.
- The link between social responsibility and branding is strong as companies which promote responsible business practices and are focused on collaboration and innovation are favoured.
- In the future, brands will be differentiated by brand relevance, humanity, and simplicity and not by technology.