To stay alive and flourish in highly competitive environments, business-to-business (B2B) companies spend more time and money on research and development (R&D). Suppliers focus on making their products smarter, faster, smaller, and more reliable than the competition's. They also find ways to improve and add services so that they provide customers with a complete and satisfying experience. Marketplaces are constantly changing, so companies have to adapt to stay ahead.

But how can B2B companies truly differentiate their offering and be relevant to customers over the long term? This is where brands come in.

Brands matter in B2B markets. In fact, they may matter even more in B2B than in business-to-consumer (B2C) markets.

Cut though clutter

Brands matter because the B2B marketing communications world is characterized by numbing sameness, commoditized feature wars and laundry-lists of product benefits. In other words, there is a sea of noise, parity, clutter, and dullness.

Branding—going all the way back to its origins with Norse livestock herders—allows a producer or owner to distinguish his/her goods or services. Branding today is a strategic tool that helps the supplier cut through the morass of the market, get noticed, and connect with the customer on many levels and in ways that matter. A strong brand becomes the customer's "shorthand" for making good choices in a complex, risky, and confusing marketplace.

Tap into emotional drivers

Brands matter because companies act just like people when it comes to evaluating what products or services to buy. Along with various explicit rational criteria, a powerful irrational impulse is always present to influence the purchase decision. A strong brand with an effective positioning strategy speaks to and taps into the totality of these buyer needs.

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Kevin Randall is director of brand strategy and research at Movéo Integrated Branding (, a brand consulting and marketing communications firm based in Oakbrook Terrace, IL. Kevin can be reached at and 630.570.4813.