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  • Writer's pictureTMA Global

Why is branding important in B2B marketing?

Branding matters just as much for a B2C business as it does to B2B

Let’s say you have to buy a pair of headphones and you have to choose between two brands. Let’s call them Brand A and Brand B, for lack of better names. Brand A sells a good product but it’s content with just meeting the demands of its customers and pushing its sales curve upward. Nothing wrong with that.

Brand B, on the other hand, offers the same product, but with a much better buying experience. This brand goes beyond just the ‘selling’ part and makes sure the customer feels right at home – from the time they approach the brand to the time they make the purchase. You come away from the buying process with a much better feeling, like you bought something from someone you know and trust.

Yes, Brand A’s way of doing business is not wrong by any stretch of the imagination. It’s functional and it brings in the moolah. It becomes all about the product and the company you’re buying from. Interacting with Brand A almost feels ‘cold’.

Brand B makes it all about the customer. That’s the power of branding.

Good branding goes beyond just the product and resonates with people on a deeper, emotional level. Think Nike. Think Apple. Think Amazon. Why do people choose these names over a whole bunch of others? Yes, these sell top-tier products, but they also have a super-strong brand identity. They connect.

“That’s cute, if you’re talking about B2C. How’s that going to matter in a B2B scenario?”, you ask. You’d be surprised just how much.

So, why does B2B marketing, a billion dollar industry, seem to lack a coherent understanding of how brands create growth over time.


B2B – the ‘B’ doesn’t stand for ‘boring’.

First of all, Business-to-Business doesn’t mean it’s a bunch of robots selling to another bunch of robots. At the end of the day, it’s a group of people selling to another group of people. You’re probably selling to a manager who’s just looking to make the order and get through the day, so he can go home and spend time with his family, and unwind with an hour of Netflix. He’s got his own set of likes and dislikes, things that appeal to him and things that don’t. So doesn’t it make sense to talk to him in a way that ‘gets’ him?

That’s what good branding can do. It makes the brand talk, rather than it just being a one-way street. And that’s what makes your customer stick with your brand – whether you’re selling sports shoes, computers or cloud based services. B2B buying decisions are assumed to be more carefully researched, considered and scrutinized in the business world. And yet the famous B2B IBM campaign of the 1970s - “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” - built a brand and mental availability by appealing directly to the emotions.

Branding matters just as much for a B2C business as it does to B2B.

This could take a while

One of the main reasons B2B businesses tend to overlook branding is the need for instant results. Like Brand A mentioned above, these businesses are just looking to make the sale. Yes, they spend time aligning GTM (Go To Market motions) with product-led strategy, sales assisted growth and customer mapping – which is entirely okay, but that’s just looking at the process through a pair of short term goggles. Branding, by its very nature, is a long term process. It takes time, energy and money to create a brand identity. Yes, it might take a little longer for the results to show in the company’s books, but the intangible benefits are far greater.


On that note, let’s dive into a few core B2B brand-building marketing principles.

1. Balance between brand and activation

According to Les Binet and Peter Field, together known as “The Godfathers of Effectiveness”, consumer products spend about 60% on brand building and 40% on activation. For B2B, those figures stood at 46% and 54% respectively. With buyers doing their own research before making a B2B purchase, we expect that 46% to creep up a bit.

2. Maximize mental availability

There’s a general perception that human beings rely on rational thought to make a bulk of their decisions. That’s not always true – we tend to make our decisions based on which way our emotions sway us. And emotions are not always decided on 100% rational ground.

“Human Beings are to independent thinking as cats are to swimming. They can do it, but they prefer not to.” - Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman

Rather than applying logic & analysis to make a decision, people usually use mental shortcuts that behavioural economists call “heuristics”.A lot of the time, emotions are dictated by the things that take up our mind space. Having a strong brand image goes a long way in making that happen.

3. Harness the power of emotion (duh)

If you’ve seen Avengers Endgame (Spoiler Alert!), you’re probably still thinking about that semi-tragic ending. Tony Stark might have fatefully snapped his fingers 3 years ago, but that moment lives on in the collective memories of a billion people around the world. That’s what a powerful emotional moment can do. And it wasn’t a moment that happened overnight. The MCU was building up to it for over 10 years, before they finally pulled the trigger. (That’s long term for you)

Source: IPA Databank, 1998-2018 cases

B2B Marketing Institute

The bottom line is: brand building will get your company into the customer’s field of vision and consideration set. The rest of the factors – product, pricing, service and availability help seal the deal. The key is finding the sweet spot between those two areas.

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