Brand management in b2b environments is often received with mixed views from corporate leadership. Some executives place it as a low priority and dismiss the value of brand building since b2b brands can be so far removed from the end-user. Others emphasize the importance of investing in the b2b brand and view it as much of a company asset as the flagship product lines, top performing sales teams, and lean manufacturing processes. It appears the general trend in b2b markets is moving towards the latter.
According to the most recent CMO Survey the average b2b CMO budget is expected to increase by around 5% in the next 12 months, and account for 10% of the firm’s budget. In other words, CMOs are finally being allotted the necessary resources to win at the long game – building a strong b2b brand.
This trend is evidenced by the growing number of b2b brand research inquiries that B2B International has witnessed over the past couple of years. B2b companies are increasingly pressured to differentiate their brand from fiercely competitive and often commoditized markets, and are placing more of a focus on communicating value over price – therefore turning to marketing research as a means for providing much needed insights.
Marketing executives and insights managers are more and more seeking a holistic view of their brand health – as opposed to capturing isolated metrics such as brand awareness or loyalty. The brand health wheel is a commonly used framework at B2B International for communicating and visualizing the overall performance of a brand and identifying critical improvement areas. The brand health wheel measures all of the essential components required for building a strong brand, such as awareness and usage, brand positioning, and brand performance – i.e. how well the brand delivers on its promise.
Figure 1: An Example Of A Brand Health Wheel
More importantly, b2b brands are recognizing the need for building a stronger emotional and personal connection with their audience. A study conducted by the CEB and Google among 3,000 b2b decision makers show that brands that appeal to a b2b decision maker’s emotions such as professional benefits, social benefits, self-image, etc. have a 42% uplift on the commercial impact (e.g. familiarity, likelihood to purchase, pay a premium, etc.) versus brands that are purely product centric in nature. Leading b2b CMOs must have taken note of this fact as many have changed how their brand(s) communicate their customer value proposition. The shift is moving away from product centric messaging towards emotional storytelling. Just take USG’s “It’s Your World. Build It.” Campaign for their U.S. Olympic and Paralympic team sponsorship.
Achieving a deeper connection with the market begins with a thorough examination of the brand’s overall health and how its market positioning aligns with the brand strategy. Next is taking an immersive look at the target audience by better understanding the personal and commercial goals of prospects and customers. When the two are linked together a strong b2b brand emerges with a clear and differentiated position.