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Oracle is instantly recognizable by its bold red logo. Salesforce has Astro Nomical, its “warm and welcoming” mascot. Intel has that catchy chime. These are all examples of “brand assets,” and they’re increasingly important to B2B marketing success.
At LinkedIn’s B2B Institute, we commissioned one of the biggest studies ever on B2B branding. We partnered with Distinctive BAT, a company that measures and tracks distinctive brand assets, and analyzed more than 300 brand assets from 59 brands across six of the biggest categories in B2B: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), business intelligence (BI), customer relationship management (CRM), cybersecurity, business banking and business insurance.
What we found was startling. Most B2B companies do not have any distinctive brand assets, which is the foundation of effective brand management. We estimate that brand mismanagement is costing B2B firms billions of dollars in potential sales every year.
Why are brand assets so critical? As Jenni Romaniuk—professor, international director at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute and a leading expert on branding—defines it, brand assets are “non-brand name elements that uniquely trigger the brand name for the vast majority of category buyers.” That’s a big deal for B2B buyers.
Brand assets increase performance in two ways. First, they make buyers more likely to notice—and recall—your marketing efforts, which improves marketing effectiveness and efficiency. Second, they make it easier for buyers to find your brand, online and offline, in a buying situation. They increase mental availability (easy to mind) and physical availability (easy to find), which helps companies grow volumes, prices and margins faster than competitors.
This is why the smartest investors like Warren Buffett buy companies with strong brand assets, which we call “brand moats”—a company’s ability to maintain competitive marketing advantage. In other words, it’s relatively easy for competitors to copy the product features of Coke, Apple and Geico, but you can’t copy their logos, characters and taglines without getting sued. Brand assets are legally protected trademarks, which means that branding may be the deepest moat of all.
But how deep is the brand moat in B2B? It’s practically a puddle.
In our research with Distinctive BAT, we surveyed B2B category buyers to calculate the relative recognition and attribution of over 300 B2B brand assets. Recognition is the percentage of buyers who recognize the asset; attribution is the percentage of buyers who then attribute the recognized asset to the correct brand. The best B2C example is likely the Geico Gecko: According to the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, 87% of consumers recognize the gecko asset, and 98% know that asset belongs to Geico. That’s about as strong as a brand asset can get.