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. These are brands that don’t sell products and services to end-consumers, but to other companies and institutions.
The first version of this article was written in 2020, when the 2019 Interbrand Best Global Brands ranking was the latest edition. According to it, the three most valuable B2B brands were IBM (no. 12), Intel (no. 13) and Cisco (no. 15).
Three years later, according to the 2022 ranking, the same three brands hold the top three spots in the B2B category. However, the order is different as the companies’ brand value has changed.
Over the past three years, Intel and IBM’s brand value has shrunk by 18% and 15% respectively, making Intel the third and IBM the second most valuable B2B brand (no.19 and 18 in the overall ranking).
Cisco is the only brand out of these three that has increased its brand value in this period (by more than 16%) and remained in 15th position, which gave it the title of the most valuable B2B brand overall.
No. 3 Intel – creating technology that improves the life of every person
Intel has been known for its unique approach to brand and communication strategy. Although it’s a B2B (business-to-business) company, it often acts like a B2C (business-to-consumer) brand as it targets end users in its communications. The rationale behind this approach is to convince people to buy devices with high quality Intel components inside rather than cheaper substitutes, even if that means the consumer has to pay a higher price. The famous “Intel Inside” slogan has become a quality stamp for many products, in particular personal computers. It’s designed to reassure consumers that because of Intel’s technology (which in fact they can’t even see), the product they’ve bought is more reliable. This strategy is known as “ingredient branding”.
In 2016, Intel started widening its brand and communication strategy: from focusing on the inside to being more active on the outside (“Intel inside makes amazing experiences outside”) and from “being seen as a PC component to being an enabler of experiences”. The brand, previously associated with the PC industry, wanted to be known for “powering the future of computing and communications”. Intel changed its tagline to “Experience what’s inside” and launched a number of high-profile initiatives in order to create a link between its technology and the experiences it enables.
In 2021, the company changed its brand strategy again. In an attempt to attract younger talent, Intel redefined its brand purpose as: “creating world-changing technology that improves the life of every person on the planet”, revised the logo, changed the colour palette and launched a new tagline, “Do something wonderful”. The tagline is based on Intel cofounder, Robert Noyce’s quote, “Go off and do something wonderful”, and its ambition is to make the brand more appealing to younger consumers.
No. 2 IBM – co-creating
Since its launch in 1911, IBM has stood for knowledge, science and technological innovations which have the power to change the world. The company has been shifting its focus between different product categories but it has never given up on its spirit of innovation. IBM has gone through four big changes in its positioning in the last 30 years, which have had a huge impact not only on the company’s communications strategy, but also on its business model and product portfolio.
In 1995, IBM’s vision was focused on e-commerce, in 2008 the company moved to computing and connectivity with the strategy called “Smarter Planet”. The next change, introduced in 2015, positioned IBM as “Cognitive Business” emphasizing the company’s interest in artificial intelligence and processing of big data.
The most recent change in IBM’s brand strategy took place in 2022, when the company moved its strategic focus from the “cognitive business” platform and embraced the philosophy of “co-creating” with its clients, partners and competitors. It started placing a stronger emphasis within its communication on the concept of creativity and the emergence of new creators, understood to be engineers, developers and scientists – “visionaries applying technology in innovative ways to drive progress in business — and the world”. The new brand platform is based on the belief that “creativity is the defining currency” (“Let’s create something that will change everything.”)
With the new positioning, IBM has also simplified its flagship offering, concentrating primarily on three business areas: AI, hybrid cloud, and consulting.
No. 1 Cisco – building the bridge between the hoped-for and the possible
Cisco was set up in 1984 by two Stanford University employees, Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner. According to the company’s corporate story, Bosack and Lerner were a couple who, driven by the need to communicate with each other while working in different buildings, managed to connect their computers to one another via a multiprotocol router (“a love story that changed the world”). This invention was the start of an entire category of networking hardware, which to this day constitutes the core of Cisco’s offering (routers, servers, modems, wireless access points and controllers, switches, etc.).
In 2018, Cisco announced a new brand strategy which is being used to this day. It revolves around the idea of connectedness, the theme that was also present in the brand’s previous communication platforms. This time, to explain how people can benefit from being connected and having many things connected to each other, the company is using a metaphor of a bridge both in its narrative and in its new tagline, “The bridge to possible”. At the heart of the new positioning lies the notion that Cisco’s technology “is creating a world of potential” as it builds the bridge between “what is hoped for and what can be”. The company even calls itself “the architects of possibility” and sees its role as “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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