Why Difference matters for B2B marketers

Difference makes a product or service worth paying more for and drives value for a business. It is an essential ingredient for brand growth.
10 July 2024
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jenny peters

Manager, Kantar BrandZ

B2B marketers face challenges that are not experienced by those marketing to consumers. Sales cycles are longer, for example, with transactions involving larger orders and bulk purchases. The buying process is more complex, with multiple decision-makers and stakeholders needing tailored messaging and tight targeting. 

All of this can lead B2B marketers to focus more on performance attributes than on the kind of brand building where impact is harder to measure. But at their core, B2B and consumer marketing are not so different after all, not least with respect to the primacy of Difference in creating brand value for businesses and their customers.


Difference helps create value

Fundamentally, it is the role of the marketer in any business to create value for both their business and their customers:

• Value for consumers by providing them with a product or service that meets their needs
• Value for businesses by increasing volume, growing margins, or both. 

To that end, there are many elements of brand marketing that are as relevant for B2B businesses as they are to consumer marketing. These elements include deploying high-quality, effective communication, and building reputation and trust. In both realms, the goal is to create a brand positioning that is in line with client needs and business values, while at the same time serving to differentiate the brand from the competition. 

Our evidence shows that Difference is worth paying for, in both the consumer and business context. In the simplest terms, that’s because Difference makes a brand less substitutable. Our collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School found that adding Kantar BrandZ metrics to researchers’ models allowed them to predict business performance with 99.5% accuracy and that Difference contributed the most to exceptional business results.

The importance of Difference in driving margin 

Analysis of the Kantar BrandZ data for 2022 and 2023 shows that net worth perceptions of B2B brands are higher than those of consumer-facing brands. In lay terms, this indicates that they are better at justifying their prices, and therefore have stronger Pricing Power. This matters because brands grow either by increasing volume and market share, or by achieving better profit margins, or both, of course, and perhaps ideally. Regardless, the takeaway is that Pricing Power is fundamental to driving business growth for business as well as consumer brands. 

And Difference, in turn, is the most important driver of Pricing Power for both consumer and B2B brands.

pricing power
How to build Difference in B2B 

Kantar’s Analytics Practice recently looked at 11,000 brand cases with an eye toward synthesising the best ways to drive Difference. Three of the leading strategies turned out to be: 

1. Leadership: setting trends and challenging the status quo 
2. Distinctiveness: achieving a highly distinctive look and feel 
3. Functional Benefits: imbuing goods and services with superior qualities that help to set them apart from others. 

To illustrate these strategies within a B2B context, let’s look within the specialised area of technology component suppliers. This category is home to NVIDIA - the highest-rising brand in the Global Top 100 2024 ranking - as well as major names like Samsung and Intel. 

NVIDIA creates graphics processing units and is currently driving technological advancement in areas including AI, high-performance computing, gaming and creative design. NVIDIA’s ability to anticipate industry trends and adapt has been central to its success, and its stock performance reflects investor confidence in its strategic direction and technological prowess. 


Our data taken from a survey of IoT manufacturers shows that NVIDIA is both different versus its competitive set and different to what clients expect of megabrands of its size. With its disruptive leadership of the semiconductor industry, NVIDIA has grown its sense of Difference over the past three years, along with its Pricing Power and ultimately, its brand value.

In absolute terms, Intel has the strongest Difference perceptions of the category, illustrated in the graph. Intel is a technology powerhouse that has been at the forefront of computing breakthroughs since its founding in 1968. Its products span a wide range of scenarios that include edge computing, 5G network components, cloud computing, AI, and autonomous driving. 

One trait that supports Intel’s strong sense of Difference within the market is its distinctiveness. Building connections to distinctive brand assets over time helps to trigger different brand associations more easily. In the 90s, Intel’s consistent use of the iconic ‘Intel Inside’ slogan, together with its simple five-note tune, helped it become one of the most recognised brands in the world among both consumers and business audiences. This distinctiveness, achieved through long-term brand building efforts, has endured through to today. 

Samsung is a strong player in both consumer and business technology, and also has highly recognisable brand assets including its distinctive blue lozenge-shaped logo. The brand is known for its well-designed, superior-quality products and is supported by a strong marketing investment. Together these factors underpin Samsung’s strong Difference perceptions and justified price premiums across a range of product categories and markets.

Difference matters for small brands too 

Difference isn’t merely something that drives growth for big brands, of course. Smaller brands can and should get in on the action too. Brands do not need to be the most different brand in the world after all, just relatively different to their competitors. 

For example, IoT sensor builder Samsara may not be able to compete with the likes of NVIDIA or Intel in volume terms. However, it has built up strong perceptions of Difference for its size, and in fact enjoys the greatest ‘surplus Difference’ relative to any brand of its size in its B2B cohort. Samsara’s offering is perceived as having a strong functional performance, as well as notably strong sustainability credentials.

SamsaraPutting it together 

In summary, Difference matters for large or small brands, B2B, or B2C. It matters because it makes a product or service worth paying more for and drives value for a business. It is an essential ingredient for brand growth. How well does your brand stand out?

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