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By Marti Breen, Galaxy Bright Team Leader for Marketing Strategy::

Branding has been defined as naming a product or service so that it is distinct from its competitors. If it’s really that simple, what is all the fuss about branding? The truth is, it’s not really that simple. In the real marketplace a brand is more than a name, it is the emotions and intangibles that are recalled at the mention of that name. Consumer product marketers have long realized the value of branding—the brand is why consumers pay more for Coke than they do for the generic product. And in the consumer world millions of advertising dollars are spent each year to define and reinforce various brands in the consumers’ minds.

Brands are also important in the business to business market. Your brand, whether it represents your company or a particular product is an important company asset that requires the same investment and care as any of your other assets. Yet many business to business firms are so confused about branding that it is an area that is often ignored in formulating marketing strategy. Yet it should be the underpinning of any marketing strategy or tactic.

For the business to business market, brand can be simply defined as the set of images and feelings that are evoked in the mind of your customers and prospects at the mention of your name (or product name). In order to ensure that the image that is evoked is a consistent and positive one is the number one challenge in business to business branding. In the consumer product world, while expensive, branding is relatively simple: you build a brand through consistent advertising that links your product/service to the images and emotions that you want the consumer to associate with you.

In B2B, brand building is a little more complicated. Sure, your advertising, website, brochures, trade show booth, etc. should be integrated to deliver a consistent image for your product or service. But unless the customer or prospect is getting the same image from every touch point in your organization, the image may become confused, or worse evolve into a negative. For this reason, branding in the B2B market has to come from the inside. The entire organization must understand and be able to articulate a consistent branding message. Otherwise, all the money invested in an integrated marketing program is poorly spent.

A recent study by Booz, Allen, Hamilton reinforces this point. They found that only 15% of brand loyalty is generated by up front promotions, while 85% comes from the point of sales contact and beyond. In the B2B market, this means that what your sales force (and channel) is saying, the tools they are using to deliver their message and the customer’s total experience with your ordering and follow-up support team become more important than all the dollars you spend on creating the image. Good B2B marketers like IBM and Xerox understand this. How well do you think your team measures up?

Galaxy Bright understands the ins and outs of B2B branding. We can help you establish a process to create a positive brand image and ensure that it is consistently delivered by all members of your company. Contact us today for an assessment of your current branding efforts and to see how we might help you improve your return on your marketing investment.