Why Talent is the Prerequisite for Building B2B Brands

August 20, 2016

The brand that you present to your customers and future customers has never been more closely linked to the brand that you present to your employees and future employees. The most successful businesses are those that can attract the right people, align those people around a sense of common purpose, and use this to deliver the customer experiences that increasingly differentiate one brand from another. We see this in the results of this year’s BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands – and we particularly see it in the BrandZ™ ranking of the Top 20 B2B brands, which are listed below with brand value in parentheses:

BrandZ Top 20 Most Valuable B2B Brands 2016

  1. Microsoft ($121.8 billion)
  2. IBM ($86.2 billion)
  3. Wells Fargo ($58.5 billion)
  4. General Electric ($54.1 billion)
  5. UPS ($49.8 billion)
  6. SAP ($39.0 billion)
  7. Accenture ($22.8 billion)
  8. HP ($21.4 billion)
  9. HSBC ($20.3 billion)
  10. Oracle ($19.5 billion)
  11. Huawei ($18.7 billion)
  12. Intel ($18.6 billion)
  13. Citi ($17.1 billion)
  14. ExxonMobil ($16.8 billion)
  15. FedEx ($16.2 billion)
  16. Shell ($14.9 billion)
  17. Cisco ($14.5 billion)
  18. Sinopec ($13.2 bilion)
  19. DHL ($13.2 billion)
  20. Siemens ($12.5 billion)

LinkedIn has been a part of the recent Insights 2020 work led by Millward Brown Vermeer to share their unique analysis of the drivers of customer-centric growth. When we looked at the characteristics that distinguish successful customer-centric businesses, a sense of purpose and the ability to hire the right talent stand out as clear factors. Of top-performing businesses, 80 percent link everything they do to a strong sense of purpose – and 79 percent have an employee base that fully embraces that sense of customer-centric purpose. Significantly, top-performing businesses also pay much more attention to the need to hire ”whole brain” people who can translate data and insight to solve the bigger business problem, bringing together creative thinking and problem solving.

The Link Between Talent and Brand Purpose

Hiring the right talent is essential to building a purposeful brand – but a purposeful brand is also essential to hiring top talent, especially as B2B and B2C brands find themselves competing for the same pool of skilled millennials. Recent studies including the Millennial study by Deloitte in conjunction with Millward Brown highlighted millennials’ demand to work for brands and companies that they admire – and to have the ability to make a visible impact within those businesses. Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report for 2015 agreed that millennials prefer businesses with meaning and purpose.

Millennials’ demand to make a visible impact ought to represent a golden opportunity for B2B brands – because, to a large extent, people and skills are what a B2B brand sells. Rather than simply working for a brand they admire, those joining a B2B business increasingly get the opportunity to embody the brand itself – to become its human face. On LinkedIn, many of the most effective B2B brands follow this strategy – using key employees and internal experts as the face of their thought leadership content, and as a vital amplification strategy. This not only helps to build a stronger B2B brand, it sends a clear signal to potential employees that they will have the ability to make a difference, and advance themselves personally, while working for that business. It turns the interdependence of your talent brand and your company brand into a virtuous circle.

From Business to Brand

Brand strength has never been more important to B2B. As buying committees become more complex, it’s increasingly important that a wide range of decision-makers within the business you target have heard of you – and have a positive emotional response to you. The division between businesses that are just B2B businesses, and those that have created valuable B2B brands will only become more marked. The BrandZ™ Top 20 Most Valuable B2B Brands shows how to make the transition from one to the other. In it, we can see the growing correlation between brand value and the centrality of employees to that brand. 

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