Embracing Your Audience for Award-Winning Branding Results
Four brands across four sectors find success through one shared brand trait
At heart, a lot of brand marketing is about recognizing patterns. Strategists note the associations clients have with brands, and we see correlations between behaviors and outcomes.
So when four DeSantis Breindel brands were honored at the annual Transform Awards, we weren’t content to rest on our laurels. Instead, we wanted to know what about these brands had clicked with the judges — and of course, with B2B buyers and employees.
It didn’t take us long to figure it out: although these brands came from diverse sectors (energy, industrials, structural engineering, and law) and spoke to very different audiences, they all shared one trait. They all invited clients into the brand, speaking directly to them as peers, colleagues, even as friends.
Read on for short case studies of the honored brands, and our thoughts on what their success suggests for other B2B brands.
Quaker Houghton: Silver Award for Rebrand Following M&A
The merger of long-time rivals Quaker Chemical and Houghton International created a global powerhouse in specialties chemicals, industrial lubricants, and cleaners. However, while the merger’s economies of scale looked great on the books, combining their cultures and brand portfolios was more difficult.
Our research revealed a path forward. While both companies’ products were excellent, they also both were known for their employees’ expertise, which was instrumental in helping customers find the correct solutions and applications. By switching the merged entity’s marketing focus from products to product specialists, Quaker Houghton could begin to transfer internal and external equity from its brand portfolio to its larger combined corporate brand. At the same time, this new brand made employees the star, easing apprehensions about the merger.
A new brandline, Forward Together, emphasizes employee engagement and unity. Quaker Houghton viewed both employees and customers as critical target audiences, the new brand line and messaging resonate with both. It invites employees to come together in service of accelerating client business.
Thornton Tomasetti: Bronze Award for Brand Evolution
Thornton Tomasetti was well respected as a structural engineering firm, but it needed to express to the market that its offerings had expanded beyond that category.
Our strategy tackled the problem head on. We based the new brand on the brandline “Here’s How,” which served as a window into the organization’s broad scope and scale. Rather than telling about how much the company could do, the new brand marketing “brought” prospects into the field, demonstrating the complex array of services and expertise that goes into a Thornton Tomasetti project. Imagery focused on works in progress, a move that highlighted a wider range of employees and stood out in a field dominated by images of gleaming finished products.
The immersive strategy meets buyers where they are, relying not on blocks of prose about achievements, but on the actual experience of working with the company. While Thornton Tomasetti is a recognized authority in its fields, its brand is decidedly human, transparent, and action-oriented.
Littler: Highly Commended for Creative Strategy
Littler is the oldest and largest national law firm devoted to labor and employment law. It was proud of these superlatives, but they ended up dominating the firm’s marketing, obscuring the true “Littler difference” — the fact that the firm had been consistently willing to invest in new and innovative approaches, particularly in software.
DeSantis Breindel’s recommended brand strategy highlighted Littler’s dynamism, but was careful to communicate how technology benefited clients. The new brand spoke directly to the client: “Fueled by ingenuity. Inspired by you.” This nuance was important; Littler didn’t innovate for innovation’s sake. Rather, client needs drove its new products and services.
Littler’s design language reinforced this idea of collaborative inspiration. Illustrations look spontaneous, like the kind of drawing produced on a whiteboard or the back of a napkin in a particularly vibrant brainstorm.
Vicinity Energy: Highly Commended for Strategic or Creative Development of New Brand
A private equity firm acquired the North American business of a multinational district energy system, and it came to DeSantis Breindel to help create a new brand. District energy systems are, in simple terms, networks of hot and cold pipes that heat and cool buildings more efficiently than individual boilers and chillers.
Our research revealed that the system was viewed as an essential partner to its clients, which are vital institutions like hospitals and municipalities who depend on its resilience during emergencies. The new name selected for the energy district, Vicinity Energy, reflected this close partnership, emphasizing that the company was a valued member of the community.
All of the honored brands are extending invitations: Quaker Houghton asks employees to come together, Thornton Tomasetti asks prospects to spend a day on site, Littler asks clients to inspire innovation, and Vicinity Energy asks customers to trust its system to increase their resilience.
Audiences want to be a part of their favorite brands, even in the B2B space. And particularly in this age of distancing, brands that capture growth and loyalty will be those that invite their stakeholders to come into the fold, to be a part of something bigger and better.
B2B buyers are more sophisticated than ever. They have access to a wealth of information about every solution to every challenge their business may be facing. Many technology solutions make switching vendors simple — if not entirely painless. Strategically minded and budget-conscious, prospects are juggling decision criteria and competing interests in ever-changing ways.
Successful brands start with honest self-assessment — which may be hard to come by in a large company or an entrenched corporate culture. Enlisting the aid of an outside brand strategist can help, providing a clear-eyed window into the company’s strengths and weaknesses and offering agnostic, professional solutions.
Getting the green light to undertake a rebranding project is a moment to savor. You’ve got a mandate and a budget: time to hit the ground running. But you’re going to need an agency partner — even companies with in-house capabilities often go outside for fresh perspectives and expanded resources. So you’re…