Fast Company’s VP of Brand, Shiloh Gray, shared advice for B2B brands in a recent article entitled ‘B2B branding is boring, but it doesn’t have to be’. Gray writes:

Recently, while presenting our new brand expression to the entire company, it hit me that although people loved the way it looked, there was a high probability that this audience of hundreds of very technical individuals didn’t fully grasp why so much strategy, effort, and time went into the visuals I was sharing.

So I paused and reached for the most basic metaphor I could muster mid-presentation: This new brand was our new wardrobe, and similar to how a tailored suit or dress might make you feel like a million bucks, this new brand was our confidence and maturity embodied. Suddenly, this brand could do for a business what clothes do for so many people: telegraph values and emotions, and put the wearer in the zone. In short, the brand would partially communicate our innovative, premium, matter-of-fact approach by just being.

The idea of picking out a new set of clothes for your brand invites endless possibilities, and encourages you to consider how you’d like your brand to be presented to the world. Gray reminds us that a message is more likely to be remembered if it’s presented in a relevant way, meaning it’s important to stand out. And yet, many B2B companies are reluctant to do so. Gray writes:

Why do most B2B brands deny employing the same strategies that turn commodities into brand names? I’d wager because it feels like a non-spreadsheet shamanic magic that people like me have somehow learned to wield. It is partly that, but it’s also partly perspective.

Here’s how you can change things:

Distil your difference

Every business needs to understand the unique value it offers. Gray writes:

If we look closely at businesses that are commodities (or wear a similar wardrobe), the number-one way they command loyalty and control market share is by allowing their unique perspective to permeate their products, platforms, and marketing—their capital “B” brand.

Companies like Coke, Delta, Best Buy, and McDonald’s create incredible products and experiences and then allow the DNA that created those innovations to bleed into their go-to-market strategy. Yes, they’ve got bespoke programs and platforms, but those elite experiences are symptoms of a strong customer-centric and differentiated brand. Otherwise, any soda, airline, big-box retailer, or burger would do.

These big brands have achieved a place in the collective consumer consciousness. There are decades of associations built-up and imbued in the Coke wave, the Delta chevron, or McDonald’s golden arches. These visual symbols invoke thoughts of the experience customers can expect to have with each company. When a company delivers on the expectations set by their branding, a positive association is forged or reinforced, and the brand is strengthened.

Situate your company

Understanding where your company fits in the wider market is essential. Gray recommends that companies become more familiar with visual communication: using museums, libraries and even Pinterest for inspiration. When you’ve settled on a direction, approach an agency like Novagram to execute your vision. Gray writes:

Reinventing the wheel and becoming an absolute legend is always the preferred path. But unless you’ve got crazy cash, the best teams, and the patience to make it singular, then start by leveraging a little built-in perspective. While my company’s redesign leaned into Swiss Futurism for its confident hierarchy, palette, and typography, there are hundreds of styles of graphic representation to choose from to elevate your difference.

Be brave, not boring

In closing, Gray reminds us that commitment is key, writing:

Be brave and stay true to the strategy that got you to this moment. Become immovable when it comes to your expression so that your brand can become immutable in market. Numbers will go up, down, and stagnate at different times, but you can’t. The brands you love in your consumer life and the brands you champion through procurement, legal, and security reviews all have one thing in common: They consistently pass the vibes test.

Need help passing that test? Get in touch.

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