What B2B Brands Can Learn about Brand Love from an MP3 Player
I grew up with an Apple IIc. Green LCD monitor and all. You see, my mom brought it home for us when UMSL was upgrading and was going to throw it away. (You know the old saying – one college institution’s trash is a 10-year-old boy’s treasure.)
In 4th grade, I would bring home books from the library about a kid spy who solved cases using BASIC codes. I’d copy all the lines of code from the book into the Apple IIc, run the program, and an ASCII image would appear on the screen, solving the case.
(Also, you could print giant banners on the dot matrix printer, which I thought was pretty cool.)
In my early 20s, long after the old Apple IIc, I discovered a new hobby – graphic design. I bought my first computer. It was a PC. And it was awesome.
At the time, I had considered an Apple – after all, that is what we used in school – but the PC could do so much more, and was half the price. (And since we’re talking about brand love here, I should mention that for the life of me, I can’t remember the brand name of that first computer I bought.)
Over the next few years, I became really good at using (and fixing) PCs. (You’re looking at a Windows 95 Certified Technician.)
I was a PC nerd. Until the iPod launched.
I fell in love with the iPod. And it was my gateway into the renewed world of Apple as Steve Jobs launched the iMac. (Which, for the record, I still dissed in favor of PCs.)
The experience of using the iPod and the jog wheel was like nothing I had seen before. Even though I already had an MP3 player, the iPod felt different. It was a device that made me feel like I had my life together. I spent $400 on that thing. But it felt like I was adding way more value in my life.
Probably most importantly, that iPod changed the way I saw Apple products. And over the years, I slowly moved away from the PC world to Apple. Apple used beautiful design and elevated the experience of their products to make people love them, and I loved that.
But Apple is an easy story. Cliché even. What about all of us mere mortal companies? What about B2B brands? How do they build a brand people love?
When the iPod launched, it wasn’t described as another “digital MP3 player.” Instead, it promised “1000 songs in your pocket.” Branding isn’t about describing the features of the product – it’s about giving the customer something to love. Something that adds value in their life. And that’s true even if you’re B2B.
In my experience working with B2B brands, marketing managers think there isn’t room for experience or art or for love. That, more often, it comes down to price sheets and bullet points and product features.
Listen Mike, I sell Styrofoam™. Nobody loves Styrofoam.
To that, I say you get what you give. We complain that our B2B services and products are commodities, but we’re the ones treating them that way. It’s time to reframe the way you think about and talk about your product.
People love Styrofoam! Styrofoam keeps our houses warm. This two-inch barrier of extruded polystyrene protects our kids day in and day out. In small businesses all across America, Styrofoam lowers heating costs, which keeps businesses running. That’s right. Styrofoam keeps us going.
See? The true magic of the brand is not about price sheets or bullet points. It’s about the value the customer sees in the product and, in turn, the brand. That’s the brand love.
Not to sound like a therapist, but you need to love your brand first. Without a little love, the iPod could have just been another MP3 player. And Styrofoam could just be a form of insulation. If you don’t love your brand, how can you expect customers to? And if you treat your products and services as commodities, why should your customers do any differently?