The origin of brand management traces back to the world of consumer packaged goods. However, since its inception, many of the concepts of brand management (and the foundation of brand strategy) have applied effectively to other B2C and B2B businesses.
Despite this, many B2B marketers still question whether brands are as important in the world of B2B as they are in B2C. Those who do recognize the importance of brands in B2B wonder whether the same basic principles, practices, frameworks, and guidelines still apply.
Increasing evidence shows that brands are just as important in the world of B2B. Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2017 Rankings—which evaluates brands across financial performance, consumer choice influence, and ability to command a premium price—included multiple B2B brands in the top 25, like IBM. Numerous other studies and research have confirmed the importance of branding in B2B. One 2017 study from B2B International showed that, among marketing executives, branding is the single most critical marketing strategy on their plates. That places branding ahead of strategies like product development, market segmentation, and pricing.
Additionally, CEB, now part of Gartner, found that B2B marketers increasingly turn to branding to win preference, drive purchases, and achieve premium pricing. The CEB study, which was conducted with 55 CMOs, found branding to be the second-highest priority among marketing executives. Finally, McKinsey reports that B2B companies with strong brands outperform weak ones by 20 percent.
The benefits of a strong B2B brand
B2B businesses benefit significantly from a strong brand. A strong B2B brand:
- Differentiates your brand and ensures it stands out in its category, giving customers and prospects a reason to choose your brand over competitors
- Empowers your brand to charge and sustain a price premium
- Enables your brand to build trust with key stakeholders—customers, employees, shareholders, vendors, partners, etc.
Examples of strong, successful B2B brands
MailChimp, the most recognized email marketing service provider, traditionally positioned themselves as the ‘go-to’ email marketing tool for beginners or small businesses. However, MailChimp has grown the brand and its values into a more professional B2B offering that can scale as your business grows. Awareness, ease of use, and technical integration capabilities have driven larger companies to buy into the brand and remain loyal. By targeting beginners to email marketing, MailChimp also wins loyalty from users who don’t have time to learn a new system as their business grows.
Adobe’s B2B offering is positioned more like a partnership than a product or service offering, positioning the brand as the creative solutions partner for businesses. Just five years after the computer software company’s controversial decision to alter its brand strategy by switching its entire business from one-off product purchases to enduring relationships with its customers through its subscription and cloud-based business model, it is reaping the rewards. Adobe currently enjoys a 17% annual increase in brand value since 2013. Brands like are winning by doing whatever it takes to keep the customer happy, even if it means reinventing themselves and disrupting their business models.
B2B branding continues to evolve and change. Robust marketing strategies are being augmented with purpose and meaning through next-generation brand strategies. Brands are establishing more meaningful differences in an increasingly commoditized world, while customers are being drawn closer to businesses through more meaningful and gratifying relationships.