What role does brand-building really play in business-to-business marketing? It’s a very important role, according to Harvard Business School marketing professor, John Quelch.

A HBS research team recently conducted a study of top B2B global brands, such as Intel and Accenture, and discovered the following common characteristics:

A common thread, according to Quelch, is the CEO’s willingness to serve as a brand advocate, communicating the story behind the brand. With a focus on the corporate brand (not individual brands), the CEO sets the tone and example for both advocating and protecting the use of the brand.

Also, the CEO understands that building brand reputation and the reasons to believe in the brand helps to reduce commercial risk, insulate the company during a crisis and provide the common purpose that can bond all the company’s stakeholders.

Why is brand-building important? It builds equitable value into an organization. It communicates differentiation. And in the B2B environment, differentiated value plays a key role in sales. As Quelch points out, if left unattended, individual managers will each do their own ad hoc marketing. The result will be a hodgepodge of corporate logos, taglines and packaging. Customers will be confused and the company will look disorganized.

Brand messages must be clear, concise and most important, consistent. Whether you are dealing with a large, global-reaching organization or a much smaller one, this consistent communication is important, whether it’s on the website or on a conference podium.

B2B brands have much more at stake. If you are a consumer and you are disenchanted with your brand of toothpaste, there’s no monumental effect from switching brands. If you are a corporation that is heavily invested in an ERP system, the effects could mean millions of dollars to your bottom line. In the B2B world, a strong brand can represent innovation, dependability, security and confidence.

Be deliberate in defining and adhering to the brand strategy of your business. The results will lead to stronger connection to your customers and more control over your product success.

Source: John A. Quelch is the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.