Drivers of B2B Brand Strength: Insights from an International Study across Industries
Lennartz Eric M., Fischer Marc, Krafft Manfred, Peters Kay
In this paper, we have underlined the importance of B2B branding as a field of growing interest for both practitioners and scientists. Though there is a general need for more research in B2B marketing, we identify brand management as one of the most promising fields for academic research. While it is widely accepted that brands are pivotal in consumer marketing, the role of brand management in B2B marketing has been more or less ignored in science. Our study contributes conceptually to this gap in research.
First, we show brand strength to be a relevant brand management metric. Second, we identify that brand associations have to be split up into two major drivers of brand strength: sustainability and corporate governance as well as innovativeness and expertise. Third, we detect strong variation in the effect sizes for marketing mix instruments on brand strength. Interestingly, in our B2B setting, distribution and product performance reveal prominent effects while communication is of subordinate importance. We identify substantial variation between countries and industries. Overall, the link between brand strength and brand associations exists across countries and industries. Nevertheless, there exists considerable variation in the effects sizes between countries and industries.
Our study is prone to limitations and thus leads to some avenues for further research. First, we do not test to which degree B2B brands may unfold different effects for each of a firm's stakeholder groups. Differences in these effects need further investigation. Second, though we cover conditions and drivers of successful B2B brands, we still lack evidence on how they might differ from B2C brands. It is thus up to future research to compare both in a more detailed way. Third, we use survey data, which is per definition prone to subjective biases of respondents. In addition, our analysis shares a common limitation of survey-based models. Since it is cross-sectional data casual inferences are strictly speaking not warranted. We caution that our results should be interpreted while keeping this limitation in mind. As a consequence, we encourage non-survey based studies on B2B branding as such research might contribute to improved validity, reliability, and objectivity.