Business-to-business marketing is a space where every product looks similar to another in the same category, and every supplier claims to be offering something unique. Though some marketers maintain that the enterprise customer is seldom persuaded by powerful brand messaging, the reality is actually different. Why do these buyers remain loyal to a brand? Why do these suppliers find it difficult to replace a preferred competitor?

Enterprise buyers usually ascribe their choice to the quality, cost efficiency, service offered by the brand they patronise. Does it mean that the market has always been devoid of superlative quality products? No way! Other things remaining equal, it’s the initial brand positioning that makes
the difference.

A successful vendor in the B2B space need not necessarily be the one who blows the brand trumpet the loudest. He could be the one who’s smart enough to make his company, product or service
seem indispensable to the loyalist. When that’s done right, the brand enjoys the pride of place in the customer’s mind space. Put simply, he’s leveraged the power of branding to the hilt.

The enterprise customer is a normal human being with normal emotions, even though he rationalizes his decision with tangible factors. He too would have had a ‘first experience’ with the brand maiden that wooed him! So the million dollar question is––Which appeal did he fall for… functional, economic or emotional?  Answering that is a tall order, given that the requirements vary and the factors that influence decision makers are also unpredictable. But the fact is that emotional appeal plays a critical role even in B2B branding.

A brand comparison could help bring out the difference between the psyche of B2B and B2C customer. It may not be uncommon for a Coke drinker to try out a can of Pepsi. But it’s certainly a tough task for a marketer to make the Coke loyalist to switch from a sedan to an SUV. The reason is a no-brainer––the stakes are higher in the latter case. But it isn’t the only factor that determines and sustains the level of brand loyalty.

According to a popular study of the Best Global Brands By Value, IBM, GE, and Intel––largely B2B-focused brands––are among the most valuable brands. Their intangible asset of goodwill drives billions of dollars in value and market capitalization. How did they (as B2B players) do it in a world that’s cluttered with myriad brands talking to the individual consumer? The answer is quite obvious:
After having leveraged the single most important differentiating opportunity, they went the extra mile to sustain the momentum of their branding exercise. Most importantly, they have succeeded in delivering on their brand promises. Be it a B2B or B2C branding exercise, sustainable value delivery lies between brand excellence and extinction.