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Branding in B2B Firms - Abstract


Kevin Lane Keller (, Dartmouth College
Philip Kotler (, Northwestern University


In part because of the complexity and large risks involved, branding plays an important role in business-to-business markets. Although marketers of business-to-business brands must do many of the things that marketers of any kind of product or service must do, six guidelines that are more unique to business-to-business settings can be defined.

First, the entire organization should understand and support branding and brand management. Employees at all levels and in all departments must have a complete, up-to-date understanding of the vision for the brand and their role.

Second, a corporate branding strategy should be adopted if possible with a well-defined brand hierarchy. Ideally, sub-brands would be created that combined a well-known and highly credible corporate brand name with descriptive product modifiers.

Third, to avoid falling into a commoditization trap, sufficient differentiation must be established to justify price premiums. To sustain that premium, it may be necessary to “frame” value perceptions to ensure customers appreciate a brand’s differences.

Fourth, one often overlooked means of differentiation is to link brands to relevant non-product-related brand associations related to customer service, well-respected customers or clients, etc.

Fifth, emotional associations related to a sense of security, social or peer approval and self respect can also be linked to the brand and serve as sources of brand equity.

Finally, customers must be carefully segmented both within and across companies and tailored marketing programs developed for these different segments.

The Handbook of Business-to-Business Marketing

This chapter is part of the ISBM Handbook of Business-to-Business Marketing, edited by Professors Gary Lilien and Raj Grewal. The Handbook of Business-to-Business Marketing is available from Edward Elgar Publishing and other online book retailers.

As the authors retain the copyright to their chapters, only they have the right to use or distribute their chapter. If you would like a copy of this chapter, please contact the author or authors directly through their emails included above.

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