Hey there, B2B brands, we need to talk. We know you’re all very serious companies talking to other very serious companies, but we’re concerned that in all your seriousness you’re creating brands that are seriously dull. The problem is that B2B isn’t just “business-to-business”; it’s really “business-to-people-who-buy-things-on-behalf-of-business.” So while you’ve been communicating a nice, safe, boring brand that a “business” might love, the people actually working for those businesses don’t.
Committees are people too. Compared to B2C, most B2B buying decisions involve multiple people. Perhaps that’s why so many B2B brands strive for blandness, creating weak, forgettable brands in a misguided attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator. However, this is a key opportunity to double down on your brand to make it more interesting, more beautiful, more powerful and more personal. The people who make up the committees, boards and C-suite of your target clients are just as swayed by great design, powerful writing and an emotional connection when choosing a bank, making an IT investment or purchasing jet engine parts for their business as they are choosing a personal checking account, buying a new laptop or booking a vacation in their individual lives.
Ask for a relationship, not a sale. As opposed to most B2B brands, in B2C branding we see less emphasis on price and features and more on the customer’s relationship with the product. This same emphasis is coming to B2B. The more companies like Google, Nike, Starbucks and others create world-class branding, the more they create a brand-savvy population that will reward world-class branding in the corporate world too. As our coffee, shoes and phone choices have become an important part of our personal identity, the brands business buyers choose for SaaS, equipment and professional services are becoming increasingly more important to their work identity and selected for as much how it makes the buyer feel as it does for the bottom line.
The business case for getting emotional. Most companies agree that a strong brand is one of its most valuable assets. But unlike most assets, the dollar value of a brand can be hard to pin down, making it easy for B2B companies to downplay branding. However, Forbes’ recent list of the world’s most valuable brands points to the true dollar value of a brand. By delving into the financials of more than 200 global companies, they were able to determine the brand value each one has over its competitors, showing how companies with a strong brand like Apple can charge a premium over direct competitors like Microsoft for a nearly identical product. In B2C, it’s not just who has the best price or most features; it’s who has the best brand that often wins the sale. B2B is no different.
Who will be the Apple of your industry? If you take another look at that Forbes list, you’ll notice only a handful of B2B companies, while the rest is a wide range of brands encompassing everything from hamburgers to luxury cars. B2B brands should hang their collective heads in shame. It’s time for B2B brands to step up their game. While Apple is the Apple of personal computer hardware and devices, there is no Apple of accounting services, industrial cranes, commercial real estate leasing, wind turbines or almost any other B2B industry you can think of. Now’s the time to invest in a more powerful brand that not only creates value in your customer’s heart, but for your bottom line.