March 2024

B2B marketing strategies: Utilising business branding to stand out and accelerate growth

5 minutes

Have you ever paused to think about branding? Not just any branding, but the kind that brings to life trendy logos, catchy taglines, and those unforgettable ad campaigns. Picture the iconic Apple logo, Nike’s “Just Do It”, or the golden arches of McDonald’s. These aren’t mere symbols or phrases; they’re experiences. They stir emotions, resonate with personal journeys, and forge a bond between brand and consumer. The B2C world thrives on this vibrant, emotional, and personal connection, aiming to touch hearts and secure a spot in consumers' minds.

But what happens when we shift gears to the B2B realm, especially among small and medium enterprises (SMEs)? Suddenly, the landscape changes. The vivid emotional colours fade into a more pragmatic, subdued palette. Here, instead of reaching out to millions of hearts, brands target specific niches, focusing on particular industries or business functions.
While giants like IBM, Microsoft, or Salesforce have made their mark, many B2B entities, particularly SMEs, are playing catch-up, lost in a fog of misunderstanding around branding.

Why the oversight? Let’s break it down:

  • Audience complexity: B2B isn’t about individual shoppers but other businesses, each with its layers and decision-making processes. This complexity often leads to the belief that branding, with its emotional core, takes a backseat to functionality and utility.

  • Product/service nature: B2B solutions tackle business challenges, unlike B2C’s focus on personal needs. This practical focus can sometimes overshadow the need for a strong brand identity.

  • Long-term relationships: With B2B, it’s about building lasting connections. Some believe that once a client is secured, branding loses its importance.

  • Branding misconceptions: There’s more to branding than logos and colours. It’s about the entire experience a business offers, the trust it builds, its consistency, and the promises it keeps.

  • Budget constraints: Often, SMEs prioritise product development, sales, and operations, viewing branding as a luxury.

However, it’s time for a wake-up call! Branding in the B2B space is more than just aesthetics or catchy phrases. It’s about building a unique identity, a promise of trust, and a consistent experience that sets you apart in a crowded market.
Think again if you believe your B2B customers only care about features, benefits, and prices. Yes, these are vital, but they’re just the beginning. In a sea of similar offerings, branding is your beacon.
Remember what brand strategist Marty Neumeier says "The brand isn’t what YOU say it is. It’s what THEY say it is."

The power of brand perception

A brand transcends its logo or tagline; it’s the perception people have of your company. In the B2B world, where sales cycles are longer and decisions involve several stakeholders, a strong brand image builds trust, credibility, and emotional connections. Faced with two similar solutions, a buyer will likely choose the brand they feel a connection to, the one with a memorable story and trustworthy identity.

Redefining B2B branding

So, what’s the game plan for B2B companies?

  • Know your audience: Dig deep to grasp their values, challenges, and goals. This insight helps to create a brand narrative that resonates.

  • Tell your unique story: Highlight why you exist, the problems you solve, and the value you bring, in a compelling manner.

  • Consistency matters: Ensure your brand message is unwavering across all platforms. This builds recognition and trust.

  • Stir emotions: Even in logic-driven B2B decisions, emotions play a role. Use case studies, testimonials, and thought leadership to evoke feelings.

  • Invest in design: First impressions count. A professional look across all brand assets influences perceptions significantly.

The perks of strong B2B branding

Robust branding does more than just up your visibility; it shapes perceptions, drives value, and nutures enduring business relationships:

  • Customer loyalty: B2B customers stick with brands they trust. A reliable brand image means security and repeat business.

  • Referrals: Happy clients lead to referrals, expanding your potential customer base.

  • Pricing power: Strong brands can command higher prices, thanks to perceived value. This sets you apart and enhances profitability.

In essence, stellar branding in the B2B sector is not merely about recognition. It’s about creating value that enhances every aspect of your business dealings.

Real-world B2B Branding Insights

Let's take a look at some B2B brands and how their branding strategies influenced their market positions:

  • IBM – The good: IBM, once primarily known for its hardware, transitioned its branding to focus on solutions for a "Smarter Planet." This rebranding, accompanied by their consistent messaging around innovation and problem-solving, fortified IBM’s image as a forward-thinking leader in technology solutions, far beyond just hardware.

  • Blackberry – The lessons: Blackberry, once the go-to choice for business mobile solutions, struggled to adapt its branding to an evolving market. Despite having robust security features and an efficient email system, their brand became associated with outdated technology due to slow adaptation. The brand's inability to effectively communicate a modern and evolving identity saw it overshadowed by competitors like Apple and Samsung, even in the B2B space.

  • Slack – The good: A newer player in the B2B arena, Slack’s proposition "Where work happens" resonated with businesses looking for efficient communication tools. Its playful logo, simple interface, and consistent messaging around improving workplace collaboration helped it stand out in a crowded market and quickly become a favourite among both SMEs and large enterprises.

  • General Electric (GE) – The good: GE’s "Imagination at Work" campaign exemplified how a traditional B2B company could infuse emotion and innovation into its branding. By showcasing how its technology impacts everyday life, GE reinforced its position as a brand that's not just about heavy machinery but about solutions that shape the future.

It’s clear then, isn’t it? B2B businesses, especially SMEs, need to embrace the transformative power of branding. It’s not an optional luxury; it’s a competitive necessity. By demystifying branding, B2B enterprises can unlock deeper connections, greater trust, and sustained growth. Remember, you’re not just selling a product or service; you’re selling an experience, a promise. And that promise is your brand. 

If you’re ready to take your B2B branding to the next level, get in touch today and see how NU Creative can help.

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