By Tom Dougherty
B-to-B branding has its unique challenges.
The marketing of B-to-B has exhibited a bit of a metamorphosis in recent years. Suddenly, brands are realizing that their advertising and marketing efforts need to look more like its consumer cousins. All too often the marketing directors that create the B-to-B branding messages believe their customer only makes rational decisions and is not influences by emotional concerns.
Looking more closely at the emotional trigger points in creating brand preference is the right marketing tactic, because it reflects the realization that the customer’s own personality needs to be stimulated if you want to create a preference beyond just price,features and availability. After this revelation, however, the brand strategy seems to crumble.
Consider these two matrices. Each matrix is different depending on the product manufactured or marketed, but the fundamental miscalculations are similar in each case because they are inside-out. They messaging is all about the manufacturer and/or the product but does not recognize the prospect in this message. This is because B2B brands often confuse the business of their business with the business of their brand (read more about this confusion here) and describe their brand in terms of product rather than a brand equity that adds important value to that product.
For many the brand is the product
This is quickly apparent when you consider manufacturing. For most of the category the brand IS the product, and the brand imaging is all about the company itself rather than the customer it wishes to influence. The brand is misrepresented by corporate identity. The market sees itself as a commodity and, therefore, confuses brand promise with product efficacy. In some ways, this is correct because most business-to-business brands have close competitors that manufacture similar products at the same price point. As a result however, never has a true brand been more important than in generic categories. It may be the only means by which customers can choose beyond generic benefits and marketing messages.
When should you implement a B-to-B branding strategy?
If your price point is similar — and your product is identical — then build your brand around the precepts of the customer you wish to influence to differentiate and hold meaning to the target audience. At Stealing Share, we model the behaviors of your prospects using our preceptive behavioral modeling and then we test those beliefs (precepts) in a powerful combination of qualitative research and quantitative research.
In this model we have simply replaced the self-descriptor axis with a value line that identifies the possible customer (Who They Are). The brand opportunity will vary depending on the precepts that your target market views as true and important.
In this example, let’s say that your target is risk adverse and is more interested in service than price (not to say that price does not matter at all). So, if you manufacture XYZ widget, you would allow the product to sell the attributes (category table stakes) and overlay the value of the brand on top of it. This will identify the preceptive needs of the target market within the category. In this example the business of the brand is all about keeping risk and change to a minimum and backing it up with an emphasis on better service. Suddenly, the target market that seeks the status quo finds the widget offered them by a brand that promises to deliver the widget with an added value that reflects the corporate values of the customer. This identification of values helps them choose and will steal market share from the competition.
Here are many more articles on B2B marketing and branding.