Brand Development and Engagement


B2B Marketing Guide

Brand Development and Engagement

More Than Just the Facts

"B2B customers buy on facts. B2C customers buy on emotion.” Not only is it easy to say, but it’s said often and loudly. But here’s the thing … it’s wrong. Or, more accurately, it’s wildly incomplete.

According to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, 95% of our purchase decisions take place subconsciously. This is as true of B2B purchases as for B2C. And while it doesn’t mean they’re purely emotional (it’s a little more complicated than that), it does mean they’re not the unfeeling decisions of a purely rational consumer, which is how it’s often stated. The real difference is that, on average, B2B customers balance their emotional decisions with logic and facts. That’s necessary because of the many things that make B2B transactions different. Namely …

Multiple people influencing the decision. 

This means the decision-maker needs enough facts to not only justify it to themselves but to others.

Larger transactions. 

Larger purchases (remember, B2B transactions can be many multiples larger than B2C transactions) require more fact-based justifications for our emotional buying decisions. We see this factor play out in a B2C world as well — think about how much more important facts are when you’re buying a new refrigerator or lawn mower as compared to a body wash or a pack of gum.


Chances are you’re going to have to live with a B2B buying decision longer. You’re going to be reminded of the decision you made for months or even years. And you want each of those reminders to be positive.

All that means that your brand, and the conscious and unconscious space it occupies in your customers’ minds, plays an outsized role in the effectiveness of your marketing and sales. It’s not enough to make a superior product or provide a more efficient, effective service. (Sorry, engineers!) You’ve got to wrap those great products and services in a brand that people trust and want to be a part of. Read on for some practical insight into how to do exactly that.

To be and not to be. There is no question.

Most brand positioning and strategy exercises are focused on defining who and what a brand is about. That’s essential. But equally important is being very clear about who and what your brand is not. That might sound unnecessary. After all, once you’ve laid out who you are, isn’t it clear who you’re not? If you say you’re a vegetarian, isn’t it clear you don’t eat pork chops? Well, anyone who has tried to manage a brand across a large organization knows it’s not that simple. But it gets easier if you are as clear as possible about your answers to questions like these:

Icon of a hand holding a megaphone

We sound like this. We don’t sound like this.

Icon of an eyeglass

We look like this. We don’t look like this.

Icon of 4 hands holding wrists

We hold these values. We don’t hold these values.

Icon of one hand giving another hand a heart

We support these causes. We don’t support these causes.

Icon of hands holding one another

We partner with brands like this. We don’t partner with brands like this.

If you address both sides of the coin, you’ll be better positioned to define what is “on brand” and what is “off brand.” But until you’ve drawn a clear line in the sand, you’ll fight an ongoing battle with people trying to cram new ideas and attributes onto your brand. And over time, that will water things down to the point where just about anything could qualify as “on brand.”

Yes, but can it fluctuate?

Just as important as clearly defining the line between “on brand” and “off brand” is building a brand that can flex without breaking. “On brand” doesn’t have to mean “always the same.” And it shouldn’t mean that. Here’s how we like to think about what it means for a brand to be flexible.

GIF of 3 hexagons overlapping one another

Assume you have a brand position or personality with three attributes.

GIF of 3 hexagons overlapping one another with the middle filled in

An inflexible brand forces all messaging and behavior to live in the center where all three attributes overlap. But similar to a person, your brand doesn’t need to engage every aspect of its personality at all times. It can, but it doesn’t need to. This is what it means to flex.

GIF of 3 hexagons overlapping one another highlighting overlapping parts

Messages and behavior that engage two of your brand’s attributes are also on brand. And they’re not less on brand than things that fall in the middle.

GIF of 3 hexagons overlapping one another highlighting each hexagon, one at a time

And those that tap into a single brand attribute are also on brand.

Hexagon icon showing on and off brand

Any message or behavior that falls inside that boundary is on brand, and anything that falls outside it is off brand.

Positioning the brand is marketing’s job. Living it is everyone’s.

STEP 1: Define your brand position.

STEP 2: Get everyone in the organization to understand it and live it.

If only it were that easy, right? Doing the first step right can take many months and sometimes up to a year. Doing step two is an ongoing, never-ending, uphill battle. At times, it will be discouraging, disheartening, and disappointing. And just when you think you’re there, something will pull the rug out from underneath you. Knowing that it’s vitally important, there are some tangible things you can do to make it easier on yourself. Here are four practical tips for getting everyone in your organization to understand and live your brand.

Don’t talk about the “brand.”

Your brand isn’t something separate and distinct from the company (assuming you only have one brand, that is). Instead of saying “our brand is …,” say “we are …” or “our company is …” Doing so will encourage the idea that your brand stretches into every corner of the organization and is everyone’s responsibility.

Document your brand. On one page.

When you set out to document your brand — and you should absolutely document your brand — do so succinctly and clearly. Ideally that documentation should fit on one page without having to resort to using 6-pt. font. You can and should have deeper, more detailed documentation (about voice, visual guidelines, etc.), but a one-page overview is all most people will need.

Your brand documents are reference tools.

When you set out to document your brand position so that everyone in the organization can understand it and live it, think about that documentation as a reference tool, not a sales piece. Your goal should be clarity.

Launch, train, maintain.

When organizations change or refine their brand position, or even when they just give it a redesign, they like to make a big show of it. Banners, t-shirt cannons, live music, the whole thing. And that’s absolutely what should happen. (Who doesn’t love a t-shirt cannon?!) But just as important, and often overlooked, is what happens afterward. As marketers, we love to throw a party. But there’s training that needs to happen for everyone in the organization — especially anyone who has customer contact. And then comes less exciting but equally important maintenance: constant reminders and examples of who you are and what you’re about.

Three good reads.

Business schools and marketing programs often fall short when teaching the fundamentals and practical application of branding. Give these three books a read to brush up on your knowledge. 

Book Cover of Contagious Why Things Catch On
Contagious: Why Things Catch On

By Jonah Berger

Wharton Business School professor goes deep on what makes ideas take off. Not a how-to guide to branding, but rather an examination of its fundamental principles.


Book Cover of Achtypes in Branding
Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists

By Margaret Hartwell, Joshua C. Chen

An invaluable tool for generating actionable conversations about brand position, and giving marketers and non-marketers alike a common vernacular for speaking about a brand.


Book Cover of Human to Human: H2H
There Is No B2B and B2C: Human to Human: H2H

By Bryan Kramer

While we believe there is still value in the distinction between B2B and B2C, ultimately the author is right about two things: the distinction is getting fuzzier every year, and eventually all of this comes down to a conversation between two people.

How’s your brand positioned?

Strong, powerful brands move businesses forward and reshape entire industries. They’ve also conclusively proven to raise stock prices and help companies command a premium price for their product or service. 

Whether you need to create and define a new B2B brand or revitalize an old one, the branding and marketing experts at 2RM are here to help. To start a discussion about your brand and to learn more about our brand development and documentation approach, contact us today.

Two Rivers recently revamped our brand. 

Hear our Managing Director of Strategy Patrick McGill, and our Managing Director of Creative, Drew Jones, discuss our approach to brand planning in this informative webinar.