Customer Relevance: 5 Ways That B2B Brands Differ From B2C Brands

B2B brands may make it easy for customers to buy, but they disappoint on consistency and emotional connection.

To be the relevant choice, the go-to brand for customers has been shown to drive profitable growth and to help insulate businesses from unexpected shocks such as COVID-19. The sixth annual Prophet Brand Relevance Index®, which studied 228 brands among 13,000 consumers, reveals how brands that rely heavily on serving B2B customers build relevance differently than brands that focus only on B2C customers.

As part of the study, we compared 57 brands with significant B2B businesses such as Amazon, General Electric, FedEx and IBM with 171 pure B2C brands such as Lego, Peloton, Netflix and Etsy. Both cohorts of brands with significant B2B business and the pure B2C brands increased relevance to their customers over the course of 2020.  The B2C group had a greater range of high and poor performers with brands such as Peloton, Kitchen Aid and Lego in the top five and Popeye’s, Burger King and Facebook in the bottom three. Technology brands were the best performing in both the B2C and B2B cohorts. Apple led the pack followed closely by Amazon ranked tenth overall.

“The sixth annual Prophet Brand Relevance Index®, which studied 228 brands among 13,000 consumers, reveals how brands that rely heavily on serving B2B customers build relevance differently.”

When we analyzed the drivers of customer centricity and pragmatism, key differences appeared.

When compared to B2C focused brands, B2B reliant brands…

1. Meet Important Needs

On average B2B reliant brands outperform B2C-focused brands on meeting their customers’ important needs by a remarkable 28 percent.  3M for example, is rated 64 percent higher than the average B2B brand on meeting important needs and being a brand the customer cannot live without. That said, it is one of the worst-performing brands in the survey on making the customer happy by connecting with emotion.

2. Make It Easy

B2B reliant brands are 25 percent more likely to make it easier for their customers than B2C-focused brands. Microsoft, for example, performs a bit above the average of B2C brands on consistent performance and being dependable, but excels at making the consumers’ lives easier.

3. Don’t Deliver Consistently

B2B reliant companies are 17 percent less likely to perform as well as B2C companies on “consistent delivery.” GE is a typical example. It ranks in the top one hundred brands with very high customer scores on most dimensions of pragmatism, such as makes it easier and is dependable but ranks only average on consistent delivery.

4.&5.  Fail to Connect Emotionally and Don’t Make the Customer Happy

This doesn’t appear to be a surprise as emotion is important for B2C brands but not to the same extent as B2B brands. What is surprising is the size of the difference; a 47 percent difference for happiness between B2B reliant and B2C focused brands. Adobe demonstrates the challenge.  It outperforms other technology-oriented B2B companies such as HP and IBM on being a brand customers can’t live without but is rated 75 percent lower on makes the customer happy and connects with emotion.


The key takeaway for B2B reliant brands is to break out of the trap of trading off performance with emotion. Great brands, such as Apple deliver to both B2C and B2B customers, don’t make this tradeoff; so why should Adobe settle for it? The other key takeaway is to focus on technology. The most technologically advanced B2B brands we examined by industry outperformed their peers on meeting important customer needs and making it easy for the customer.

Learn more about brands in your industry

This post provides just a snapshot of the 228 brands evaluated in the 2021 Prophet Brand Relevance Index®. For more insights on this year’s top-performing brands, visit this website.