What Does Your Business Stand For?

February 22, 2016 — Kent Lam

Last week in our series of 2016 predictions, we took a look at coming trends in technology naming. This week, we’re turning our attention to B2B brands—and how they’re using verbal strategies to tell more human stories about who they are and what they do.

Back in the day—when shoulder pads abounded and greed was good—the default personality for B2B brands was “big and powerful.” They had functional, impersonal, proudly corporate names like IBM, SAP, Qualcomm. The names—inscrutable acronyms and jargon to the Average Joe—were empty vessels that didn’t mean anything. They did their job, insinuating oversize presence and boundless reach. But they didn’t say anything about what the brands stood for.

These days, every brand—whether B2B or B2C—needs to have meaning, a reason to exist. Big and powerful, intimidating and impersonal—these are not the kinds of brands that businesses want to work with anymore, that consumers want to buy. In a landscape of more personal, more human, more local and transparent and approachable brands, B2B brands have needed to adopt new strategies. Using the same tools as B2C brands, B2Bs are starting to communicate what they stand for. Here are a few examples of brands that are already doing this, and the verbal tools they’re using to do it.

The tagline tells the story
Brands with acronymic names are taking advantage of what once might have been considered a meaningless empty vessel—a string of random letters, leftovers of legacies or mergers—and turning it into the beginning of their story. DHI, for example, wanted to keep the equity built into its name. But it had a new strategy, a new brand meaning, that had to be conveyed. A tagline—“Delivering Hire Insights”—gave fresh meaning to its name, and introduced a new story for the brand. Similarly, UPS recently evolved from its “Logistics” campaign, debuting its “United Problem Solvers” tagline.

Giving your brand a voice
When it comes to B2B brands using voice to communicate who they are, there’s no cheekier money than Mailchimp. The email marketing brand sets itself apart with a fun, friendly, human voice that’s unexpected (for now) in its space. Newer B2B brands in general have used voice to good effect to bring a more human element to what that they do. Square uses a voice that’s simple and approachable and almost poetic—making credit card processing more exciting than ever. Slack—the real-time messaging tool—uses exactly the kind of conversational voice on its Twitter account that you’d expect to see scrolling down its IM windows in offices across the country.

Send your message through social media
Over the years, GE has mitigated its corporate conglomerate ethos through thoughtful and inspiring messaging built around its “Imagination at work” tagline. It continues to engage and educate through media like Facebook, where it posts about innovation and technology—creating meaning for its brand by helping others become more curious about life and science. Zendesk, a customer service platform, showcases its work culture through quirky posts of its employees on Instagram. And what better way to promote your dedication as a customer service platform than by celebrating the people behind it?

As more B2B brands are built or evolve in the coming year(s), we’ll see them become more expressive, trying to connect more to the people who work with them, as well as those who are their ultimate end-users. Because when brands have meaning and a story to tell, we’re more likely to listen.

Photo courtesy of Julie Christie Photography


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