Think of a consumer ad campaign, current or past, that you like or maybe even love.
Easy, isn’t it?
Now think of a business-to-business one you have similar positive feelings about.
That’s harder, wouldn’t you say?
Apart from IBM campaigns over the years, there are few b2b brands that have made an impression on me.
Every now and again I see outstanding one-off pieces such as a DM pack or a good tactical campaign. But no consistent, long-term brand building. No distinct attitude or big idea.
This is odd, since the people I’ve worked with on b2b projects are as talented, creatively and strategically, as those I’ve met in the consumer marketing world.
What’s going on? Does branding not matter in b2b? Is a certain mindset holding us back? Maybe b2b is just harder to do well than b2c.
A b2b marketer might say, “It’s lead generation and sales that matter to us. We don’t need a brand that makes people feel good.”
I think that view is short-sighted.
Why building a b2b brand matters
If you care about your sales and lead generation, then you should also care about building a brand, whether you do it through lead generation, advertising, content or other forms of marketing.
A distinctive brand helps people remember you.
It has an attitude or thought-provoking idea that sets you apart from your competitors.
It generates goodwill in your prospects.
It helps you sell to them.
Most b2c clients I’ve worked for have been keen to build a strong brand that helps them stand out from their competitors.
Could a b2c approach help you build your b2b brand?
A consumer-marketing creative solution usually involves a big idea that can work across a variety of media for years to come.
One device consumer brands sometimes use is a mascot or spokesperson, such as the meerkat for comparethemarket.com, or Beyoncé for Pepsi.
How many b2b brands can you think of use a mascot or celebrity spokesperson? I’m not saying a b2b brand must have one to succeed, but I think such devices could help.
Fortunately, some of the more modern b2b tech companies are using mascots or at least mascot-type logos, for example Android (robot), Mailchimp and Evernote (elephant).
I think that’s great, as they add some warmth and help you remember the name.
Do you think such devices lack the gravitas necessary for your audience? Then consider the banking sector, with the Lloyds Bank horse and Investec’s zebra.
If a bank can use a zebra to attract institutional investors, shouldn’t you at least consider using a mascot or spokesperson to connect with your prospects?
IBM: a great creative benchmark for b2b
Another way to build your brand is with an idea that’s relevant to your business and connects with your audience – one like IBM’s Smarter Cities campaign by Ogilvy France (below).
It’s an idea that resonates not only with the business world but with ordinary people as well.
It helps IBM get talked about.
You don’t need IBM’s big marketing budget to have a big idea.
Small consumer-facing companies frequently build brands on small budgets.
If they can do it, b2b marketers can too.
By doing things differently from your competitors, by touching a nerve or making your audience think, you can start to own a space in your prospects’ minds.
Chances are, decision-makers (remember, they’re people too) will like your company more and want to do business with you.
That’s the value of building a b2b brand.