In our super-transparent world, no business can say brand plays no role. No matter where your customers come from, if you're in business, you have a brand. Whether you want it or not. Make it a good one. Every progressive enterprise must tell its story as engagingly as possible. Even though its audience may be one of expert peers, they are, nonetheless, swayed by emotions, relationships and the spirit of the times. Those who don't tell their brand story, will have others tell it instead. Badly.
But we're not Jaffa Cakes, or Apple, or Coke or Harley Davidson. We're B2B, we're not a brand! This is something we hear during some conversations with clients who believe they don’t have to excite their end-users. And truly, what can a brand do for a company that talks to other companies only, in sectors as rational and metricized as asset management, power generation, insurance etc.? This is where sober people talk to other sober people. Where emotions are held at bay and where only what's measurable counts. Surely you can't move HNR's (hard-nosed realists) with a brand that appeals to the heart as well as the head?
Surely you can't move hard-nosed realists with a brand that appeals to the heart as well as the head?
We beg to differ. Vehemently. Our view is that there really is no B and there are no HNR's. It's not, abstractly, business talking to business. Instead, it's always P2P, people talking to people. They may well represent commercial enterprises in a hard-nosed way, but their ambitions, feelings and subjectivities play a big role and cannot ever be in doubt. Every business transaction is about people; people who've come together in a deal or common initiative. Events unfold around their personalities, moods, inclinations, ambitions and wants. Business revolves around relationships, and personalities and emotions run through relationships: hopes, fears, joy, fury; even love and hate.
A top risk manager's views may be shaped by what her teenage son thinks is cool; those of the production engineer turned CEO may be linked to what her husband feels about the look of a supplier's online blog.
No matter how analytical the industry culture is or how sharp-penciled its executives act, individuals will naturally be influenced by preferences, by personal chemistry and by the images, ideas and phrases that have the power to touch them. A top risk manager's views may be shaped by what her teenage son thinks is cool; those of the production engineer turned CEO may be linked to what her husband feels about the look of a supplier's online blog. All of us are steeped in popular culture and are moved by the tastes and currents of our times. We make personal judgments and choices that, on the margins at the very least, are led by emotions.
Every business does emotions. Every business is a brand.
No enterprise can hide uninspiring communication behind the B2B figleaf. If yours is a company that just lets brand happen, laissez-faire, you leave it to others to fill the void and tell the story about you. They may be competitors, and they will certainly not have your best interests at heart. Instead, you can choose to harness all the current and latent value of your brand. Direct the narrative and create the best impact possible. Manage, edit and care for your brand, so it says of you exactly what you want.
If yours is a company that just lets brand happen, laissez-faire, you leave it to others to fill the void and tell the story about you.
We're not neutral on this. We're brand advisers, so naturally we think every brand is precious, has huge communication potential and deserves great attention. Of course, a business services brand walks a fine balance between the calm thoughtfulness and sobriety expected of expert professionals, on the one hand; and an engaging, captivating and emotional appeal that tightens personal relationships, on the other. It's crucial to get that balance right, so it feels authentic and appropriate and also exciting to all your audiences.
For B2B brands that have been resolutely rational, this is not an easy transformation because it needs an overhaul of objectives and cultures. It needs a new, natural language. And a new mindset that genuinely focuses on people, not the entities they represent. Even if they do come across as HNR's.