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Branding has come up often the past couple weeks in conversations with clients, prospects and even our internal teams here at ARTÉMIA. With all these discussions I wanted to take a moment to discuss some of the most important trends going on now in B2B branding, which can often be overlooked.
The way business to business organizations have branded themselves has always been the difference between companies that succeed and those that fall by the wayside. Branding your B2B-oriented company in a way that represents the core mission of your organization while also communicating your value proposition remains an ever-moving target.
As we examine the top trends to emerging in B2B branding, remember that this does not just apply to your customers, but also to theirs in turn, as a trickle-down effect that provides messaging and reinforces the value provided.
In the quest to prove that your brand is better than your competitor’s, there are only so many assertions you can make, and fewer that will be guaranteed to remain true over time. Unless, however, you change the conversation. When you revamp your offerings to create a specialized subcategory, you open up a whole new market where you start out with no competition. To do this, you will benefit from meaningful brand growth by defining a new subcategory of product or service that makes a competitor irrelevant. These innovations work within current frameworks to spawn new offerings for which competitors have no parallel.
The source of real growth, according to David Aaker in the Harvard Business Review, is to engage in this “brand relevance competition,” becoming a game changer and keeping other industry members out of the competition. Salesforce, the leader in cloud CRM software, is one example of a B2B company that changed the game and cornered the market with a new subcategory for many years. It offered something no one else did and remained ahead by staying the best for a long time.
To make this strategy work for you, your brand will need to be willing to shift investments into big innovations to see what can be made from current endeavors. They also require the discernment to recognize what could be a “must have” in the marketplace and what will not. Managing subcategories rather than the brand also means focusing on those niches to make sure they maintain their edge, evolving to always stay ahead.
Innovation plays a stronger role in B2B branding than ever before. The ability of your brand to innovate current offerings to introduce the newest inspiration to the marketplace will allow you to stand out and outlast those you once considered competition.
The bullet-pointed list of facts and information about the brand was once one of the most important communication tools. Now it has been usurped by content development that incorporates related topics and interests to involve customers in stories, with facts subtly integrated within. The digital world has enabled that shift, where customers can search for solutions to their problems and be met by either a salesman’s pitch or a narrator’s tale. Both can convey information, but one can be made more enjoyable while veiling the actual act of selling.
By appealing to what your customers are interested in, you can develop content around those topics, making customers involved partners with your brand rather than wary shoppers who know all too well what they are being sold.
People care more about the end result of your solution and how it will positively impact their lives than they do what the actual product or service is. Turn it back to the consumer experience and you’ll find opportunities for conversations that clients are actively interested in.
Customers continue to want to know that they—and the brand they purchase from—have a higher purpose. Businesses with their own values and standards want to know that they are purchasing from companies with values and standards that are similar to their own. This is linked to your brand’s authenticity, the demonstration that your brand is real and motivated and concerned with more than just driving revenue.
This higher purpose is also a route to improved customer relations. When, for instance, a vegetarian restaurant can point to its vendors who are organic, sustainable, and invested in minimizing environmental impact, it improves their own standing as well, reinforcing their higher purpose and allowing their customers to be part of that cycle. It’s the continuation of values from the company, along the supply chain, and on down to the customer. Nearly all organizations now have specified information on their meaningful programs and broader values.
For these to truly translate, however, this higher purpose must be known and turned into actionable goals. This continues to pose a challenge for many brands, who should turn their ideals into action and quantify the statements of resolve that they make.
Circling back to the question of which brand is superior, quality still does matter, now more than ever. While consumers always seek knock offs that are as good as the original, current trends point to a majority who choose to stick with the real thing rather than risk attempts to find out if the other is almost as good. Even with its affordable pricing and expendable goods, cheap labor production could be ignored for high end brands in a time when consumers will choose value over affordability.
What does this mean for branding and the relationship between business customers and business-oriented organizations? To me, it points to overall higher standards, an expectation of more. More solutions, more interactions, more to business than selling, and more to quality than the minimum.
The more an organization has to offer its business customers, the more they come to expect, as greater success comes with higher standards – but that’s the beauty of successful B2B branding.
As always, should you like to discuss how these B2B branding trends can be applied to your business, please just get in touch.
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