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Strong consumer brands - advantage or albatross for the B2B marketer?

Working for a big consumer brand, even if you’re in B2B, must be great. Budgets that run into the millions, high profile advertising and lots of resources to play with – what’s not to like?


Well, a strong consumer brand will give you massive brand recognition and recall but will it be for the right things? A big consumer brand might aim to be fun, cool and deliver lots of intangible emotional benefits. But big business brands are more likely to focus on being dependable, long-lasting and delivering tangible value. With two such different messages, customers can easily get confused.  Are your clients more likely to remember the carefully targeted B2B campaign you worked so hard on - or your consumer colleagues’ wall to wall TV ads?


B2B marketers in consumer brand companies also face several internal challenges. The relative size of the markets means that B2B will usually be a small part of the total company.  So, when budgets are allocated, developments planned and talent brought into the company, the business team is likely to be scrabbling around for scraps from the consumer table. It’s not easy to persuade the CMO to spend on a B2B campaign that will take months (if not years) to see results, when a quick burst on consumer will see the charts jump immediately.


There’s also likely to be a “consumer culture” with a penchant for consumer style messages and methods which you will have to try and force into your B2B toolkit. A clever creative with a promotional offer will win out over the much less glamorous (but much more effective) hard slog of building meaningful business relationships.  High performers will make their mark much more slowly in the backwaters of the B2B P&L and agencies are unlikely to dedicate their best talent to the B2B part of the account.


The few brands which do manage to span both worlds are the exception that proves the rule.  Their enterprise divisions have distinct products and propositions that allow them to escape the long shadow of their consumer brands.  For example Virgin’s B2B brand is very firmly branded Virgin Media BUSINESS (my caps). And Amazon Web Services provide services which are very different from their on-line store.


So even with all the advantages of bigger budgets and more resources, working in a company with a strong consumer brand can actually make the B2B marketer’s job much more difficult.  However, it doesn’t have to be an albatross around your neck - it’s a challenge that you can overcome if you remain committed to the B2B cause.  So stay strong and demonstrate your passion by achieving real results.  Don’t be disheartened or dazzled by the bright lights of consumer marketing – remember you’re in it for the long term.  And if you work for a company that is solely B2B, don't get envious of those working in consumer companies!