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B2B Branding vs. B2C Branding: What’s the Difference?

By Ray Baird

If you’re looking to create a world class brand strategy and branding program to accelerate growth and differentiation, it’s critical to understand the difference between branding a B2B company and B2C company. Bottom line, it can be the difference between success and failure. Before you select a branding partner and methodology, consider the the following train of thought:

First off, corporations are not consumer products. While this may seem to be a blindingly self-evident statement to make, many branding agencies insist on lumping them together as “brands” and both therefore equally susceptible to consumer branding techniques. The fact is they exist in vastly different worlds.

B2B companies are often complex businesses systems that specialize in tackling large-scale problems and responding with individualized solutions with a high proportion of consultative services. IBM, Cisco, Boeing, Bechtel, and Accenture are typical B2B examples. There is no “consumer” in this world; there are buying teams that rationally evaluate your proposition on multiple dimensions.

This type of organization recognizes that it’s no longer about making and selling products, it’s about connecting complete offers — products, services, channels, and people — with the experiences their customers seek. Accordingly, B2B businesses configure their brand around customer preferences and groups, not around the products or services they offer. This brand strategy provides easy access through multiple integrated channels, often with alliance partners.

B2C companies on the other hand are based on a volume-operation model. They specialize in serving high volume markets through standardized products which are “branded” and mass-marketed through low-touch distribution channels and serviced by close-ended transactions. Take for instance the business models of Verizon, Nike, Hertz and P&G. Consumer brands tell their stories quickly and directly: Pop Tarts, Pampers, Duracell, Lean Cuisine. They are products to meet a transitory need; the brand is tightly focused around defined product attributes. B2C branding is more about product packaging and marketing than corporate strategy.

Corporate brands are configured around vision, shared values, and long-term strategy. They are more nuanced and function on multiple levels across diverse organizational micro-cultures and product divisions, with channel partners, distributor networks, investor relations and customers.

Only by understanding business and how companies operate can you build successful corporate brands. This is the BrandingBusiness philosophy and the source of our enduring success. So if you’re a B2B corporation looking to build a successful brand and strategy, choose a partner and specialist that knows the difference between B2B and B2C and has built their company and model around servicing B2Bs.

Do you have a difference of opinion when it comes to the branding strategy behind B2B and B2C brands? Please share.