The Power of B2B Brands : A case study of how B2B companies in the forest industry can communicate sustainability through their Brand
Today’s B2B companies operate in a global business world that is characterised by product homogenisation and intense competition. Finding sources for differentiation and consequently competitive advantage is a concern that no company with a long-term horizon can ignore. The development of the brand, recognized as a strategic asset, has created new ways of conducting beneficial marketing management, which can lead to differentiation from competitors and create conditions for company success. The role of brands in B2B settings differs from the role in B2C markets, and its potentially beneficial outcomes have traditionally been overlooked by B2B practitioners. Consequently, B2B companies need to gain further insight in how and why to utilize the potential benefits of having a strong brand. The technology development demands constant evaluation of brand communication techniques and the demand for sustainability related solutions address the need for further marketing insights. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to contribute with understanding and further knowledge to the research field of B2B marketing. The goal is to outline how B2B companies can utilize the strategic asset of a brand by incorporating sustainability in the communication of the same. The research question that this study aims to answer is consequently: • How can B2B brands in the forest industry communicate sustainability? In order to fulfil the study purpose and answer the research question, six sub-purposes concerning the theoretical themes B2B brand management, sustainability and brand communication were outlined. The theoretical themes are the basis from which the sub-purposes stem. This study is written on commission for a production company in the forest industry. In order to fulfil the purpose of the study, a case study approach with a qualitative research method is used. The empirical findings consist of semi-structured qualitative interviews with employees of the case company and two external respondents. The external perspective consists of one customer to the case company and a representative from the forest owner’s branch organisation. The question template for the qualitative interviews is built upon the stated six sub-purposes and consequently the theoretical themes of B2B brand management, sustainability and brand communication. Based on the empirical findings and the theoretical themes, we analyse the outcomes and provide with conclusions and practical recommendations in relation to the stated purpose of this study. This study indicates that brands play a major role in B2B settings, especially as a mediator and coordinator of business relationships. The brand is built upon functional brand values and emotional brand values. In the context of the forest industry, the functional brand values are connected to hygiene factors, whilst emotional brand values are connected to the company as a whole and can thereof be a source for differentiation. The main conclusion from this study is consequently that sustainability should first and foremost be used as a way of conveying the identified emotional brand values credibility, trust, loyalty and long-term commitment. Embedding sustainability into the brand by highlighting the emotional brand values of credibility, trust, loyalty and long-term commitment is consequently a way for B2B brands to differentiate from competitors.
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