Unlocking the full value of corporate brand in B2B – by Richard Crookes

By Richard Crookes, Executive Director, Global Brand Management & Marketing Communications at SABIC

As Middle East Business-to-Business (B2B) companies rebound from the effects of the pandemic, many are seizing the moment to recalibrate and evolve their corporate brand position.

The corporate brand journey

Building a brand is a journey. The nature of developing a B2B brand means that the customer journey tends to be a considerably longer endeavour compared to Business-to-Consumer (B2C). After all, the relatively short decision-making process for a consumer buying ice cream is very different to the 25 months of pre-sales activity, contracting and relationship building that may be required to sell the packaging materials needed for the tub that the ice cream comes in.

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For B2B, scrutiny of brand messages has also changed with a sharper public challenge of those who overstate the value they genuinely create. Increasingly vocal accusations of ‘green-washing’ demonstrate the serious reputational damage if a brand strategy is not rooted in authenticity.

At SABIC, our purpose is ‘Chemistry that Matters™’. It ensures authenticity in what we say and do as our business evolves and transforms. Our experience has shown that the B2B corporate brand journey can be greatly supported by considering and measuring the effectiveness of three key components – living, sharing, and delivering the brand. While the key metrics will differ for each company, it is critical to track the progression of the brand over time.

Leaders must ‘live’ the brand

A corporate brand cannot stand firmly in the external environment without first being owned, understood and lived internally by its leaders. They must reflect the culture of the organization and the vision and aspiration across all of its hierarchy.

Before endorsing and demonstrating the brand standards to others, senior leaders must be active in developing and implementing the brand from visuals and design to content and messaging, as well as the expected behaviours of all employees.

Brand provides a common ground for people to come together behind a single idea regardless of differences in business models, cultures, regions. It can define common denominators that enable internal unity yet allows flexibility for business delivery.

The company must ‘share’ the brand

In parallel, it’s important to begin strategic communication with the external groups of the brand and its reason for existing.  To support this, messages need to be shared consistently across all channels to ‘tell the brand story’. Whether it is through multi-channel marketing campaigns, enhanced website experience on owned channels, through experiential marketing like events, or building on established CSR activities.

At SABIC our five-year global brand campaign was carefully designed and implemented in partnership with our  diverse business teams to bring our sense of purpose around ‘Chemistry that Matters™’ to life.  Targeting strategic groups who have specific influence on our interests, we highlighted how we collaborate with others to produce unique solutions not only for our customers but that help address some of the world’s most pressing issues.

Strategic brand activations that distinguish our brand have helped us compete and secure growth with new and existing customers and markets and have also enabled us to become the most valuable brand in our industry in the Middle East and second most valuable chemicals brand globally, according to Brand Finance rankings.

Whatever tactics are chosen, it’s critical to never lose sight of the fact that B2B brands are built around the promises made and how well these are delivered for customers and stakeholders. Consistency and harmony between business delivery, experiences, and a careful and consistent activation strategy will amplify and share these experiences.

The brand must be ‘delivered’ through the customer experience.

At the same time the organization is “talking the talk”, it’s also critical to ensure we’re “walking the walk” by delivering the brand to customers. Tactically this can be achieved by ensuring customers are offered a consistently reliable and unique experience through the various touch points at which the organization interacts with them.

It’s also vital the brand is delivered through a coherent customer experience and journey mapping to ensure unique, differentiating experiences that make a difference to the customer. Indeed, at SABIC our brand and purpose are designed to fundamentally reinforce our engagement with customers in a way that matters to them. After all, research shows that B2B customers see significant value in an improved customer experience and are prepared to pay more for it.

Through our solutions and services, we literally deliver chemistry that matters to our customers businesses and their customers businesses. It incorporates both our product and solution commitment, and the collaborative experience that is inherent in the way we do business.  Designing these to exceed customer expectations by consistently delivering Chemistry that Matters™ creates real differentiation and value.

Moving beyond logos

 The benefit and complexity of building comprehensive B2B brands is often misunderstood.  A strategically defined brand can create a new level of value for B2B organizations, and provide a solid foundation to deliver on the increasing expectations of today’s customers and stakeholders. But achieving this requires strong leadership that can unite the whole organization in an authentic, harmonious, and consistent orchestration of commitment and delivery.

A brand is strategically managed by a dedicated team but – due to its all-encompassing nature – is executed by the whole business. Ultimately, broad engagement across the whole company makes the difference.