We have previously written about the positioning of the most valuable brands in categories such as automotive, beer, media, payment solutions and luxury fashion as well as of the most valuable brands overall.
Today’s post focuses on the most valuable business-to-business (B2B) brands. We define B2B brands as those that sell their products and services primarily to other companies and institutions and not directly to end-consumers. Therefore, brands like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Adobe, despite having substantial B2B operations, are excluded from our focus.
The first version of this article was published in 2020, referencing the 2019 edition of the Interbrand Best Global Brands ranking as the latest available data at that time. According to it, the three most valuable B2B brands were IBM (no. 12), Intel (no. 13), and Cisco (no. 15).
Four years later, according to the 2023 ranking, only two of these brands — Cisco (no. 15) and IBM (no. 18) — remain among the top three most valuable B2B brands, both experiencing single-digit growth compared to the previous year. Intel, on the other hand, saw its brand value decrease by 14% from last year, causing it to fall out of the top three most valuable B2B brands.
The third position is now occupied by Oracle (no. 19), a company that has not been featured in the Interbrand ranking since 2019.
No. 3 Oracle – helping people see data in new ways
Oracle’s product vision has consistently focused on owning as many elements of the technology infrastructure (often referred to as the “Oracle stack”) as possible, instead of depending on components created by other companies. Although Oracle has maintained this product strategy over the years, it has made significant changes to its brand mission and messaging.
Oracle’s previous brand mission, “delivering tomorrow’s emerging technologies today”, emphasized the company’s technological advancements over customer benefits. This focus shifted in 2019, when Larry Ellison, the cofounder, CTO, and Chairman of the Board, introduced a new mission statement: “helping people see data in new ways, discover insights, unlock endless possibilities”.
The company’s messaging has not always aligned with its mission. Following the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, a hardware company, Oracle’s messaging highlighted its newfound software and hardware capabilities. Subsequently, the emphasis shifted towards simplification, and later, Oracle promoted its offering of “a comprehensive and fully integrated stack of cloud applications, platform services, and engineered systems”. Most recently, Oracle has defined itself as a “cloud technology company”, aiming to be associated with this product category.
Unlike some competitors who adopt easily understandable and sometimes humorous messaging, Oracle has maintained a corporate and serious tone, using complex, highly technological language.
No. 2 IBM – co-creating
Since its launch in 1911, IBM has been synonymous with knowledge, science, and technological innovations that have the potential to change the world. Although the company has shifted its focus among different product categories over the years, it has consistently maintained its spirit of innovation. Over the past 30 years, IBM has undergone four significant changes in its positioning, profoundly affecting not only its communications strategy, but also its business model and product portfolio.
In 1995, IBM’s vision was focused on e-commerce. In 2008, the company moved to emphasize computing and connectivity with its “Smarter Planet” strategy. The subsequent shift in 2015 repositioned IBM as a “Cognitive Business”, highlighting its interest in artificial intelligence and big data processing.
The latest evolution of IBM’s brand strategy took place in 2022, marking a shift from the “cognitive business” brand platform to a new philosophy of “co-creating’”with clients, partners, and even competitors. This strategy places a greater emphasis on creativity and the role of new creators—engineers, developers, and scientists. Underpinning this new brand platform is the belief that “creativity is now the defining currency”, encapsulated in the motto: “Let’s create something that will change everything”.
No. 1 Cisco – building the bridge between the hoped-for and the possible
Cisco was founded in 1984 by Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner, two employees of Stanford University. According to the company’s corporate story, Bosack and Lerner were a couple who, driven by the need to communicate while working in different buildings, connected their computers using a multiprotocol router (“a love story that changed the world”). This invention marked the beginning of a new category of networking hardware, which remains the core of Cisco’s offerings to this day, including products such as routers, servers, modems, wireless access points and controllers, switches, etc.
In 2018, Cisco announced a new brand strategy that continues to be used to this day. It centres on the theme of connectedness, a concept also pivotal in the brand’s previous communication platforms. This time, Cisco employs the metaphor of a bridge—both in its narrative and in its new tagline, “The bridge to possible”—to convey how connectivity and interconnectedness can benefit people. At the heart of this new positioning is the belief that Cisco’s technology “is creating a world of potential”, bridging the gap between aspirations and reality (“what is hoped for and what can be”). Cisco positions itself as “the architects of possibility”, dedicated to “helping seize the opportunities of tomorrow by proving that amazing things can happen when you connect the unconnected”.
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Magda Adamska is the founder of BrandStruck.
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