What Marketers Can Learn from Tech Brands Topping BrandZ’s 2016 Top B2B Brands Report

July 21, 2016

Earlier this summer, Millward Brown, in partnership with LinkedIn, released the first ever ranking of today's most valuable B2B brands as part of WPP’s annual BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands report. The publication — which showcases how innovative and disruptive brands are striving to drive growth and attract top talent — remains an industry standard for brand marketers seeking deep insight and intelligence on global trends and impactful strategy.

 

According to the BrandZ Global Report, these are the three characteristics which set top brands apart, namely, they: 1) are meaningful in ways that meet customer needs on both a functional and emotional level, 2) are perceived as trendsetters and unique from the competition, 3) come to mind quickly and easily at the moment of purchase.

Below are 2016’s Top B2B Brands, as identified by Millward Brown and LinkedIn.

  1. Microsoft
  2. IBM
  3. Wells Fargo
  4. GE
  5. UPS
  6. SAP
  7. Accenture
  8. HP
  9. HSBC
  10. Oracle

From this list, it is apparent that technology brands stole this year’s spotlight, with Microsoft, SAP, Accenture, Huawei and Intel all leaders in both BrandZ’s B2B and general global reports. This was due largely in part to tech’s victorious shift towards more customer-centric business models. In fact, over half of 2016’s Top 20 B2B brands were technology companies — contributing a 6% lift to the category’s brand value and driving the total brand value of today’s top 20 technology brands to a whopping $1,106.3B.

To celebrate the tech industry’s notable achievements, we examined the list to explore what makes top tech brands stand out. Here are three key lessons that hopefully will inspire and inform how other tech brands take their businesses to new levels.

Focus on Security

From IoT to cloud and AI, as new solutions, products, and practices are introduced into the enterprise, security remains the number one issue for businesses to tackle. And when it comes to security, top tech brands show they understand the ins and outs of both the tech purchase process and their customers' complex and unique needs.

As noted by Guilhem Tamisier, Group Strategy Director at Mediacom, “in the B2B part of tech, security is more top-of-mind today than a few years ago during the bring-your-own-device transition in the workplace.” Executives today are more engaged and committed to preserving and protecting the privacy and security of their companies. Inversely, consumer interest in and support for greater privacy and security at home has allowed tech providers to power personal appliances, data and devices. Thus, brands who are positioning themselves as both trusted guests and privacy reinforcers appear to win big within the context of the modern customer journey.

Think Across Both B2B and B2C

Now, more than ever, the technology category is experiencing “consumerization,” as B2B brands introduce additional devices into the workplace and greater collaboration takes place. Note from this year’s report that “over the past 11 years, B2C technology brands have grown 358 percent in value, compared with a 84 percent rise for B2B technology brands” and that “B2C brands now account for 65 percent of the technology category value, compared to just 43 percent 11 years ago.”

 

To color these findings, Millward Brown identified specific seismic shifts led by tech brands who are evolving in B2C directions with respect to corporate culture and product offerings. Take Microsoft, for example, which, under the new leadership of Satya Nadella, moved away from a formal, B2B-dominant control structure and towards a highly collaborative, customer-centric culture typical of large B2C brand leaders.

IBM, Cisco and SAP’s partnerships with Apple also showed strong investment in consumer devices and enterprise apps. Setting the tone in APAC, Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei saw a 44 percent increase in smartphone sales this past year. Huawei reached the number one spot on the B2B Top 20 list in terms of YoY brand value growth.

 

To crack the code and find success, Adam Komac, Global Account Director at Mediacom, recommends taking a B2C approach in marketing to B2B decision makers — who are younger than ever (over 50% under the age of 40) and are completely changing how brands market and speak to customers. It’s imperative now to think about social media and relevant content seriously, as the millennial IT decision maker responds more powerfully to a relationship or experience.

 

Invest in Your Hiring Practices and Talent Brand

The recruitment of talented individuals is critical for future B2B brand success, as the brand that is presented to both existing and future customers has never been more closely linked to the brand that is presented to your current and future employees. In order to transition from a successful modern business to a long-standing global name, companies must attract the right people, align those people around a sense of common purpose, and harness their talents to deliver customer experiences that are meaningful and genuinely differentiated.

 

Yet again, tech companies such as Apple, Salesforce, Facebook, Google and Microsoft lead the pack when it comes to brands most coveted by employees and hopeful employees — as exemplified in LinkedIn’s 2016 Top Attractors list. How have they excelled at this? By:

  • Tapping into the brand’s human side - using key employees and internal experts as the face of their thought leadership and amplification strategies
  • Seamlessly transitioning between business and brand - as B2B buying committees become more complex, not all key decision makers may have heard of you, let alone elicit a positive emotional response to your brand. If your employees have a strong brand-base to tap into, it will help empower and enable the personal and professional brands of your sellers even more.
  • Employing meaningful and motivational hiring practices - Millennials want their work to stand out and stand for something. They also seek purpose, flexibility, fairness, and honesty.

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