Almost all the branding talks, books and experts focus on business-to-consumer (B2C) branding.

It’s sometimes difficult to look at the preferred examples from brands like Apple, Google, Hertz, Nike and the like – and work out how to apply the ideas and principles from a global consumer audience into a business-to-business (B2B) company.

What makes B2C branding different?

So, aside from the enormous budget, the scale of their advertising and access to the world’s leading design and advertising agencies – what makes B2C brands different from B2B brands?

Branding is about an experience, and I would argue that what makes one brand different from the next is how the audience experiences connection.

I know the staff from my local coffee shop. I also know the staff from my previous coffee shop – and my attendance dwindled after my favourite barista, Dell, left to start her own store. Even though we spent less than an hour a week in the same room, we chatted about life and work, and I even gave her a card and gift when she got married.

We’re relational creatures, us humans. At a deep level, we are drawn to relationships with others. Branding simply leverages the natural instinct for connection.

Connecting with consumers

In the consumer world, brands use psychology to humanise products and make them even more relatable.

If this sounds like a bad thing – don’t blame the brand agencies.

Kids take dolls, or cars, or balls and give them names in play. Adults have emotional connections with houses or objects that belong to loved ones. I even named my hail-damaged, old car Gertrude and told my kids stories about her courage in the face of her age!

By giving a product a name, a persona archetype and consistency in how they present themselves – they become a brand that users can build a form of relationship with.

Consumers will purchase Heinz Baked Beans, Kleenex tissues and Dove soap – without ever meeting anybody from that organisation, but while feeling some kind of small, emotional and relational connection with that brand.

These brands sell the emotional benefits of relating with them.

Connecting with business

B2B brands are not looking for a consumer relationship – they’re looking for a professional one. If you can build trust with your contact and form a positive relationship, they’re more likely to choose to spend allocated budget with you rather than with another company they have no relationship with at all.

We call this, of course, networking. It’s vital to business – so much so that ‘Connection’ is one of our core values at Cannings Purple.

Branding and advertising are still important – because for lack of a trusted contact, businesses will look for the brand that feels the most trustworthy and reach out to begin a relationship.

So B2B relationships may start out with a brand relationship – but they only continue through real human connection and trust.

This, I think, gives corporate businesses the advantage. A mistake from a B2C brand (poor quality or a recall or bad customer service) might cost them their customer’s loyalty – without having any recourse. But when you have a relationship with a real person who can apologise for errors and fix them – it can often lead to more trust, not less.

Branding is still important for new business – you need to present a professional image to market, and there are lessons to learn from how the B2C market leaders are conducting business. But it means that your relationships with your suppliers and customers are of the highest importance.  It makes hiring the right people with similar values and good networks very important for businesses in this space.

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First published on the 268.

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