Brand differentiation: what makes B2B brands connect with customers

How effective is good branding? 13 is the answer. Customers are 13 times more likely to buy from a B2B brand they have a strong connection with, according to this study from the Corporate Executive Board Company.

So what does a strong brand look like? Every February Superbrands publishes its annual brand league table, which is an independent survey based on the opinions of marketing experts, business professionals and consumers. One of the three judgment criteria is ‘distinction’ – is the brand well know in its sector and suitably different from its rivals? The B2B league table is a great way of honouring companies that have mastered brand differentiation.

What makes a brand different
If you visit the ‘About us’, ‘Who we are’ or product pages of brands that have made it onto the league table, the same trend keeps coming up: they’ve found a way to explain their brand and product to their audience. For example, Visa is number one in the Superbrands table and positions itself as providing a trusted and reliable service. Visa has over 1.9 billion cardholders in the world and is about as close to ubiquitous as a brand can get, but it still assesses the brand’s strengths and weaknesses through qualitative and quantitative research.

Finding your brand’s voice
Brand differentiation is key. But how do you do it? It’s as much a ‘state of mind’ in a corporate sense as it is anything that manifests as words and images. A brand is sometimes described as ‘a promise you make to customers’. If all customers want the same thing – value, quality, assurance, etc – they all want the same promise, right? Well, there’s the conundrum – how do you offer something that is differentiated while appealing to common needs and demands? In our experience, the best forms of differentiation come from the ‘DNA’ of the business. No two companies start the same way, employ the same people or follow an identical path. Discovering the unique attributes – no matter how small – and boiling them up should result in a differentiated position. But so many companies struggle to achieve this, especially in B2B.