While I continue to find articles and people pronouncing the demise of business-to-business branding, I would like to offer a different viewpoint: B2B branding is not obsolete. At the same time, it has to be redefined to fit the context of marketing today.
In today's market, people stick to what they know and trust. You may have heard stories about consumer buyers' voice mail greetings saying, "If you're not from Microsoft, Cisco or HP, don't bother leaving a message."
Branding is now how prospects and customers get to know you. It is how your target prospects internalize your value proposition and differentation into a coherent and memorable message.
What does it take for branding to be effective in the B2B world? Key elements follow:
Targeted: Your value proposition must be relevant to your tarket market, which means that the target market must be clearly defined. You have to find the right balance defining your target market in a way that will make enough people feel that you really talk to them. In some cases, this means narrowing down your tarket market to fit your budget.
Value Based: While branding in the B2C world can trigger impulsive purchasing, B2B purchasing usually requires demonstrable justification. Association with a clear value proposition is a requirement for a strong B2B brand.
Differentating: There is no market without competition. Being able to compare and contrast is an opportunity for your prospects and customers to understand why your are best positioned to deliver on your value proposition. It is also an opportunity for you to positition yourself against the competition that helps you clearly demostrate your advantage.
Coherent: Translating your value proposition and differentation into a coherent message is what makes your brand stick in the minds of your prospects and customers. The only way to know is to test it. Ask your prosects and customers if they understand your value proposition. See if they understand why you are different.
Memorable: This is the ultimate test of your brand strength. Even if you did all the right things, and built your value proposition and differentation into a coherent message that speaks specifically to your target prospects, you still haven't done much if they can't remember it.