When you think of a brand, what do you think of?
Maybe you think of the bright, golden arches of McDonald’s. The Nike swoosh. The sleek, minimalist designs that make up the Apple brand.
Whatever you thought of, it probably involved simple, easily-recognizable visuals. There’s a common misconception that branding is composed of only logos, fonts and colors. Although those aesthetic components are important, the anatomy of a successful brand goes much deeper.
In the B2B industry especially, many marketers have forgotten about branding in an effort to become more data-driven. Marketing strategies are guided primarily by things that are tangible, measurable and easy to understand.
Plus, the industry, full of need-based products and services like manufacturing and medical technology, isn’t exactly glamorous — and figuring out how to build an impactful brand around these kinds of things can be tricky.
As a result, many of today’s B2B brands are dolefully under-developed.
What Makes A Brand?
The truth is, branding goes far beyond flashy logos.
I’m not saying logos are unimportant — strong visual and auditory branding elements can help your buyers recognize your company quickly and easily — but the intangible, emotive, narrative elements are what really give your brand a leg to stand on.
In the B2B industry, the target audience is typically more niche than it would be in B2C. Anybody could drink Coca-Cola, for example, so they need to have a recognizable logo in order to stand out in those impulsive moments at the grocery store. But if your company is a payment processing provider with a highly targeted audience, the logo isn’t necessarily going to make or break your sales.
B2B sales tend to be more expensive, less frequent, lengthier and more involved than B2C sales, so developing a connection with your prospects is critical to success. One way to do that is by developing the branding elements that you can’t really put a dollar on.
Branding Is Your Company’s Values, Mission and Long-Term Vision
Because of the expense and complexity involved, B2B sales tend not to be frictionless. Buyers have to interact with salespeople at some point, especially when they’re buying some type of service or a product that requires long-term engagement.
In these cases, your product is your people. When there are a number of other companies who offer the same service, what you’re really selling is how it actually looks and feels to work with your employees, as well as the results that buyers can expect to gain from doing so.
Beyond logos, fonts and colors, you need to convey the value of your products and the value of your people through effective branding. In other words, you need to convey your identity, your values, your mission and your vision.
Brand Identity: Who Are You?
The identity of your brand is determined in large part by the identity of your people. Your product, service and company wouldn’t exist without the people at your company, so your brand is really just the sum of all of those people, their values and their stories.
Therefore, your brand should accurately represent the experience of working with those people. Let them be seen as individuals and highlight the people who work at your organization, rather than overfocusing on your product or service.
At New Breed, for example, our marketers share content on their own Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to emphasize the human element in our branding. In a highly automated, highly saturated digital environment, that human element spurs much higher engagement rates than they would if those posts were coming from a standard company account.
Brand Values: What Do You Stand For?
Values are a common branding element in the B2C industry, but they’ve been slowly moving into the B2B space as well. As the world becomes more globalized and connected, people are becoming more concerned with the values and intentions of the companies they do businesses with.
In recent years, we’ve seen a surge in the idea of corporate responsibility. More and more consumers are beginning to believe that companies should not only exist to make money but also exist to make the world a better place. Legally, we treat businesses the same way we treat people, so the logic there is that we should hold them to the same moral and social standards to which we hold individual citizens.
Because consumer concerns are shifting and more consumers are inclined to use their money to either support or boycott brands in accordance with their political preferences, brands need to be careful about the values they espouse and the movements they become involved with. That’s much more common in the B2C world right now, but it won’t be long before that begins to surface more pointedly in B2B as well.
This might all sound tricky, but if you have a good product built on ethical principles, you should have no trouble developing a brand that resonates with your prospects. Defining your values can really help strengthen your brand because people tend to feel better about themselves when they buy a useful product from a company with a diverse, inclusive and charitable brand presence.
Brand Mission: What is Your Purpose?
In an ideal world, businesses would be made not only to make money but also to solve a problem and create a positive impact. Because consumers want to buy from companies that are socially responsible, you need to articulate your purpose as clearly and concisely as possible to capture their attention and interest.
Your mission is a succinct statement of the purpose of your business beyond making money. It should speak to the way that, by doing business, you’re creating a positive impact on your clients, your community and the world in general.
In the same way that your brand values will be informed by the people who make up your company, your mission statement should be reflective of the values with which your company aligns.
Additionally, your mission statement should evolve with you as your company grows and changes. Think about where you are and where you want to go in the future to inform and optimize your mission statement.
Brand Vision: What Are You Working Toward?
Speaking of where you want to go in the future, your vision statement is a forward-facing version of your mission statement. In other words, what do you hope to achieve by executing your mission? What impact will your product or service have in the long term?
Your vision statement gives prospects a goal to pursue with you, and it also serves as a reminder to your employees of what’s really driving their work. Often, people get caught up in their day-to-day lives and forget what they’re working for, but a vision statement can help keep employees motivated toward a common goal.
By understanding how your daily actions translate to this greater vision — and helping your prospects and customers understand that as well — you can ensure that all the work your people do is moving your company in the right direction.
Don’t get caught up in the aesthetics of your brand. Those things are important, but they’re not enough to build a solid, sustainable brand presence.
Combined with an eye-catching logo, your company’s values, mission, long-term vision and people will what resonates most with buyers. By developing these things into a robust and mature brand identity, you’ll make a positive impact on the longevity of your company.