Are the 2020s the Decade of the Great B2B rebranding? But not for the reasons that you might have thought or heard.
This is the fascinating question that LinkedIn’s Web2B Institute asked. They have written quite extensively on it. This is the well-known 60/40 split between activation campaigns and brand – 50/50 in B2B, as recorded by Peter Fields and Les Binet. Spoiler alert! Their answer is a affirmative yes to their question. They believe that this decade will see the best B2B branding.
The B2B Institute believes that customers will control their buying journeys. As activation becomes less purposeful, marketing will default to branding for differentiation or selling. They encourage marketers to “switch sides”, as the “brand will prevail by 2030.” Then they go on to extol the virtues of branding. They conclude that branding will be the source of “demand generation” and “performance marketing”, while tech-driven “demand generation” will shift to “demand harvesting.” This is provocative, heady stuff, you have to give it credit!
The B2B Institute supports their view by citing five core virtues of branding that are difficult to dispute:
- Marketing is too focused on “lead generation” and “demand generation.” Sales activation does not create demand, but it helps businesses to capture existing demand. A large force, known as the sales team is already focused on short term sales. However, they believe that brand-building is what generates long- and short-term demand.
- The brand is “sticky.” It creates lasting memories in future buyers’ minds for when they are buying.
- Profitability is based on higher pricing. This does not stem from sales leads which tend to lower price.
- Brands create “competitive moats, full of poisonous alligators” as trademarks cannot be copied and are legally protected.
- Brands increase talent retention and recruitment. Weak brands send you straight back to voicemail.
Are the 2020s the Decade for the Great B2B Rebanding?
My view is that 2020s will be the decade of great B2B branding. But not in the way the B2B Institute suggests. It is dangerous to assume that activation will lose (that much) its significance. Who knows what the next 10 year of tech will bring. These are the last weeks of the Metaverse and Web3. What impact might these developments, and others, have on the purchasing process?
All the reasons the Institute has for building the brand are important, activation campaigns or no. If they aren’t taken advantage of, they can be missed opportunities. The greatest risk is not building the brand. The question “Are 2020s the Decade for Great B2B Rebranding?” was super-timely and super-relevant. It offers an opportunity to rethink the debate and elevate the level of discussion. My view is that the critical sinequa non standoff for B2B in this era is not brand vs. activation but brand and mar-tech .
Both martech and brand are paths to customer intimacy, the holy grail in marketing. Both can speak the same language, which is customer centricity, customer experience and customer journeys. Both want to understand what customers want before they can know. Both have their proponents, and it is rare for a marketer to correlate findings from these different disciplines or even recognize the need.
My view is that the true juxtaposition isn’t brand vs. Martech or brand in place of martech. It is brand , and martech. Although this is not the case today, I believe martech and brand should be fast friends. My view: Brand building is a robust process. However, martech can benefit from a distinctive, authentic brand that helps them achieve their goals. My view is that a brand can help martech succeed! This is not surprising, as martech and data analytics are often cited for their focus on robotic technology, rather than the human element. Great brands, however, swim in humanity!
All of this points to 2020s as the decade of great B2B branding, something I strongly believe in and which delights me.
How can a brand help martech excel
Let’s not argue about it, but we can agree that 2020s are the decade of martech and brand – together, aligned and hand-in-glove. We speak the same language and desire the same results in custom customer journeys and experiences. And we crave the customer centricity, intimacy, and customer centricity that will bring all this together. This speaks directly to revitalized brand-building, but in two new ways.
- Finally, the creation of authentic and powerful brands.
- Addition of Motivational Marketing (MM), to the branding process: This is work that I am currently developing, refining.
1. Build a powerful and authentic brand: Finally, getting it right!
A powerful and authentic brand is made up of nine elements – not two or three but nine. These are: Vision, Mission Core Values, Target Audiences, Insights and Brand Personality. Name and your Brand Positioning. This is your Why?, why you care. These elements are arranged around an Octagon. It is an 8-sided figure with the ninth, your Brand Positioning, at the center. All of these are intangible. They are all constant sources of wealth, renewal and abundance.
B2B companies’ Brand Octagon embraces their brands. The robust, detailed understanding of the brand will determine how authentic they will be. This will also drive loyalty, preference, and preference, as well as provide them with competitive advantage and market leadership. It is not clear how many B2B companies see their brands this way and create them in this manner. However, it is likely that very few. You can create each of the nine elements in a specific way, coordinate them, and create a brand experience that is strong, engaging, and memorable. This topic has been covered in previous blogs such as the one. This philosophy or approach to branding goes beyond the use of logos and graphic identities. These are only one aspect of authentic brands.
What is the benefit of creating a strong brand in B2B?
This begs the question: Why do you do it? How valuable is it to build a strong brand in B2B when you are selling products or services to value-chains that are primarily interested in efficiency and price? This misses enormous opportunities. This is the perfect landscape for your brand, B2B marketers. This is the potential of your authentic brand:
Brands should inspire, stimulate, and encourage new ideas, attitudes, and behavior. Your brand should be a source of inspiration for your company, bringing out the best in you and your courage. You should inspire new audiences with your convictions to engage in sharper and more passionate engagement. It should shape the markets and cultures in which you work and be a statement about your human potential.
How could you resist making a commitment to creating and managing a brand that is authentic? A brand could make a significant impact on your company’s products and services as well as your communication and culture. It could also help guide and impact your martech analysis, development and results. It could make your martech more human and better.
FYI: This notion of power of brand is based on Walter Pater, philosopher and aesthetician,’s belief in the impact of art. Just as powerful and transporting art can be, so too can your brand’s transformative potential.
What is Motivational marketing (MM)? What can MM do to help you build a strong, authentic brand?
MM is a powerful tool that can be used to refine your Brand Octagon. It does this by focusing on your Brand Vision, Promises and Placement. This is based on the Target Audience insights and the insight it provides into their motivations. MM is a way to see your customers’ souls and provides a guideline of everything you need to get to customer intimacy. You can and should start all your branding and marketing from here!
Let me explain:
Allow me to take a moment back as I need to briefly introduce Self-determination Theory. SDT is a discipline in behavioral science that studies the intrinsic motivations behind people’s choices, free from external interference or influence. SDT is optimistic in its view of human nature. It believes that there is an inherent drive to find new challenges and opportunities. This drive is universal, innate, psychological, and pan-cultural. SDT identifies three core intrinsic needs that, if fulfilled, will allow optimal human functioning and growth. They are competence (we seek control and mastery); relationship (we desire interaction with others); and autonomy (we want purpose and fulfillment).
I am currently working on and I asked the question: Could SDT help us achieve true customer centricity? The answer is yes, surprise alert!
It all comes together:
SDT is easy to see in depth. It’s reminiscent of classic pillars of Western thought, such as Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs and Aristotle’s concept of the Four Causes and the principle of arete or excellence. The real moment of “aha” – mirabile viu – is when you realize that SDT can also be used to connect with marketing’s classic tool, called the Values Ladder. This connects to the functional and emotionally beneficial values and values on the ladder. These are the “steps” we use to craft brand promises. This unique understanding of marketing’s Values ladder and SDT is extremely valuable. It shows that there is a natural link between hierarchies in messaging and hierarchies in needs; between customer-centricity and intrinsic customer motivs. We mean motivations that will bring customers to you, provided you provide insight and support their engagement.
What value adds to a strong, authentic brand?
The Values Ladder and SDT can be fused to connect classic audience benefits and customer intrinsic motivations. This creates a link between customer centricity, intimacy and what is fundamental to human beings. All of it is connected! It’s all connected! This will enable you, as a marketer to get to know your customers first and possibly to determine what they want.
It all starts with a strong, authentic, and powerful brand that is rooted in Vision, Positioning, and Promises. MM is the unifying principle of all your business activities. It allows you to offer customer intimacy upfront. MM can be used to integrate and align your teams, direct all product development, create customer loyalty, and be the engine for surprise and delight. We call this the marriage of SDT and the Values Ladder and its incorporation in the Octagon process, MM or B2B marketing 2.0.
This is why it will be the age for great B2B branding: Going full circle
We noted that Peter Field and Les Binet recommend a 60/40 mix (50/50 in B2B) of long term brand building and sales activation to maximize growth, loyalty, and staying power. The B2B Institute was founded in response to this theory. Similar to Effectiveness in Context, Field and Binet write about brand and activation. They say that smart people do both. The trick is to identify a powerful emotional insight that’s relevant to the category and then execute it in an unexpected manner.
Hello, MM! Come on down! You may be able to find a way forward by putting your customers’ intrinsic motivations at center of everything you do. Brand and activation/tech work hand-in-hand to bring this to you! You can expect to see more innovative, potentially ground-breaking business-building campaigns and differentiation campaigns with brand and activation/tech working together!
This is quite a lot! Keep checking back for more information, including a B2B case report that will show how it all comes together.
How can marketers get started to prepare for great B2B branding?
Marketer, take a leaf from the decade of martech and brand: Do an audit! Analyze your martech results and brand development along the same key criteria. What do they tell you about customer intimacy? Which customer journey and what customer experience does each one support? What content should they expect from your communications? What new product or service developments are they anticipating? Are they the same or different? Which are they? What are the gaps between them and within each other? Can your brand jump in to tell you why they bought it if your data shows you what they have purchased? Are they able to work together?
This should be a sign and alarm signal that you are unable to answer these questions. Set a dual, integrated and mutually supportive course of action for your business that is based on the information your brand and martech are giving you. They should be your best friends. It may be your survival at stake.
Final thoughts and takeaways: A personal experience from the past
Although it may not seem obvious, tech and brand have fought and continue to fight common battles. Recently, I was able to witness discussions between ABM, data and martech specialists about the current state of their discipline. They voiced many concerns, especially about the lack of support from sales and management. They suggested that a board should be advocated for continued budgets and support.
These are not isolated battles. What martech faces today is the same as what branding faced in 1990. The same thing happened to me 30 years ago. Striking! These aren’t just tech or brand battles. They are human battles, the struggles for turf, ownership, and professional ego.
Are there more compelling reasons for martech and brand to work together in these shared struggles? Brand and tech have a chance to survive and prevail, which will result in win-win-wins and transformative change. I will quote Benjamin Franklin, who signed the Declaration of Independence at the Continental Congress of 1776, “If we don’t all hang together we will surely all hang apart.” These are wise words.
A video with the same title as this paper has been posted to Propolis.