Lisa Merriam

Business Brands vs. Consumer Brands: Differences and Implications

Are business brands different from consumer brands? Yes, but the more interesting questions are:

  • How are business brands different from consumer brands?
  • What do those differences mean for brand builders?

Business Brands Work with a Different Kind of Audience

First of all, the business brand audience is business. Consumer brands, even highly targeted ones, speak to anonymous masses numbering in the millions. Businesses target specific entities with distinct needs. They can know customers and prospects, often by name. The implication is that mass tools like advertising are of limited for business brands. Telling your story in focused and high-touch ways will build your brand with credibly and economically.

Business Brands Are about Dialogue

Consumer brand communication one-way and impersonal. Businesses, on the other hand, engage in true dialogue with direct and specific communication. Your ongoing, substantive, two-way conversations give you have a special forum for talking about brand.

Issue Consumer Business Implication for B2B
Audience Impersonal, mass markets with millions of members Finite and specific market; perhaps with customers known
by name
Mass tools like advertising may not be the best way communicate
and probably are not cost effective
Communication Impersonal and one way Direct, in-person, with two way conversations Ongoing dialogue and substantive negotiation create a special
medium for talking about brand.
Selling Easy, fast Complex products, sometimes requiring customization Education before and after sale is often needed. Relationship
continues after the sale.
Buying Individual, simple, impulsive Lengthy, involved, bureaucratic Must appeal to many, including influencers, users, financiers,
etc. who may not be the buyers.

Business Brands Are Active

Selling of consumer goods is passive—once your product is on the shelf, you advertise and promote, and hope people buy. For businesses, sales requires deliberate effort, often beginning before the first sales call and extending beyond the purchase decision. Many companies need to educate the market substantially before the first sales call is made. A lengthy sales cycle extends after the purchase decision as products or services are customized, implemented and supported. Brand can be the constant that helps start and then keeps nurturing ongoing relationships.

Business Brands Help Simplify Complex Sales

Buying a consumer brands is simple. You want it, you grab it. Buying in the business-to-business arena is rarely so straightforward. Many people are involved. There’s the bureaucracy of budget allocation, requests for proposals and bidding, committee evaluation and decision-making, the cutting of a purchase order, and so on. In business, quite often the influencer, the user, the budget resource, and the buyer are different people in different departments. Brand can speak to each member of the decision-making team, helping make the process more coherent, and keeping the sales cycle moving forward.

How do all these difference add up? What do they mean for your branding efforts? Business-to-business branding is more direct and more intensive. Your brand will be built through people and your ability to deliver an experience that consistently supports your reputation.

More on B2B Business Brands:

Business Branding: Toward A More Effective B2B Brand Approach
B2B Business Branding: The Emotion Quotient
Business Brands vs. Consumer Brands: Differences and Implications
B2B Brand — The Importance of the Sales Force
B2B Brand Case: Rebranding Proxios