Wholesome Marketing Ideas, Bite Size

Wholesome marketing ideas, bite size

Sunday, March 18, 2012

B2B brand architecture

Millad NX8000 is not exactly the kind of brand name that rolls off the tongue, nor does it have the easy brand recognition of a Nike Air, Apple iPad, or Diet Coke. Yet Millad NX8000, a chemical additive from Milliken Chemical, a division of privately held Milliken & Company, refers to a product that is present in more households than any of these better known consumer brands: it is the clarifier that gives polypropylene plastics such as Tupperware products their transparency.

Business to business (B2B) brands may not have the widespread recognition or glamor associated with many consumer brands, but they are important assets that serve to connect the company on a platform of trust with its customers. But among the vast majority of B2B firms, conventional wisdom appears to be that building brands makes sense in a consumer setting, where a firm needs to reach large numbers of consumers simultaneously with a consistent and simple message. In B2B markets where smaller numbers of customers with more specialized knowledge and complex needs are to be served, many managers cling to the belief that personal selling trumps brand building. 

Success is thought to reside in the ability of firms to deliver on technical specifications to hard-nosed customers, through a well-defined selling process, in which brands have little to add. So while attention and resources are directed toward recruiting, training, deploying, and managing an effective sales force, the planning and building of a sound brand architecture gets relatively short shrift from management, except during major upheavals such as mergers or acquisitions.

In a new paper titled B2B Brand Architecture and published in the CaliforniaManagement Review, Steve Muylle, Deva Rangarajan, and I argue that branding and personal selling are not substitutes. We show how managers tend to underestimate how powerful brands can be in non-mass markets. Our goal is to demonstrate how sound brand architecture for B2B firms is not just a means of differentiating from competitors, but also how it supports the sales process, underpins customer relationships, and sustains trust with customers.

We show how brand architecture can help overcome the risks that B2B customers perceive at each phase in the evolution of a business relationship.

A firm’s brand architecture is its collection of brands and their interrelationships, and typically consists of umbrella, line, and modifier brands.[i] For example, HP, the umbrella brand that overarches the firm’s various products and services, communicates the benefits of its advanced laser printing technology for business customers through its “Color Laser Jet” line brand, and further captures the technical features such as power consumption, paper handling, and dimensions in its modifier brands such as the 5550dtn.

Brand architecture should be shaped by numerous considerations, including market segment and targeting imperatives, mergers and acquisitions, competitive positioning, cost-driven consolidation or rationalization of brands. To make brand architecture responsive to these forces, we identify constant principles that can guide brand architecture design. 

First, we propose that the organization’s degree of centralization is reflected in its brand architecture, and second whether the offering is standardized or customized influences brand architecture. But even more fundamental than these design principles is an axiom that should guide all B2B brand architecture design: brand architecture reduces customers’ risk and supports the sales process.
For more on B2B brand architecture, check out the full article: Muylle, Steve, Niraj Dawar, Deva Rangarajan, (2012) "B2B Brand Architecture," CaliforniaManagement Review, Winter, Vol. 54(2), 58-71, as well as the cites below.

Check out: What the heck is a brand anyway? and In brands we trust

[i] David A. Aaker and E.A. Joachimsthaler, “The Brand Relationship Spectrum: The Key to the Brand Architecture Challenge,” California Management Review 42 no. 4 (Summer 2000): 8-23.
[ii] This is a simplified version of Kapferer’s Branding system as described in Jean-Noel Kapferer (1992) Strategic Brand Management, London Koogan-Page.


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Shweta said...

Nice information given about B2B brand architecture,and the need for it.The blog was worth reading.Thanks for sharing the blog with us.

Prachi said...

Great blog on B2B brand architecture, knowledgeable information given about it.Thanks for sharing the blog.