Elaine Fogel

Your B2B (business-to-business) company may not be sending the “right” brand messages, according to newly-released McKinsey research. It appears that many companies are using ineffective brand messaging to engage their customers and prospects.

The research suggests, “a marked apparent divergence between the core messages companies communicate about their brands and the characteristics their customers value most.” Oh-oh.

What’s most interesting is that the analysis showed a “surprising similarity among the brand themes that leading B2B companies emphasized, suggesting a tendency to follow the herd rather than create strongly differentiated brand messages.” Perhaps B2B companies can learn a thing or two from B2C companies on this one.

Of the 13 themes, the majority (86%) of B2B companies thought that role modeling corporate social responsibility would earn them the most brand points with customers. Guess how many of their customers thought this theme gave them brand strength? Too few to register statistical significance!

Their second choice (84%) was promoting and practicing sustainability in their products or services. Again, there were too few to register statistical significance. It was the same thing with their number three choice: having global reach (79%).

And, guess which theme came in last? Low prices!

So, what brand theme DOES resonate with B2B customers?

1. Cares about open dialog with its customers and society. (17%)

2. Acts responsibly across its supply chains. (16%)

3. Has a high level of specialist expertise. (15%)

What to Do?

According to the McKinsey authors, “Especially at a time when opportunities to deliver brand messages are proliferating as never before, consistency is crucial. If anything, today’s increasingly fragmented environment calls for a more disciplined communication of values and messages across a wider range of channels, including some quite traditional ones, for a longer period of time.”

Does this surprise you? Is your B2B company using any of the low-performing brand messages? Do you plan to revise them?


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