Businesses are people too.

by Holland-Mark | October 5, 2011

“I don’t know. We think it looks too… consumery. You know?”

There is a constant conversation taking place between marketers, strategists, creatives, and brands about the differences between branding for B2B and branding for B2C. There is the debate about color palette. (When in doubt, go blue!) What colors feel safe? What tone feels “business-y”? Is it okay to be serious and be clever?

To us, the truth lies in answering a question different from whether you’re a B2B company or a B2C company, but rather one that focuses on the individuals comprising the Bs and the Cs. Chris has often been heard remarking about the “magic consumer transition” that we sometimes believe takes place while commuting from home to work. The underlying consideration there is whether we truly do think that a CEO thinks or responds differently to words and visuals whether he’s behind a mahogany desk or taking a call from his (or her) deck on a sunny Saturday.

Focus for a moment on social media and the effect it’s had on the formality of our communication. There are no longer ivory towers or hallowed halls, and the businesses who continue to subscribe to this method of engagement (or lack of) are quickly losing share. As people we value warmth and competency as much in our business interactions as we do in our more colloquial, consumer lives. You may be drawn to the stability of specific bank, insurance company, or institution, but your experience is determined by the individuals you encounter within that organization, whether it be a teller, mortgage broker, financial planner, teacher, professor, or administrator. Individually they may present as buttoned-up business people, but behind the pleats and tweeds they are human beings who have a significant impact on the image and engagement of a brand.

Increasingly, we find that consumer loyalty and advocacy is built upon the relationships to individuals within an organization. Restaurants provide good food and a charming ambiance, but it’s the chef who stops by or the bar tender who chats with you while you wait for your dinner date who create that experience. There is no aspect of big M marketing that isn’t influenced by the blurred line between B and C. The way you position, message, and iterate product should focus on the one thing we all share: being human. Creating value for customers– both in communication and product– hinges upon understanding human nature above the nature of business.

There is no debate as to whether the rules are more stringent when you cross into B2B, but it has less to do with how people make decisions and more to do with red tape and legal constraints. The brand emerges when you find the humanity within your audience and then craft a story that appeals to them and passes the “business appropriate” test. It’s then the job of the organization to empower employees to embrace this balance and create experiences that are at once true to the brand and relevant to the customer.

Anecdotally, I live around the corner from one of the finest hotel chains in the world, the Taj. The brand stands for luxury and unparalleled experience. And while for guests this manifests in exquisite amenities and superb customer service, it’s adapted to meet the needs of the friends and neighbors of the hotel, as well. There’s no caviar offered as I pass by, but on a rainy day the staff is always ready with an umbrella, or a bottle of water when I jog by after working out. And this morning, after trying fruitlessly to hail a cab, it was a ride to work in their car service. So while I may not have the opportunity to lay my head upon those delightful pillows, or experience the luxury of tubs the size of my apartment, the luxury is tailored for me by a staff who knows my life and does everything they can to make it that much more luxurious.


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