A new book “The People Powered Brand: A Blueprint for B2B Brand and Culture” makes a compelling case that the oft-neglected B2B corporate brand is actually of greater importance than product brands and that more companies should treat the corporate brand as a valuable asset.
To be fair to corporate marketers, many companies face entrenched barriers to building and managing a corporate brand. Here are a few that we come across regularly at Isurus:
- Mergers and acquisitions: Many companies are a collection of acquired products. Individual product brands (some of which were formerly corporate brands themselves) operate independently with little linkage to sister brands or the parent corporate entity. Until the business evolves to create meaningful value for the customer across product brands, it can be argued that the corporate brand only matters to the investment community.
- Performance measurement: In many companies business performance is measured at the product level. Mid-level and senior managers are evaluated and rewarded based on financial results for products, leaving little incentive to invest in corporate branding.
- Functional orientation: Many B2B companies have a strong technical orientation in their culture with a tendency to focus on functional attributes instead of the attitudes and emotions that define relationships with customers. It is often a tough sell to convince decision makers in these cultures of the value of branding (at any level, product or corporate level).
All of these factors contribute to a broader, perhaps inherent challenge in corporate branding: Many companies simply don’t know what their corporate brand is. And the process of defining a corporate brand can be problematic. For example, we’ve seen conflict develop as product teams push for a corporate brand that best represents their individual product line’s interests.
Isurus has worked with a number of mid-size and large B2B clients engaged in defining corporate brands, usually as the result of M&A activity. The research process can prove especially helpful in mitigating barriers and paving the way for defining a corporate brand management strategy. Through a discovery process drawing on external and internal perceptions, research leads to a more complete understanding of what defines the corporate brand beyond its individual product offerings and how that meaning can be articulated in a compelling corporate value proposition. In cultures dominated by a strong technical orientation, research provides credibility for corporate branding by quantifying existing perceptions and the relationship between brand strength and desirable outcomes like loyalty, repeat purchase behavior, etc.
The bottom line? Corporate branding in B2B is hard for lots of reasons, but don’t let these barriers prevent your company from using this valuable asset.