It’s true that business-related purchase decisions differ in many ways from personal ones. There are typically multiple decision makers in the B2B buying process, and the cost of these purchases is often much higher. Because of these factors, the B2B sales cycles can be considerably longer than B2C cycles. This buying process leads many to believe B2B marketing is, at its core, different from B2C marketing.
However, there’s one B2B truth that’s constantly overlooked: humans are still the ones making these purchases, not robots. In fact, many B2C learnings can be applied to B2B marketing — and that’s especially true of B2B brand awareness campaigns.
In many instances, B2B brands require a slightly greater level of emphasis on the rational benefits. But winning B2B companies don’t focus solely on the rational — they lean into the emotional, embrace creative means of storytelling, and don’t shy away from a “long-play” view of brand building. Essentially, their marketing strategy follows what successful B2C companies have been doing for decades.
Recently, Les Binet, head of effectiveness at Adam & Eve DDB, along with consultant Peter Field, were called on by LinkedIn to examine the true importance of brand building for B2B companies. After the evaluation was complete, Field simply summarized their findings:
“Brand advertising really does work in B2B to drive buyer choices and revenues.”
The report summarizing their research is a must-read for any B2B marketer because it empirically supports truths known at a gut level for years, while also revealing others we may not have previously considered. For example:
Just like in B2C, B2B brands see an average of 0.6% increase in market share for every 10% increase in share of voice.
Sales activation strategies — offers, specific product performance claims and similar tactical-minded efforts — can generate a high return on investment (ROI). As such, they’re an important part of your marketing mix, but they should represent only a portion of your total initiatives because they typically aren’t memorable and do little to foster long-term growth.
Brand building, on the other hand, is the main driver of long-term growth and profit. That’s because brand building typically relies on emotion to create long-term associations that carry far beyond the length of a particular campaign. While brand building requires broad reach and repeated exposure to be effective, it offers a far greater ROI in the long run by reducing price sensitivity and increasing profit margins.
The B2B Institute report goes on to suggest the most efficient use of funds is for 46% of your marketing budget to be allocated to brand building, while 54% should be allocated to sales activation.
Your company’s efforts don’t need to stop at mere brand awareness, however. That’s because brand awareness — simply being aware of a brand’s existence — is a low bar for a company to set for itself. While brand awareness campaigns really do move the needle, it’s brand fame that can contribute to exponential company growth.
The same study referenced above revealed that B2B brand awareness campaigns delivered more than twice the “business effects” (significant increases in sales/revenues/profits) of other brand goals. While that alone should make all marketers take notice, intentional campaigns to increase brand fame drove three times those same effects.
But what’s the difference between fame and awareness — are we just arguing semantics? Not really. Both are measures of what’s known as “mental availability,” which is how easily a brand comes to mind when it’s time to consider or make a purchase. But mental availability is a scale, not a binary status, with awareness and fame being found on opposite ends.
It’s brand salience that influences your position on the mental availability scale: The greater salience your brand has, the more easily it comes to mind when an idea or purchase is considered, bringing with it stronger memories and associations.
We know from decades of psychological research — much of which has been done in a marketing/branding context — that the human brain is wired to create “shortcuts” as a means of dealing with constant sensory overload. This research shows we’re strongly predisposed toward whatever brand comes to mind most easily, whether it’s in a B2C or B2B context. In short, the stronger your brand’s salience, the more your audience’s brain is literally boxing out your competitors from being a part of their true consideration set.
Achieving fame is easier said than done, though, as brand fame isn’t just a matter of increased brand awareness (though that is part of it). Instead, it’s done by committing to a branding strategy that breaks expectations through campaigns in memorable, emotional ways.
What specifically your brand does within those broad guidelines will be determined by your company, offering and audience, but as long as it’s original, likely to resonate and connects at an emotional (vs. rational) level, it’s got a chance to take your brand from being one in a consideration set to the obvious choice for consumers.
Peter Field summarizes: “Brands need a creative storytelling element because it is not enough to rely solely on rational product messaging. There has to be clear differentiation and a narrative that taps into business buyers’ emotions. Humanity must not be lost in a tech-obsessed world.”
For more around the importance of brand fame and its relevance for B2B companies, check out this excellent blog post from LinkedIn.
Internal pressures from sales and leadership to “push product” can be overwhelming, and these types of campaigns do have their place. Our hope, however, is that the findings shared here begin to equip marketers with the proof points needed to strike a more even balance between short-term sales activation and long-term brand awareness (or even brand fame) building. And if you’d like some help with your company’s B2B brand awareness campaigns, feel free to reach out to us.
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