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When Branding Is a Cop Out

A lot of people who come to B2B marketing after working in the B2C world bring their ideas about branding with them.

Studies show that 90 percent of consumers who go into a store come out with something they weren’t planning to buy. They grab a pack of gum at the checkout aisle, they spot a good deal and throw it in the cart, or they run across something they saw on a commercial and make an impulse buy. In this setting, branding makes great sense. The more familiar someone is with your product name and the more positive associations they have with that name, the more likely they are to buy it on a whim. Branding can also be a good strategy for luxury or lifestyle products where consumers are purchasing a status or an image for themselves rather than a set of product features.

But B2B product purchases aren’t made the same way. No one buys a $100,000 piece of enterprise software on a whim because they saw it next to the cash register. Companies don’t go looking for Gucci lab equipment or Louis Vuitton hardhats in order to make themselves feel good.

For B2B marketers, doing a “branding campaign” doesn’t make a lot of sense.

What does make sense is building up your organization’s brand by doing a lot of good marketing. When you are consistently targeting the right prospects with a promise to meet their needs and delivering on that promise, you will develop a reputation for being a great company to work with. This is why we say that in B2B, branding isn’t an activity—it’s the result of all the other marketing activities you’re doing.

All too often, B2B marketing folks (and agencies) use branding as a way to excuse results that are less than stellar. If a content marketing initiative or an advertising campaign or a trade show doesn’t generate any leads, they shrug it off, saying, “It was great for branding, though.”

Whenever you hear someone say that something was “great for branding,” you should mentally translate that into “it didn’t work.”

It’s OK for marketing initiatives to fail occasionally. In fact, if you’re never failing, you’re not doing enough innovating. But if something fails, you shouldn’t keep doing it over and over again under the premise that it’s “great for branding.” Instead, try something new and keep trying new things until you find something that does meet your goals. Then, do the things that are working over and over again, refining them until they generate maximum results.

In today’s B2B marketing world, everything is measurable, and if something isn’t generating measurable results, why would you want to keep spending money on it? Too often, marketers and marketing agencies are afraid of being held accountable. Instead of embracing data as a guide to show them how they should spend their money and effort, they fall back on the cliché of branding and assume that everything they’re doing must be good for the company, even if they can’t prove it.

If your team has been using branding as a cop out, it’s time to stop. Instead, start focusing on strategic marketing initiatives that are going to generate real revenue and profits for your business.

We believe applying B2C notions of branding to B2B situations is one of the most common missteps that B2B marketers make. To learn about ten more frequent blunders, watch the on-demand webinar “Navigating the B2B Marketing Minefields.”

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