3 Keys to Creating Cultural Branding for B2B Companies

Adrian Cohn Adrian Cohn  |  February 5, 2020

We frequently see consumer brands depicting lifestyles that are culturally relevant to their audience.

This kind of cultural branding can have significant positive impacts on consumer brands’ success.

While B2B brands lag behind in adopting cultural branding, these companies can learn a lot from their consumer counterparts. With three keys you can add to your B2B company’s marketing efforts, cultural branding can help you attract new customers and build an authentic brand story.

What is cultural branding?

Consumer brands like Coca-Cola and Vespa tend to come to mind when we talk about cultural branding. These companies represent a product or a service along with elements of a lifestyle that resonates with consumers.

For instance, Vespa represents both the scooters it produces and the culture in which scooters are the primary mode of transportation. Its scooters are synonymous with the freedom to go anywhere and have a certain look and feel consumers expect. The company has built a significant part of its identity through the cultural brand it has developed. As a result, when many people think of scooters, they first think of a Vespa.

While B2C companies have found much success in building deep relationships with consumers through cultural branding, B2B software companies struggle to catch on. B2B companies could stand to learn more from how consumer brands attract customers. Businesses are still made of people; customers people want to see what your brand is about. They want to hear unique stories and be a part of a brand whose culture reflects their own in some fashion.

With the number of SaaS offerings only increasing every day, it’s vital that your company cut through the noise and say something different. This is where cultural branding shines through. 

Launch your cultural brand strategy with a great campaign 

For example, my team discovered this when we launched a recent campaign. We could’ve spent our marketing dollars on traditional campaigns around cost savings or the business impact of quality translations. Instead, we chose to focus on the human translators behind our software.

Content drives the consumer experience. Translated content drives the global consumer experience. To create this global experience, companies turn to human translators. Businesses would be unable to operate globally without human translators. They are the backbone of our industry. 

Translators go beyond simply translating words. They provide context and meaning to bring content to life, and grow your global customer bases. They inject their cultures into the work and help us develop cultural branding.

When we thought about highlighting our own cultural brand, we chose to profile our translators. The people who create globalized content are the ones who enable our company’s cultural brand. Guided by this decision, we created a campaign about the humans behind the technology and why this makes our company different.

Through this campaign, “Move the World with Words,” we illustrated the importance of the work translators accomplish. We sent a photographer around the world to meet our translators in locations like Asturias, Spain, Berlin, Germany, and Mie-gun, Japan, to help us tell their unique stories.

Our team ended up being so moved by the resulting high-quality images and materials that we compiled them into a coffee-table book as another component of the campaign. It became a critical piece of how we told our company’s story and how we shared our company’s cultural brand with customers.

As “Move the World with Words” unfolded, we’ve been able to not only build a groundswell of support for translators but also increase our company’s translation services sales. Because we invested in sharing our cultural brand through the translators who make up our workforce, we brought attention to the translators themselves and gave customers an authentic behind-the-scenes view of our brand.

Putting cultural branding into practice

Through my team’s experiences, we learned that a brand shouldn’t rely on technology as its only differentiator. Cultural branding unlocks an important humanizing element of telling a brand’s overall story. The greatest B2B brands are built to create and drive a human connection between the customer and the company.

With real investment in connecting with customers at a meaningful level, companies create stronger relationships and loyalty in the long run. That wouldn’t be possible without leveraging cultural branding using three key aspects: authenticity, creating personal connections, and prioritizing the cultural experience. 

1. Be authentic

Before you can open up the cultural aspects of your brand to your customers, you need to build trust with your audience. That begins with projecting authenticity. Being true to yourself as a company is an important part of brand storytelling. Prospective customers can sniff out fakes, which will erode trust and potentially harm your brand. One such company is Sigstr, an email signature marketing platform. They talk directly to marketers in a way that even the greenest of marketers still comes away from reading one of their blogs feeling empowered and better prepared to execute.

It’s a leap of faith to open up and be authentic, but there are some small but effective ways to start. Ditch your industry buzzwords and instead speak to your customers like how you’d talk to your friends, colleagues, and partners. Show them the person behind the brand.

You can take it a step further and pull back the curtain on your business. Pictures of your people, your teams in action, your headquarters and more add a personal touch to your company’s branding and also authenticate your company and its culture. Seeing is believing. And forget about stock photos. Put the camera on your smartphone to good use and take pictures that show what really happens at your company every day.

Always be honest in your interactions with customers. Include stories about your failures and talk about the lessons learned from your experiences. Be open about the range of experiences at your company, and you create a fuller picture of your culture and how you use your brand to forward it.

2. Create a personal connection

The brand personas that marketing departments rely upon have their place in your customer marketing plan, but they merely approximate a true customer’s experiences and profile. While we can learn a lot from market research, we should consider shifting the focus of marketing by catering to actual people. It’s a different type of research but one you need to have for cultural branding.

To do this, there’s no shortcut around having a real conversation with the people your company serves. Honest dialogue opens a lot of doors and helps customers see more of your company’s culture. Begin these conversations by asking your customers, employees and partners about their pain points. Gather their feedback, and then work with them to build solutions.

Brand spotlight: Spotify

Collaboration matters to your customers. Being included in the process cements the connection you want to build. The one-on-one personal connection forms the basis of successful cultural branding, so find new ways online and offline to forge connections between your brand and its audience. In this case, think of Spotify’s Wrapped campaign for its listeners. 

spotify wrapped GIFGIF courtesy of Spotify

Each account holder was delivered a personalized playlist of their most played songs from the year, along with Instagram-worthy graphics touting their music preferences. Not only did listeners get a personalized playlist, but they were also delivered a way to share it with their followers. Now, Spotify account holders have a reason to stick with the platform for another year – for their 2020 year in review.

3. Prioritize the customer experience

Customer experience is the most important differentiator for B2B brands in the digital age. The ways customers interact with your brand will shape how they feel about your brand. The customer experience serves as a direct reflection of your cultural brand. All the authentic conversations in the world won’t matter if you leave your customers with the taste of a bad experience in their mouths.

Brand spotlight: Shopify

To best focus on your company’s customer experience, create a holistic experience that runs seamlessly on every platform, like Shopify. Shopify’s platform runs so seamlessly, it almost encourages customer purchases. Think about those experiences online, via phone, social media, in-app and anywhere else customers touch your brand.

shopify gifGIF courtesy of Shopify via The Cut

This same thinking should hold true throughout your organization. Product, sales, marketing, customer service teams – everyone needs to agree upon how your company’s cultural brand is best reflected in customer interactions.

Humanize this process by highlighting people in each department who champion your brand. Use content to show off those who create great experiences for your customers. Celebrate successful interactions and dissect failures. Support an internal culture that takes customer experience feedback seriously. It’s much easier to show a positive external cultural brand if your teams believe in your internal culture. 

Develop a human-centered cultural brand 

B2C brands always put their consumers at the center of their brands. It’s what enables successful cultural branding. B2B brands should consider how they can do the same. All businesses are made up of people; this fact should guide the human-centered narrative element of your cultural brand. With authentic conversations and openness, you can craft a brand story that sounds like you while also positively impacting your business goals.

Cultural branding won’t make up your entire marketing strategy, but it does take effort and consideration to do it effectively. Still, you can find ways to slot it in easily with the work you’re doing now. Profile your people, customers and partners on social media. Talk openly about successes and failures in articles you write or through other media. Make the customer experience a top priority and continually reevaluate with your teams about how that experience is delivered as a function of your cultural brand.

Do what feels right for you. When you’re honest with yourself as a company and a brand, you create your authentic voice. That voice will champion your company’s culture and what your brand represents. You can then lead a shift in focus from technology to people and create meaningful connections that grow into loyal brand advocates. 

After getting your cultural branding strategy pinned down, you might want to explore the best brand advocacy software solutions to help you along the way. Find all available options on G2.

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Author

Adrian Cohn

Adrian Cohn is a brand and communications strategist with experience conceptualizing and implementing worldwide, omnichannel campaigns. Board member of New Orleans area hospital foundation, Cohn currently serves as Director of Brand Strategy and Communications at Smartling, a translation technology and services company.

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