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B2B Branding Gets All Scholarly Journal-like

Posted on: December 8th, 2006 by: trefoil

Just read something frighteningly close to how me and my firm think about nearly every facet of business-to-business branding. And I must admit, I’m torn between the ecstasy of someone else validating our thinking via a case study in a top scholarly journal, and the agony of thinking “damn, why didn’t we write and submit a paper like this sooner?”

Professional envy aside, I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in B2B branding to read Ariel Goldfarb’s bang-up article in the just-out Journal of Intergrated Marketing Communications (from Northwestern’s Medill School). In “Making Brand Happen: Branding in the B2B Marketplace,” Goldfarb does a nice job articulating a number of the market drivers, fundamentals and foibles of B2B branding. He also provides a host of do’s and don’ts that my experience tells me are right on the money.

While the case study is long on summary and less so on details (perhaps due to the proprietary nature of the client’s information), the piece still packs a wealth of insights into a mere 5+ pages.

Tasty nuggets abound. There’s this one, which flies in the face of those who believe that the only legitimate function of a marketing department is to promote product:

Commoditization is forcing companies to shift their value propositions and basis for competitive differentiation away from product towawrd other aspects of the brand-customer relationship such as support, partnership, process, trust and alignment of values.

As for the role of employees in B2B branding:

Because of the degree of interaction between customers and different employees in B2B firms, successful implementation of a brand strategy will rely heavily on aligning individuals’ behaviors, which is much more difficult than, say, chaning a logo.

And then there’s this beauty on the importance of saying “no”:

In a sales-driven culture that is common to many B2B categories, sometimes the hardest thing to do is say no. Companies build strong brands by focusing on a set of customer needs that they can serve better than anyone else. Customer segmentation, target audience definition, and customer filtering and measurement processes improve marketing efficiencies and effectiveness by focusing business development efforts on high-value opportunities and avoiding opportunistic behavior.

Good stuff, available for free via PDF download at JIMC’s web site.

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