B2B Sites Need Branding, Too

There’s a misconception in some quarters about B2B branding. It contends that the principles of brand building suddenly don’t apply or aren’t needed once B2B communications replace B2C messages.

It seems that B2B communications are governed by a “Why should I bother?” mentality. Businesses aren’t emotionally driven, they’re not brand-conscious, they buy on price.

Because of this erroneous assumption, most B2B web sites look alike. In fact, differences between them hardly exist.

Now ask yourself this. When we go to work, do we hang our emotions and quality awareness on the coat hanger with our jackets? Of course we don’t. So why is brand building forgotten the very minute the teams behind these B2B company web sites begin to develop them?

Recently, I was invited to judge an international web competition. Just for fun, I conducted a little survey when visiting the 100 B2B web site entrants. In 23 percent of the cases, the home page included a photo of the company headquarters: 19 percent included a handsome portrait of the CEO; 29 percent of all sites used a “hand shake” photo, and 32 percent used a photo of two suit-clad figures engaged in serious conversation. How much more clichid can you get? Just about the only characteristic distinguishing these sites from one another were the brand names that owned them.

We have to remember that we are still human beings even though we are acting on behalf of our companies. We still seek confidence, trust, consistency and professionalism in the partners we want to work with. So why do we forget the things we would normally do instinctively to establish confidence? You can’t tell me that a stock photo of two hand-shaking business people establishes your trust.

Brand building on the Net has to be handled in exactly the same way as traditional brand building. And the principles we know so well from B2C branding will also work, in most cases. These include: graphic design, navigation, the copy’s tone of voice, downloading time, feedback quality, picture quality, consistency and integration with other off/online activities.

All these parameters build a brand. A logo doesn’t do the trick alone. Companies with personality prove themselves to be winners time after time. Personality displays a difference, distinguishing a company from others. In addition, personality and individual thinking should be reflected on the site. The company personality should be apparent in the copy; it should add the human touch we all respond to, no matter what hat we are wearing when purchasing a solution.

The situation I’m describing is similar to that in 1995, when the quality of branding on a B2C web site was similar to that faced by B2B sites today. The excuse in 1995 was that it wasn’t possible to replicate the branding identity you could achieve in brochures and television commercials. Well, it was possible. We just hadn’t figured out how to translate branding identity to the web medium at the time.

So forget the clichis. And forget about using the excuse we heard five years ago. You know branding is more than a logo. Just, remember one thing… We are all human beings.

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