Is Brand Dead? The Big Agencies Discuss Strategies For Successful B2B Branding Campaigns

With no time for fluff, the business customer will most often go to theWeb to get the answer. So, how has B2B branding been effected by the Internet? How do companies talk to other companies on the Net?  Consumer or Business – The fundamentals always apply.
by Elaine Morris Palmer   August, 2003

B2B advertising has it’s advantages. It’s super-targeted, it calls for a variety of media and it’s more affordable than consumer (for now). It’s no surprise that, in a thriving economy, ad spending was up 235% over the third quarter of last year. The proliferation of online market exchanges, the subject of this Ground Zero Net Market Makers conference in Los Angeles last week [],  has encouraged the commoditization of products and services so now, in B2B markets, brand is more important than ever.

In this conference session, moderated by Sean Callahan, Reporter, BtoB Magazine, panelists Wayne Cerillo, Planning Director, McCann-Erickson, John Keck, SVP Global Interactive Media, Foote Cone & Belding, Karen See, CEO Abovo Marketing Group, Bart Young, CEO Young & Company discussed successful B2B branding tactics.  Brand is now a verb. Though  some marketers argue that branding has become the diversion-du-jour from the standards and metrics melee that plagues the online industry, the relatively new inclusion of the Internet in the B2B mix, enforces that the right combination of price and supplier wins the customer.

The Fundamentals Apply To Any Campaign – Consumer Or Business

Does the Web relate to the overall brand? Alvin Toffler has said that exchange is a social dynamic, not a technological one. Brand builds aura around an institution. ( It’s like your social life…who do you want to hang out with? Web MD only took on partners with established brands. )  Until now in B2B, it’s been mostly about availability and pricing but with the advent of the Internet, brands have become more transparent.  No more saying one thing and doing another.  Who’s the target, who do we have to get in front of, what are their needs, and being there to address those needs are parallel factors in both worlds.  Media message and placement decisions rest equally on how to use each available medium optimally and to understand where each relates to the buyer in his decision making process.

Be The Customer

Because online exposure has the potential to brand and direct market at the same time, it’s essential that your marketing team bring to light what it’s like to be the customer you are trying to reach.  Not just how he perceives the information but how he buys the product and uses it. The rule of thumb for B2B media allocation has been deployment of the old-fashioned sales and promotion tools — in order:  trade show, print, direct mail — that build the warm-fuzzies — public relations and then, all other – like the Web, a relatively new vehicle for brand’s multiple roles.  More and more, all elements of the advertising mix have specific roles and should support the buyer through the decision-making process.  Each part builds on the others to reach the right customer with the right message at the right time in the buying cycle and  can add value or detract from the brand image and ultimate results.

Talk To A Person

Is there an emotional element there for the  advertiser to play on or not? Well, for starters, B2B buyers are “extra rational” animals. They come to the web to get the answers. Yet, we are still speaking to a person in the B2b marketplace and surely, here, the emotional barometer of the purchase rises because buyers’ livelihoods could ultimately be threatened by the decisions that they make. Often these decisions have long lives and are made with other people’s money. Talking openly with the customer in a brand-free exchange about what’s working and what isn’t in each medium can be useful.  Microsoft’s developers network, a group founded by and for developers, for example, gives Microsoft their best source of useful information about their communications processes. VerticalNet thinks of it’s brand and company as an evolving concept striving to get closer to fulfilling its customer’s needs in a continuing, evolutionary process.  The “nobody-ever-got-fired-for-buying-IBM” adage plays a big part in the decision- making process. Especially the not-if-but-when-day arrives when the seller needs to stand behind its product and be accountable.

Hidden Nuggets Of B2B Advertising:

  • Don’t fit others success into your model.  Ask yourself what you want to accomplish.
  • People who see banners and don’t click on them often come to a client’s site – usually within 45 minutes. Those who type in a URL demonstrate a higher conversion rate than those who click through to a site.
  • People looking for solutions aren’t interested in fancy footwork. They often uncheck HTML on their email clients and don’t want to navigate down into a site to find the buy page.
  • People interacting with your product  are more valuable than Flash technology is to your image.
  • Follow the media consumption habits of your target audience for real impact.
  • Be everywhere your customer is.