Brands are about identity. They’re designed to separate entities from one another, like one rancher's steer from another. For business success, they must stand for something meaningfully different from competitors to their audience, community, customer base, etc. True in every business, it may be even more important for the global electronics OEM who are living with short product life cycles, changing customer demands, and more. Highly successful brands, in nearly any category, have clear competitive differentiation in common. That differentiation may have developed by smart marketers within the organization, or over time the market may brand the company for what it does best and provides. See Jack Trout’s “Differentiate or Die” (2nd edition) for the best read on the topic.
Comparing business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B), some pundits offer that the social network around B2B products is so small that community is harder to establish. My perspective, based on several decades in tech marketing, is that B2B branding can be far easier to establish, if the marketer knows what they’re doing. The limited extent or number of people the market in fact makes building awareness, credibility and community easier and often less costly than consumer marketing. Instead of dealing with communities of millions, global B2B marketers are typically addressing a community of thousands or perhaps 10s of thousands. Those people are also typically easier to identify, understand, and connect with than a vast and variable consumer segment. People in a B2B segment are typically interested in a safe, reliable, respectable entity which solves needs that competitors either are not satisfying or cannot satisfy. Certainly, a company must provide more than only adequate or even great products. Pre- and post-sales support, price, financing, and supply chain flexibility are some of the B2B factors determining customer preference for one brand vs. another. There’s plenty of room for brand differentiation, even though many companies utterly fail to apply it to their marketing.
One of the toughest parts about B2B marketing can be the multiplicity and diversity of purchasing decision-makers who must be sold to close the deal. Those can include people with an emotional bent who just happen like your brand logo or your sales rep, to hard-nosed engineers or purchasing agents with competing brand preferences and work habits, to a C-level decision-maker who’s never heard of your brand but is the one who will sign the P.O. and needs to feel your brand is the right decision.
Lastly, another key contrasting factor around B2C vs. B2B purchase decisions is consumer purchases are most often made by a single person in seconds. Meanwhile, B2C purchases may take weeks, months or years to reach agreement and action. That can be a very tough road to a sale… lots of slogging uphill. People who you thought were sold on your product change positions or jobs, replaced by people with other preferences or none at all, competitors may have time to undermine your offer or even develop new, more competitive products or services. Those are some the hardest parts of B2B selling.
Consumer and business marketing are similar in some ways but radically different in others. Effective, competitively-differentiated branding is essential to both. What can a brand claim that’s important to customers that competitors are not claiming or, better still, cannot claim? That’s the challenge for any marketing team. Once discovered, that valued difference becomes your brand’s mantra, repeatedly emphasized in business communications, walked daily by all in the company and if your marketing is effective, expressed by the hard-won customers of your B2B products or services.