Aug. 28th, 2006

B-2-B advertising needs an image consultant. Part 2

In my last post, I wrote about the misuse of brand image and product marketing in the B-to-B space. In his day, Leo Burnett believed that

“The eloquence of an image is more convincing than the traditional arguments touting the products being sold.”

When you read this post, look around your work station. Does the products your office uses state what kind of company you work for. Shouldn’t it?


Apple once again has managed to pull this off, when you walk into an ad agency that uses PCs, you immediately question their creative legitimacy. Why is that? We all understand that Apple’s intrinsic brand values is creativity and the people that use Apple use that as a statement. They have done this by using their consumer brand and paraelled efforts to their business category. They obviously understand people’s demand for image and a statement about their creativity, doesn’t stop as they walk through their office door. What does IBM, EMC or Intel users stand for besides what the products do? Shouldn’t we be able to know that?

I’m stating by no means that the business and consumer audiences are identical. Business targets will need a greater sense of purchase justification and eventually will need the rational elements to sell ideas and products into their co-workers and managers. They need product specifics to be available for the technical minded. Just not in place of an image for the brand.

I’ve put together some helpful guidelines that may assist in thinking beyond the B-to-B stereotypes.

1.    Assign a role to your communications. Businesses don’t need to give customers everything in one ad. If it is a “brand” ad, just have it communicate that and that only. Product advertising has its place but, have faith that if you can intrigue them enough with just an image or an idea. Then lead your customers with that intrigue, to want to seek you out.

2.    Draw the line between brand and product. How you communicate a brand or an image is completely different than what it takes to tout products. While they need to be congruent, they are not the same thing and cannot be done well without both being clearly articulated and differentiated.

3.    Give your customer some credit. You’re dealing with highly educated people in the workplace. While they might not all be marketing savvy, they will get the image that you are trying to project, even if it’s done in an obscure way.

4.    Don’t shop around creative ideas. Engineering doesn’t have you double-check their software configurations or hardware settings, so why do you need to check to see if they agree with the brand image? 

So I challenge us as an industry to come up with and create some truly revolutionary ideas and brands within the space. Stop focusing on a quantified list of product specs with a nice safe message, and then try to call that a brand. A brand is something people can belong to, have confidence in, understanding its statement to the world. Creativity and true differentiation can be achieved in this space if we can all free ourselves from the limitations of precedence. — Posted by Nick.

Nick manages Communications Planning for Mortar. He can be reached at “”>

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