The interesting article from Lipiainen et al gives a more integrated approach for branding for B2B brands. It gives us a model to help managers develop integrated communication practices for their brands.
If you want to manage a brand and create brand value, the authors talk about 3 main areas:
1/ delivering the brand internally (branding inside)
2/ delivering the brand externally (branding outside) and
3/ positioning the brand in relevant conversations.
Let’s go more in detail on these 3 key areas and strengthen these with some relevant examples.
1/ branding inside = delivering the brand internally to all employees of the company
You have to be sure that there is a strong internal knowledge of your brand values within your company and that employees now your key brand valules. Everything you do within your company has to breathe the same identity, every interaction and communication needs to enlighten the brand.
At Atlas Copco for example there is the Atlas Copco book, this book sets out the Atlas Copco Group’s vision and mission. It guides and directs on strategy, structure and behavior and establishes the most important business concepts. Everybody that works at Atlas Copco gets this book and discusses the content with colleagues. This is a good example of delivering the brand internally.
Take also a look at this movie about the Atlas Copco book.
2/ branding outside = delivering the brand externally to all stakeholders
Branding outside focuses on marketing the brand to external stakeholders like suppliers, customers, investors, media and society in a consistent manner. This can be done with a good website, events, expositions, channels like advertisements and so on.
Let’s have a look at the Maersk campaign. The goal of this campaign was ‘to get closer to our customers’. For a B2B company, it is not that easy but for Maersk it was with this in mind: “While we are a B2B company, our customers are people who just like in B2C also would like to interact with us.” Maersk started with Facebook posts with publishing itself pictures of Maersk containers and ships and later on asked the Facebook audience to post pictures of Maersk. This campaign is a good example of creating conversation on something not that attractive at first, but with great results for the company.
But also the internal stakeholders can help with branding externally. Recently at Airpower in Belgium, one of the biggest production facilities of Atlas Copco, a new project has been initiated called AIRstars. As an AIRstar, an Atlas Copco employee can help with spreading news of Atlas Copco products or services into their social networks.
This way, the employees themselves help delivering the brand outside!
3/ positioning the brand in relevant conversations
A company can not control everything that is said about it, but it can take part in the conversations and play an active role in its network. It is important that a company monitors what is said about the brand, its products and services on channels like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram etc and takes part in the conversations around this. This can influence its perceived image and also help in crisis communication. In this era, we need to see the customers as partners that can help in creating new products and brand value.
Some companies have created brand new functions to handle these conversations the so called “conversation manager”. In his book, The Conversation Manager, Steven Van Belleghem goes deeper into the tasks of a conversation manager. He describes how to observe, facilitate and participate in conversations and that a conversation manager has a big impact on the organization and its marketing plan. It’s a very interesting book to read if you want to learn more about the Conversation Manager’s role.
All these 3 areas discussed above affect the brand value and have to be taken into consideration in order to build a strong and consistent brand.
In the current social media and digital age, branding requires a strong internal communication, together with consistent external communication and participating in conversations. I think especially the last point is becoming very important in the current online environment and brands need to focus on this, but without neglecting the other areas.
I hope that with this blogpost you have learned that branding in B2B is an ongoing process with constant adjustment of the brand by monitoring the environment and reacting to signals.
- Katona, Z. & Savari. M. (2014). Maersk Line: B2B Social Media – It’s communication, not marketing
- Lipiäinen and Karjaluto (2015) Industrial branding in the digital age
- The Conversation Manager: The Power of the Modern Consumer, the End of the Traditional Advertiser, Steven van Belleghem, May 2012