Building brands means being tuned into people’s aspirations because brands that are aspirational win loyalty, premium and appeal.
Great brands fire people’s hopes and ambitions and these aspirations fuel their choices. You might think this only applies to consumer branding but B2B branding is not done to entities and buildings, it is focused on reaching through to key decision makers and influencers. You still need to make your brand compelling to business people.
Successful branding is a way to stand out from the competition and differentiate your offer; what makes your product or service more desirable than others, rather than what it does. A distinct brand gets you noticed and helps the buyer make a choice by the associations they recognise in that brand. These decisions are not purely focused on rational argument, force of promotion or great product features, they are also emotional. Decision making in business is not cold and calculated, we are responsive to the story, messaging and style of your brand as well.
We all have brands we love, those we associate with, and conversely those we hate, but what is it about a particular brand that can mean we chose their product over an almost identical other? What might be a positive brand association to some might provoke an unfavourable reaction in others.
If a brand is an association or perception in the consumer’s mind, then branding is an attempt to harness, generate, influence and control these associations – although total control is never possible due to external influences. By creating a brand that is distinctive, trusted, innovative, exciting, reliable or whatever is appropriate for that particular brand, the organisation can leverage significant benefit.
A brand is more than just a physical element but more of a promise and conveys a certain experience to the consumer. Branding is about creating a connection with the consumer and building that loyalty, which will ultimately result in sales.
As with consumer brands, business to business companies need to use branding to differentiate themselves from the competition and create a distinct personality, even if it may be more corporate and business-like in tone.
From gigantic world beating brands such as Apple, Amazon and Google and established British brands such as British Airways, Aston Martin and John Lewis to quirky, niche brands such as Gü, Hotel du Vin and graze.com, we all have our favourites that we feel passionate about. But is it the Apple product technology that we love or the styling? The Aston Martin quality or the heritage and prestige of the marque? The Hot Chocolate Melting Middle of Gü or the indulgence of the brand from the category-busting black packaging to the higher price point? Every brand we choose says something about us to the outside world, and can lead to feeling like you belong to a club. Certainly Apple users are almost evangelical about their love of the product, as are Green & Black’s chocolate lovers.
As with most elements of marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The branding rules change depending on the market sector. Start up businesses often occupy the position of a challenger brand and so may need to be brave and break the accepted rules to be noticed. By their very nature, they are often small businesses and so can be adaptable and fast to react.
Although it is vital to communicate a clear brand offer to the consumer, branding in the B2B sector is not about maximum stand-out against the competition but the focus is often on clarity and authenticity. Business brands are built largely on the people who deliver the brand promise and therefore it is vital that staff are trained to understand the company culture, its promise to customers and on a practical level how this translates on a day to day basis and within their roles.
Critical to the impact of your business branding is long term consistency. Building a strong reputation, being known for what matters, clarity of message, authenticity, respect and trust drive B2B brands. The givens that clients expect are your quality, service excellence and professionalism. These are not the factors that set you apart. Your brand has to be embody the dimensions that do create the appeal, do genuinely add the differentiation and, yes, do add that aspiration to work with or buy from you. Can you identify what these factors are or could be for your business brand? Not always easy.