Why the B2B tech world needs to pay attention to consumer advertising

Why the B2B tech world needs to pay attention to consumer advertising

If you see golden arches, you immediately think of McDonalds. If you hear ‘just do it’, you immediately think of Nike.

Now, test yourself, if you were to hear a B2B tech brand name, what would you picture? 


B2B tech is one of the biggest and fastest growing industries, but the branding tends to range from the random to the bland. If branding is done well, you should be able to see a part of it without the name and recognise it.

What’s the learning here? 

That it’s time for B2B tech to pay attention to ad land and the use of distinctive brand assets (DBAs).

(For those not in the know, a DBA is a non-brand-name trigger for a brand name in buyer memory. That could be anything from a colour to a jingle, to a character.)

Up-and-comers – I’m looking at you

Now, my call to action for B2B tech is not a blanket judgement. A lot of the tech giants do deploy DBAs—and with success. 

Cisco’s ‘Bridge to Possible’, based on the Golden Gate Bridge in a hark back to its beginnings, is a core and recognisable part of its brand. Intel’s mnemonic chime sound is unmistakably Intel, and if you’ve ever lifted the lid on developer world, you’ll instantly associate an elephant with Hadoop.

But I’m talking to the younger brands. 

The tech industry has matured past the point of your product being your recognisable trait—there’s nearly always someone else who can do what you do, or someone coming quickly up behind you to invade your category. Customers want more—they want to work with a brand that meets their technical needs, offers great CX, and is purpose-driven.

You’re no longer marketing a product to an IT team; you’re marketing a brand to a human—just like consumer brands. 

It’s time to ditch the reassuring blues and stock imagery and think about what can make your brand truly distinctive and stand-out in the human mind. I promise it will pay off. Just look at Kantar’s findings that brands with strong emotional connections and brand imprints have a brand equity 55% higher than others.

Finding your DBA

When I think about DBAs for B2B tech and the trend toward purpose-driven branding, I think about it as finding your spark vs picking a unique colour. 

You aren’t trying to sell a cheap hamburger; you’re selling a complex and usually expensive solution that has big business impact.

So, what is it that makes your offering truly distinctive? Is it your challenger story? Is it your people and culture? Is it your vertical expertise? That’s your spark.

That spark should be built into – or even create – your brand platform. And it should go beyond a recognisable logo or funky character. It should be platform designed to drive a purpose-driven legacy – a narrative that is uniquely brought to life visually and amplified and articulated until it is immediately recognisable as your brand, even when seen or heard in isolation.

Where do you start?

Brands typically fall into one of three categories and that impacts the maturity of their branding:

  1. Challenger start-ups looking to disrupt and make their mark

  2. Mid-sized businesses looking to expand into new markets and be seen as an established player

  3. Large-scale, typically global, brands with recognised visual identities and positioning looking to maintain their foothold

The branding approach for each of those levels is obviously different, as would be the approach to establishing DBAs.

For the start-ups and SMEs, you’re just getting started, so we get the chance to build your brand and have the opportunity to create your spark from the outset.

For the mid-sized, you are already known and respected by your customers, so we need to develop your brand and refine your spark to reach new audiences, categories, or markets.

Finally, for the large-scale, you have an established brand, so we need to preserve that brand equity yet look at ways we can evolve your spark, so you remain relevant and ahead of the curve.

No matter where you are in your journey, it’s time for B2B tech to take a few lessons from consumer world.

Look at how it can apply DBAs to trigger a human reaction, and ultimately secure longevity for their brand.

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