A strong brand differentiates your company from your competitors and builds customer or client loyalty. Moreover, companies that keep B2B branding current attract and retain top talent.
This article reviews three key B2B branding trends for 2023 and beyond. You will see how to adapt your brand presence and stay current. These trends apply to B2B organizations and may differ from tactics used in B2C branding and marketing. We will also look at the types of B2B businesses generally best and least suited to each of the latest B2B branding trends.
Why Branding Updates Matter
Some B2B marketers still cling to the adage that if something isn’t broken, why fix it? The point is, the world is changing and savvy buyers have changing expectations and B2B competition is increasing and evolving to meet those expectations. If your brand message and positioning worked well in the past, that doesn’t mean they will succeed today or tomorrow. Plus, just because your sales of products or services are good, doesn’t mean you can survive on quality offerings alone.
Having a strong brand can be beneficial for B2B businesses when it comes to hiring and keeping talented employees. Therefore, it is important for your B2B branding to represent the beliefs and culture of your organization. Keep reading and consider incorporating some of the current trends into your B2B marketing strategy in order to display your company as an innovative, forward-thinking business.
B2B Branding Trend #1: Where Old Meets New
The first of our B2B branding trends is “old meets new,” a concept that blends tradition and innovation to keep the familiar feeling fresh and on point. This approach improves the customer experience, keeping old buyers happy while attracting new prospects who otherwise might give you a pass based on outdated branding.
The idea is to update your brand by bringing the unique strengths of the past into the present. B2B organizations that get the old-new branding right add a modern appeal to their established brand familiarity that blends the best of an existing reputation and future innovation.
How the Old Meets New Trend Works
Legacy companies have built a strong reputation and that reputation is inextricably tied to their branding. The Old Meets New trend aims to update existing branding to stay current and modern, yet still keep its iconic and respected image. An example of this is Yuengling, the oldest brewery in the US. You can see how the logo has been simplified and kept up to date, while still holding a vintage look. The current logo conveys history with a modern feel.
Consumer brands that have adopted
A Popular Trend for….
Pursuing this trend has the potential to work well with family-owned firms spanning several generations. Think back to the post-WWII era, when there was a major emphasis on quality craftsmanship, honesty, and hard work. Thus, the old-new trend is worth focusing on for B2B companies with long-established histories and mature industries like trade, manufacturing, and industrial sectors that evoke ideals of vocation, trust, and passion.
Why it Works
Mixing old with new visual elements helps transition brands across time and generations. Older targets can still see the iconic imagery and reputation of the company’s history while younger prospects see an older company that is keeping pace with the march of progress.
Here’s a breakdown of why blending the old with the new works well for some B2Bs:
- Maintains classic, retro brand recognition
- Nostalgia, i.e., sentimental attachment
- Brand heritage, where history forms part of a company’s identity
- Old design aesthetics continue to work; think Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Ford, etc.
Not all established companies benefit from merging their old core identity with a new look. Sometimes, a B2B business with a spotty past is better off opting for a rebrand instead of a refresh. Or, maybe your target audience or industry has changed beyond recognition removing any equity in the established branding. Therefore, marketers should never jump on a trend without carefully considering the outcome.
Audience This Trend Attracts
The target buyer must be the focus when considering this trend. The post-WWII era often draws in Baby Boomers and older Gen X due to childhood memories during that time. They remember a post-war world of manual work and patriotic ideals. The popular logo design and branding styles recall a time when US manufacturing companies built items that lasted for a long time.
Younger generations can also be receptive and develop emotional attachments to retro products and branding. However, the effectiveness of this varies wildly depending on the brand, product category, and additional factors marketers need to research to understand.
Keep It Simple
Less is often more when combining old and new branding elements. Overly busy designs and heavy graphics are often associated with an old-timey impression. In contrast, minimal design styles and industrial typography often have the opposite effect. Often successful refreshes look to simplify by reducing branding down to its basic components and building it back up along modern design sensibilities.
B2B Companies Best Suited to Old Meets New Brand Strategies
The old meets new branding trend can be a great strategy. It’s particularly suitable for B2B SMBs that boast a rich history and tradition. Ideally, blending the old with the new will maintain the above while appealing to a modern audience. For instance, modernized branding that includes retro aesthetics or vintage designs. Retro-styled signage, lighting, furniture, decor, and other vintage-adjacent stylings are great examples.
This style is not going to work for every rebrand or brand refresh. It may be less appropriate if your B2B doesn’t have that rich history and tradition to preserve. Or, the company values focus on innovation and a forward-thinking that may create dissonance with retro visual styling.
Don’t Risk Your Reputation to Bad Branding Strategies
Our experts are well-versed in the latest B2B branding trends. We utilize proven strategies to build brand value and grow your online visibility and credibility. You can trust Bold Entity as a reliable partner to deliver tangible outcomes for your business branding and marketing in 2023 and beyond.
B2B Branding Trend #2: Radical Authenticity
Today, brands are held to a higher level of scrutiny than ever before. Verbose corporate messaging, complex graphics, and stock imagery no longer suffices. Brands that are unwilling to show exactly who they are in branding are met with an extreme level of skepticism and even suspicion. In response, one of the most significant branding trends is to be authentic, radically so.
Radical authentic brands are open, honest, transparent, and focus on warm, sincere communication. This trend uses custom graphics, non-stock photography, and clear messaging that aligns and reinforces to your company’s core values.
How Radical Authenticity Works as a Branding Strategy
Radical authenticity is a popular approach to developing strong connections with customers, employees, potential customers, and potential employees. It starts by being honest about who your company is and focusing your efforts on a select few rather than everyone. Think of it like the 80/20 rule – 20% of your customers will make up 80% of your sales, and the same goes for your employees and other people involved in your business. Radical authenticity works to create a strong bond with that 20% in order to drive forward the most progress.
Do you have room to build a deeper connection with your audience? It’s a question that too few B2B organizations give thought to, let alone work on.
To apply this B2B trend successfully, there are several questions you should be asking yourself:
- What does the company stand for and believe in?
- What types of customers/ideal employees does the brand connect best with (personality-wise)?
- Is there a commitment to mentorship, vocational training, and career advancement?
- How does the company compare for job security, salary, and benefits?
- Where can they see you company culture in action?
- Do you highlight stories showing your positive impact on real people, internal and external?
Radical authenticity rejects the notion of making your organization seem greater than it actually is or hiding the various backgrounds of those in the leadership team. Get rid of the mystery and let people see what your company truly is.
Which business will be the most attractive? Will it be the one that uses impersonal headlines and product or service descriptions followed by a phone number or other means of contact, or the one that displays their employees in action, the story of a father-daughter business, or a team that prioritizes relationships above all else?
Stand Out from Your Competitors
Most B2B industry companies are seen as conservative, straitlaced, even boring. A B2B organization looking to break through the noise of indistinguishable competitors must radically differentiate themselves to gain a major competitive advantage. You can do this by embracing the radically authentic branding approach. It will help set you apart from your less transparent and samey rivals.
Areas of transparency that may appeal to a specific audience could include the following:
- Give back to the local community by supporting worthy causes with donations and volunteer time
- Show internal and external testimonials on how the company and people went above and beyond to do right by a client or employee
A radically authentic B2B business’s openness helps to deter preconceived negative assumptions that might diminish its reputation. That is, it seeks to remove any barriers for the target audience regarding secrets and unanswered questions.
As a branding strategy, radical authenticity can help you reach a new audience and improve awareness over your existing branding. It’s particularly effective for target audiences who look for something more in a B2B partnership than simple price and quality of services. The B2B sales cycle specifically relies on creating authentic, longlasting relationships rather than one-time transactions.
And an authentic connection is even more important to B2B buyers in younger generations.
Millennials and Gen Z are often more receptive to radical authenticity. These cohorts commit to products or services from businesses that align with their personal values and beliefs, such as transparency and ethical business practices. When this happens, deeper connections form between B2B clients and the companies they conduct business with.
This branding angle forms emotional connections that attract a highly-targeted audience. By comparison, it deters those who are not a good fit or disagree. Thus, when drafted correctly, radical authenticity creates a unique value proposition that resonates with the specific target audience you want to attract.
B2B Radical Authenticity Brand Strategies
To be radically authentic, you have a deep understanding of your brand’s unique values, beliefs, and personality. You then commit to sharing those details with your audience in honest and transparent ways across all mediums.
Here’s a summary of the five underlying principles of a radical authenticity brand strategy:
- Define the values and personality of your brand that intersect with your target audience
- Be transparent about your business operations, who you are, what you do, how, where, and why
- Live your company values and use them to communicate your brand’s story
- Engage your Ideal Customer at the personal level
- Embrace your flaws, be humble and candid sharing your plans on how to do better
The B2B Types Best Suited to Radical Authenticity
Radical authenticity is well-suited for B2B companies in highly competitive industries, or those industries that have traditionally focused on simply knowledge expertise, such as consulting, professional services or engineering firms. Startups can benefit from this trend by being open and honest about their journey from the outset. It’s an excellent strategy for businesses in industries tarnished by a broad brush for poor customer experiences, bad business practices, dishonesty, or lack of transparency.
#3 Less Is More — Do More with Less
More isn’t always better and simplicity can help distill your B2B brand down to its core essence, ensuring nothing distracts from your messaging. Your B2B audience is busy, so a brand message that’s to the point, quick to absorb, and easy to remember is a winning strategy.
Why“Less Is More” B2B Branding Works
Over-complexity can make even straightforward messaging difficult to parse, and offers a surefire way to lose an otherwise captive audience. Simple branding, though, is quick to grasp and easy to remember, but it’s also an art form.
While minimalism can seem simple, it takes a lot of experience and knowledge to know what must stay and what can be cut without losing integral pieces in the process.
Done well, simplicity offers a way to communicate technical expertise or procedures in a format your audience can easily understand. Savvy B2B marketers use simple charts, infographics, and other graphical information to break down complex ideas and communicate them in a manner that would otherwise require pages of written word to explain.
The less is more branding trend can save much time and confusion in your brand communication while positioning your B2B firm as a simple, easy-to-access partner that’s focused on making your customer’s life as easy as possible.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
The secret to the less is more B2B branding strategy is to be concise and consistent with design and content. This distillation is no small feat when there are a lot of intricate points and processes to condense into a minimal form factor.
A common mistake is when the brand aesthetics don’t match the rest of the branding. For example, your refreshed B2B brand has a minimalistic appeal in one place, but it doesn’t reflect other marketing materials, guides, and processes. You may have an on-message website but a hectic presence on social media and other digital marketing channels.
This dissonance between channels and experiences can leave new customers with the feeling they’ve been had by a bait-and-switch operation.
Avoid these five mistakes when creating your less is more B2B brand strategy:
- Lack of clarity, too much clutter confusing the target audience
- Bland messaging doesn’t differentiate your B2B from competitors
- Simple to a void of personality; provides nothing to resonate with the audience
- Inconsistent across media, communication, personal experience
- Play it too safe, doesn’t leverage minimalist design to full effect
The unintentional blend of simple and complicated aesthetics sends mixed messaging. But the less is more strategy is not easy to achieve. That’s why many B2B companies invest in an experienced branding and B2B marketing consultant or agency.
Deciding on In-house marketing vs. agency marketing is something that most B2B SMBs grapple with. But a qualified third party often sees what those who are closely-connected to the business cannot. Indeed, inviting an outside perspective will often save time, money, and frustration cause by internal blind spots in development.
You Have to Know Yourself to Represent Yourself
Focus on your company’s mission statement, core values, and target audience value proposition before you start developing your B2B brand’s look and feel.
The better you understand the company you are/want to be and the audience you want to attract, the more focused you branding and messaging will be. It is then much easier to simplify your visual identity and adapt the design to align with a message that represents your brand. Also, pause periodically to ensure no clutter or confusion creeps into your creation.
And remember to emphasize quality over quantity and maintain focus on essential-only messaging. The result should assume a minimalistic style, drawing its initial appeal mostly from colors, abstracted iconography, and salient messaging with fitting typography.
B2B Types Best Suited to Less Is More Branding Trend
Not all businesses benefit from minimalist B2B branding trends with simple designs and messaging. This strategy is best suited for companies wanting to communicate a sense of sophistication and refinement through simplicity, for example:
- Tech brands that offer cutting-edge technology
- Long-established professional services like architecture and engineering
- Luxury or high-end products or services portraying elegance
- Complicated industry positioning as the simple alternative
In most cases, suitability is determined by your target audience and buyer personas. If your B2B brand and its target audience fall closer to the layman, shifting to branding that looks like a high-end luxury service will turn off your audience.
Potential pitfalls like this is why it’s so important to spend the time at the beginning of your branding process coming to terms with who your company and your B2B target audience actually are. Which is why Bold Entity’s rebranding strategy services start with intake sessions talking to internal stakeholders and your standout clients to nail down what is the difference maker that attracts the best clients to your organization.
Using These B2B Branding Trends
These three B2B branding trends appeal to today’s buyers and candidates by providing a sense of nostalgia, genuineness, and simplicity. Old Meets New” is ideal for combining traditional elements with modern design. While “Radical Authenticity” emphasizes transparency and sincerity in brand communication. And “Less Is More” favors a minimalist approach to design and concise messaging to help you cut through noise.
Choosing the B2B branding that best fits your industry or business model is vital. If you’re ready for a rebrand, bring in the experts in B2B branding. Reach out to Bold Entity for expert B2B rebranding advice and guidance.