Bursting the B2B Reputation Bubble?

Ask around about consumer brands or well-known individuals who’ve fallen prey to reputational sabotage and many in the communications field quickly provide examples.

The assignment becomes tougher when looking at business-to-business (B2B) brands though. Perhaps natural given that they tend to be less public-facing, but pulling together examples for a talk I’m giving on this area at a Business Marketing Association event in Chicago next week has taken some digging.

The consensus I got from those in the communications industry I talked to about the exposure and readiness of B2B companies to handle unwarranted (or even warranted) attacks on their brands was that they can see themselves as less in the line of fire. Yet others I’ve sought wisdom from have commented that B2B brands don’t exist in a B2B bubble – that even if they don’t sell to consumers themselves, their customers invariably sell to consumers. So while perhaps one step removed, the same rules will normally apply to reputational management and how best to guard against such attacks, even if the risks are different.

In other words, just because they’re B2B brands, they’re not afforded any special protection.

This is one of the topics covered in #brandvandals, a book I co-wrote in 2013 and will be talking about next week in Chicago as well as giving some examples of how B2B brands have tackled reputational challenges caused by emerging issues, crises or even plain sabotage.


Amongst other things, the talk will cover how to develop ‘early warning systems’ about brand vulnerabilities, how to best align skills to these challenges and some thoughts on how to develop stronger advocacy networks.

It will cover consumer and B2B brands, and I’d planned to use it as an opportunity to highlight the differences between them.

The more I dug though as I put together some slides, the more I came to believe that there really aren’t that many, even though the scale of risk may differ.

Topics for a lively debate perhaps. If you’re in the Chicago area and want to come along, here’s a link for more details.