We are strong believers that the best brands are built collaboratively through a partnership between branding firm and client. By listening to our clients, understanding what motivates them – and what worries them – we are able to co-create brands that really help grow their business. And there’s a side benefit to this approach: listening to clients in many key B2B segments, we are able to spot important trends that cut across vertical markets and geographies. This enables us to build brands and brand experiences that are both timely and resilient.

So what trends are we detecting today? Here are the five that are top-of-mind for our B2B clients.

1. The competition for talent is the #1 challenge. And it’s a brand challenge. 

Across every industry we serve, the concern we most often hear is about recruiting talented employees. This concern preceded today’s tight labor force … and it will almost certainly endure well into the future as demographic changes continue to narrow the pool of skilled workers. In this environment, successfully recruiting a talented labor force requires more than offering attractive salary and benefits, important as these are. It requires developing and communicating an employment value proposition that, much like a brand, creates a compelling and differentiated position in the mind of prospective employees. The importance of brand in recruiting explains why one of the world’s largest law firms recently filled a newly created role: Global Recruiting & Employer Branding Director.

2. Everyone is searching for a purpose.

Perhaps it was the global pandemic that made everyone question basic assumptions about what’s important and seek a higher purpose, in both their professional and personal lives. Or perhaps it’s just the recognition, borne out by research, that purpose-driven companies tend to outperform. Either way, CEOs and CMOs are looking for ways to infuse their brands with a sense of purpose. A purpose-driven brand transcends the surface-level service or product it reflects to communicate what a company does to solve or ameliorate a deeper need in society. For many bottom-line-focused companies, identifying their purpose isn’t easy. They need to dig deep … and have the courage to stake a claim to a purpose that isn’t always obvious. Consider UBS, one of the world’s largest financial institutions. Its purpose, “reimagining the power of investing and connecting people for a better world,” demonstrates a belief that its core business benefits society. This may not be an obvious statement for a profit-driven financial competitor, but in fact it serves as a powerful motivator to the company’s global workforce.

3. Data is top of mind—how best to get it, how best to use it, how best to present it. 

We live in skeptical times. Poll after poll tells us that trust in institutions – and the information they promulgate – is at an all-time low. Before making major purchasing decisions in this environment, B2B decision makers want to see data on performance, projected cost/benefit, environmental impact, customer satisfaction, and more. As importantly, they want to deploy data themselves to establish credibility for their own company and its products. Research is obviously key to generating data. But equally critical is how to present it in a way that informs, reassures, and even inspires. Capitalizing on the power of creative data visualization approaches to reach attention-challenged decision makers is essential, whether online, in presentations, on film, or in advertising,

4. Connecting with C-suite decision makers is the Holy Grail..

Major B2B purchasing decisions are typically made high up in the organization, most often in the C-suite. This poses a particular challenge to B2B marketers: how to connect with an audience that is unlikely to click on an online ad, respond to an unsolicited email, or even take a meeting with a sales representative.

The solution is personalization. B2B buyers expect vendors to personalize engagement to their needs. This means creating content that directly addresses a specific concern, and infusing it with empathy for the unique pressures that C-suite executives face. It means hosting exclusive events where they can share perspectives with like-minded executives. And it means eschewing mass communications in favor of facilitating one-on-one conversations with a fellow leader, with carefully orchestrated introductory and follow-up communications. In short, the C-suite brand experience must be a personal experience.

5. “Diversity and inclusion” is more than a box to be checked.

Just a few years ago, companies were content to place a statement on their website, often buried deep within a recruitment section, about their commitment to diversity and inclusion. No longer. Today, companies want to express more than a commitment to these goals; they want to demonstrate a genuine passion for achieving them. This often means embedding diversity and inclusion in their brand and brand experiences. This requires more than showing diverse people in marketing pieces, however. It’s requires infusing a sense of openness into all key verbal and visual expressions, nurturing a culture that embraces diverse ideas and perspectives as well as diverse backgrounds. And it requires demonstrating that there is no tradeoff between achieving equity and delivering profitability, between doing good and doing well.

These are the five trends that are top-of-mind among our clients today. Over the next several weeks, we’ll look at each of them in more depth and explore their impact on branding … and how branding can help companies capitalize of these trends.

Seth Margolis portrait About the author
Seth is a Senior Strategy Director who has spearheaded branding efforts for financial services, professional services and technology companies, as well as for not-for-profit organizations.