Brand Strategy: What is the Role of B2B Branding?

b2b branding

What is the role of B2B branding? How is it different from sales and marketing? Why should B2B enterprises be adopting purpose-driven brand strategies? What benefits will they accrue by adapting themselves to the changing requirements of the Purpose Economy?

It’s no longer business-as-usual in the B2B marketplace. Long-held beliefs are giving way to new opportunities. Many of the reliable tools of the past are no longer as effective as they used to be. All of this is prompting more and more B2B leaders to explore the idea of transforming their businesses into purpose-driven enterprises. Here, we explain why this makes sense and give an overview of the new form of strategy that is called for.

Rethinking the basics

For decades, conventional B2B wisdom has been:

1. Business decision-makers are relentlessly rational in their purchasing.

2. The best tools to address that mindset are sales and marketing.

3. Branding (even if it isn’t called that) generally focuses on visual identity.

4. There is an extremely narrow emotional bandwidth in the workplace (apart from high-fives after a big deal is closed, a glow of appreciation when promotion is being handed out, and the once a year good cheer that flows from the holiday party punch bowl).

But just as horses and oxen gave way to internal combustion engines, and just as the ledger books have gone digital, these outdated perceptions are giving way to exciting new thinking and practices. We are now in the transition from the Information Economy to the Purpose Economy.

This inevitable transition will carry forward much of what is familiar today, leave behind what simply isn’t working anymore, and bring new sensitivity and purpose to the economy. The B2B companies that will emerge as leaders in the Purpose Economy will have moved beyond the traditional focus on features and benefits. Instead, they will have taken aim at a higher emotional connection with everyone associated with their business.

Wait, did we just say, “emotional connection”?

Yes. We’re going against conventional wisdom. But, don’t worry, we’re not getting all touchy-feely here. To put this discussion in the right perspective, let’s first reframe what we mean by “emotional connection”.

All humans, even the shrewdest business buyers, innately seek personal safety, connectedness, and growth. Of course, they look for this within themselves, but to an increasing degree, our highly stressed and chaotic world is prompting more people to also look to what they buy, and where they work, to add meaning and purpose to their lives.

Smart companies recognize and embrace these innate needs. They realign their products, business strategies, and communications to reflect, as much as possible, their enterprise’s ability to satisfy those core needs and desires.

The “emotional connections” we’re talking about here, flow from the feelings that are evoked when people realize that part of their personal quest can be met by aligning themselves with the ambitions of a purpose-driven institution, including a company or brand. We’re not talking emotions that get people gleefully dancing on their desks, or bring them to the point of tears, or to guilt them into doing what you want them to do.

The ideal emotional connection in the B2B realm is something subtle. It operates on a deep level that continues to allow for clear rational thinking, yet reframes what’s ultimately important about the transaction.

B2B brands that recognize this dynamic fundamentally change the way they reach out to people. They surround their proven sales and marketing strategies and tactics with a unique aura that shifts the way people think, feel, and act.

Toward a purpose-driven B2B branding strategy

A purpose-driven brand strategy is very different from the typical business or communication strategy. It is built out of strong empathy for the people who, unlike senior management, have a less intense and focused connection to the company. By better understanding the innate needs and drives of people, you are better able to see your business from their perspective, and to pinpoint the viable and credible points of meaning in your company.

These points of meaning, or “Truths”, provide the platform upon which an effective purpose-driven brand strategy can be built. Once the truths have been discerned, a Promise emerges. This is a “North Star” idea that will help align customers to your meaningful ambition, inspire your employees to pursue that ambition, and serve as a magnet within your breadth to draw new customers, prospects, and recruits to your business.

Coupled with helpful advice about how to bring the Promise to life through brand and workplace behavior, the brand strategy leads to the evolution of current products, practices, and processes, and the transformation of your workplace culture.

Six ways a purpose-driven brand strategy will help your enterprise

  1. Ramp up the respect for, recognition of, and loyalty to your firm
  2. Mark out clear lines of differentiation between your business and your competitors.
  3. Bond your best customers today in deeper and more profound ways, leading them to increase their business with you and to recommend your business to their peers.
  4. Make your competitor’s customers rethink their “business as usual” decision-making pattern and take a fresh look at your business.
  5. Help you retain and recruit the people you need to remain innovative, savvy, and agile.
  6. Inspire your senior leaders to frame a better and more successful future for the company, and give them new energy and feelings of connectedness to their followers that will enhance their leadership style, and help them achieve their vision.

Summary

B2B branding is changing. Strong and powerful sales and marketing strategies are being augmented with purpose and meaning through next generation brand strategies. More profound and meaningful differences are being established in an increasingly commoditized world. Power is being gained as it becomes easier to counter others who copy your products, or unexpectedly invade your turf. Customers and employees are being drawn closer to businesses through more meaningful and gratifying relationships.

The key is a purpose-driven brand strategy. When well constructed, it becomes a platform for B2B to build upon, a recipe for evolution, and a source of vibrant energy that draws people in, and motivates them to help your business thrive.

To learn more about the methodology of Emotive Branding download white paper:

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Curious to see some of our B2B branding examples? Click here.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco B2B branding agency.

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