Why time’s up for the Cinderella brand

A brand used to be thought of as window dressing – something only relevant to consumer-facing organisations. Those organisations that worked behind the scenes – B2B – didn’t require the niceties of brand. Their customers weren’t thought to make decisions based on emotion in a way the consumer was but on more rational things like number of boxes ticked on a procurement sheet.

But things have changed. Today almost every B2B organisation operating in the commercial world recognises the value of having and investing in their organisation’s brand. It gives standout, brings consistency to communications and helps build trust – all things that matter whoever you might be selling to. The building of B2B brands is now de rigeur.

That’s the commercial world. In the not-for-profit (or not-just-for-profit) sector things are a little different. The B2B or second-tier organisation – essentially any organisation that’s a step removed from the end benefit of their work – is often still in the background. The Cinderellas of the sector. Hard at work but hidden behind the scenes.

Why is this?

Partly it’s the modesty and reluctance to be seen to be being spending too much money on their brand that afflicts many organisations working in the sector. Understandable when one of the biggest (and most unfair) public criticisms wagered at charities is that they spend too much money on rebranding. But it’s also in large part a not knowing why a brand is necessary – the public don’t really need to know what they do, do they? The result of this brand resistance is a host of organisations all doing great work but all looking, talking and sounding the same.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the reality was that indistinct communications were ok. But they’re not. Not having a strong brand means not having a clear articulation of why you matter and what your place in the world is. Arguably there’s nowhere more important to get this right than in the complex word of second tier organisations. And where these brand stories should begin is with the why – the end benefit of the work.

We’ve worked on rebrands for number of second tier and B2B organisations in the last year. All doing admirable work to make lives better but all previously hesitant to lead with this because they weren’t on the ground doing the doing. The result were communications that focused a great deal on what the organisation did – the delivery – but not much about why this mattered or the positive impact they were having.

It’s not the case that because your organisation is a step removed from the change it’s helping create in the world your brand should be. It’s here the interesting stories lie and where you can begin to build a brand that has heart and soul in the often dry world of B2B.

Take Tinder – an organisation that’s improving lives through digital technology – or measurement and evaluation business Itad that ensures the resources invested in international development have the greatest possible impact on people’s lives. We moved both brands away from a focus on delivery to a focus on the end benefit – from the ‘how’ to the ‘why’ – giving them brands that show then to be in touch with the real world in which their organisation ultimately has an impact.

These refocused brand has brought benefits beyond this quite fundamental shift in positioning – uniting employees around a common purpose and strong identity, and bringing consistency and efficiency to their communications.

B2B organisations are a different beast to B2C organisations. Their audiences and routes to them are different. But having a brand that’s built on your organisation’s ultimate purpose – rather than process for getting there – makes for more meaningful conversations with the people that matter.