April 18, 2022

5 B2B Branding Myths Debunked

by Melissa Caffrey

Justifying brand spend is one of the top challenges for B2B CMOs right now, but it shouldn’t be. Below, read about the top five common misconceptions about B2B branding and why you shouldn’t believe them with real-world evidence from some super savvy CMOs.

Myth #1 Brand is just fluff.

Fact: Brand advances strategic initiatives.

CMO Insight: “Think of Brand as your North Star that brings the entire organization together to provide further direction into what your purpose is, what you’re bringing to the market. Then you can line up your content, your product, your strategy along with that.” —Ajay Khanna, CMO Explorium 

A great brand is not just a logo. It’s not just a tagline, a “feel-good” slogan, or a coat of paint. Your brand is the experience your company evokes in its customers, employees, and prospects. In other words, your brand is the sum of all the touchpoints you have with your audience—across all channels and platforms, both digital and physical.

At Renegade, the foundation of a strong brand is in the purpose-driven story statement. This is a profoundly powerful phrase of 8 words or less that represents an organizational promise, a purposeful commitment to all stakeholders.

Here are just a few of the ways that a clearly defined, strong brand can advance strategic initiatives across the organization:

  • More engaged employees: If employees feel united by one common purpose, then they’ll be more motivated, more loyal, and happier. What better way to attract and retain top talent than to have employees who love where they work?
  • More loyal customers: Employees who are engaged are going to bring the brand to life for customers, which in turn will help cultivate customer champions. They won’t feel like just a bank account, they’ll feel like a true partner to your organization and act that way.
  • More highly qualified prospects: Customers are more likely to recommend a company with a strong brand. If your focus is on attracting new customers through word-of-mouth endorsements (and whose isn’t?), you’re going to need a strong brand presence.

Myth #2 You can’t eat brand.

Fact: There is no demand without brand.  

CMO Insight: “You need brand recall whether it’s in a sales call or on your website or when you’re talking with influencers or key stakeholders in the target buying group. It’s part and parcel of what you need to generate revenue for an organization.” — Rashmi Vittal, CMO Productiv

Air cover. Revenue marketing. Reputation management. Growth marketing. Content strategy. Call it what you will, all the euphemisms that CMOs use for the word “brand” are a clear indicator that the non-marketer’s definition of brand is often mistaken.

Brand awareness is a key component of demand generation. People are more likely to partner with and buy from someone they know, like, and trust, and this is especially true in the B2B world. Brand gives people the context and value of your offering front and center.

It aligns the sales and marketing functions; it amplifies the effectiveness of your content and messaging. LTI CMO Peeyush Dubey adds how brand reduces friction for sales: “When somebody has heard about the brand, it opens that door, and the salespeople find it easier to have the initial conversations.”

Myth #3 B2B buyers don’t care about our brand; they care about our product functionality and price.

Fact: Brand is the ultimate differentiator in a competitive market. 

CMO Insight: “If you’re just out there with price sheets and demos and feature lists, the effectiveness is going to be better than nothing. But with strong awareness, the effectiveness of those messages goes up dramatically. In the B2B world, there’s typically a shortlist that is arrived at internally and digitally. If they don’t know you and you’re not part of that original research set, you don’t make it to the shortlist. And if you don’t make it to the shortlist, you have zero chance of winning that business. Great awareness is about first and foremost getting on the shortlist so that you’ve got an at-bat and you’ve got a chance to actually hit the ball and score a run.” —Kevin Sellers, CMO Ping Identity

What Kevin said. While it’s true that having a great product or service offering is necessary for generating sales, buyers actually do care about your brand. Brand recognition is a direct driver of purchase intent. Customers are more likely to purchase from companies they recognize—but only when other factors are equal.

Imagine you and your top competitors all have the same product: functionality, price sheets, etc. The one thing different about you is that one has strong brand awareness in the market and the glowing reviews to prove it. Who do you think prospects will opt for?

Myth #4 Why would B2B buying committees care about brand? That’s only useful in the B2C world.

Fact: B2B buyers are human, too. 

CMO Insight: “At the end of the day, people buy B2B products from people. There’s an opportunity to be a serious business and solve real challenges AND bring in a bit of the personality and playfulness. People are looking to make an emotional connection with brands and far too often, especially in B2B environments, that’s something that’s underutilized and undervalued.” —Kevin Ruane, CMO Precisely

B2B buyers are individuals. Feelings really do matter when it comes to understanding how they’re thinking and why they’re buying. Whether we’re talking about organizations, corporations, or buying committees, their decisions come from a desire to do well in their roles, to help their business succeed.

They want customer service interactions to feel effortless. They expect every interaction to be a positive experience. They trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from colleagues. So yes, you need consistent messaging and to be keenly aware of your various buying personae’s pain points. Brand can humanize a company, helping solve a customer’s unique business need AND making them feel good about choosing you.

Myth #5 You can’t really measure brand, so what’s the point?

Fact 1: You can measure brand, it’s just that we’re doing it wrong.

CMO Insight: “There are ways you can draw KPIs in and present them to your board or leadership team, such as measuring the day-to-day awareness (i.e., impressions, brand sentiment for yourself/your competitors) and unaided awareness (i.e., how many people within your ideal customer profile know who you are). Do that annually to bi-annually to track if your brand efforts are working.” —Tara Robertson, CMO Teamwork

Fact 2: Not everything worth doing can be measured.

CMO Insight: “Brand doesn’t mean just spending money on advertising or sponsorships or things like that. Brand is how you talk, how you sound. It’s the content you create. It’s what your customers are saying about you out in the marketplace. Those things don’t always cost money. Don’t just think about this as an explicit, hard trade-off of budget versus non-budget.” —Jon Miller, CMO DemandBase

According to Forrester’s VP & Principal Analyst Ross Graber, organizations over a billion dollars spend roughly a third of their budget on brand programs. He argues that if we’re spending such significant dollars and resources against brand, we need to also be tracking how it’s working.

Many B2B companies are relying on annual/bi-annual brand studies for measurement, which is a problem as these are looking at brand motions through a rear-view mirror. It’s time to bring more leading indicators into the mix like web analytics and social media stats—the combination of these AND brand studies will make it that much easier to see what’s working and where to pivot.

That said, brand building takes time and patience. It’s important to set expectations and remind colleagues that not everything worth doing can be measured. For example, that podcast you were on where someone heard about your service and recommended it to a friend in the market for your specific SaaS product isn’t going to make it into the numbers, but if that closes a 7-figure deal, it’s worth it.

These five myths are the most common ones we hear, but there are more out there. If you’re curious, ask us!