Lessons from most inspiring B2B brands of 2023

Category: Data & Insights
Lessons from most inspiring B2B brands of 2023

Tech brands are the most inspiring brands in the world when it comes to B2B marketing, according to Wunderman Thompson’s Inspire B2B Score, a ranking of the Top 100 Most Inspiring B2B Brands in the World.

The Inspired B2B Score was unveiled at Wunderman Thompson’s flagship thought leadership event, Transform, on Thursday 28 September. The event, B2B with Feeling, took an in-depth look at how to harness the power of inspiration to reimagine the B2B experience, create more meaningful customer relationships, revolutionize outdated business models and drive new kinds of commercial growth.

B2B with Feeling

What was really interesting at the B2B with Feeling event is the message that while B2B transactions are often viewed as rational purchases, almost routine, that B2B buyers are the same people that make B2C transactions in their private lives and that there is a huge opportunity to engage, inspire and excite audiences. It’s time for brands to remember that the B2B audience is human, driven by emotion, curiosity and wonder and this is just as true for business transactions as it is for B2C retailing.

Within the Inspire B2B Score report, a playbook is set up informing B2B brands on how to inspire growth and win:

  1. Stand out where other’s can’t: Distinctiveness is key, too many brands all feel the same in terms of what they say and how they say it. Being memorable is the first step, which means presenting your brand in a distinctly human way.
  2. Show up where other’s don’t: Be known and notable before your buyers need to know you. A stand out stat for the event is that 95% of buyers aren’t in the market to purchase in any given quarter… they need to know and buy into your brand so that when they are in the 5% ready to buy they are already inspired to consider your brand or service. And yes this means showing up in places your buyers hang out when they’re not on the purchasing journey, but where they spend time in their private lives. If for example you’ve seen B2B brands on TikTok, these are inspirational brands who understand inspiring future buyers is essential to win when they are ready to buy.
  3. Say what others won’t: Playing it safe isn’t a winning strategy – B2B brands should have a unique perspective that gets noticed and talked about rather than simply following the crowd.

To be successful, B2B brands must elevate their presence and inspire not just today’s buyers, but those that will be in the market for their brand and service in the future. The Top 100 most inspiring brands isn’t simply a list for plaudits, it’s a directory of B2B brands to emulate and learn from. And the results prove inspired B2B brands outperform the market, with:

  • 2.7% more likely to be preferred
  • 2.4x more likely to be seen as relevant
  • 3x more likely to be recommended
  • 1.5x more able to sustain premium pricing
  • 2.6x more likely to be bought

Top 100 Most Inspiring B2B Brands

The top five brands listed in the report are Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Dell and HP, all established players in the tech sector. Logistics also ranked highly in the Top 10, with UPS, DHL and FedEx all featuring, alongside Intel and Lenovo. While established brands dominate, the report also shows that newer brands also inspire, with two new brands (albeit restaged established businesses) going straight into the Top 20 – Kyndryl (an IBM spinoff) at 15, and Meta (formerly Facebook) at 16.

The Inspired B2B report marks the first time Wunderman Thompson has revealed the Top 100 Most Inspiring B2B brands. It previously published a specific B2B Top 50 in 2021, as part of its wider Inspire platform. In the 2023 ranking, Dell moved from No. 7 to No.3, overtaking IBM, HP, and Intel; Adobe jumped from No.98 to No.28 and Huawei took a massive leap – moving from outside the Top 100 to No.44, demonstrating how tech brands are among some of the biggest movers who are successfully inspiring business audiences to create the conditions for accelerated growth.

Perhaps reflecting the still-turbulent business environment, the established tech, tech services, and logistics brands that provide dependable structure and stability continue to represent the B2B power brands dominating the Inspired B2B Top 20.

Positions within the Top 20 have remained relatively stable since we published the Top 50 in 2021, demonstrating how these brands remain inspiration engines with the ability to place themselves at the centre of business people’s lives, and stay there. But many brands beyond the Top 20 have dramatically changed their ranking, showing it’s all to play for when it comes to inspiration as brands can move dramatically, shifting the needle on growth.

– Neil Dawson, Global Chief Strategy Officer, Wunderman Thompson

Other trends include:

  • The rise of consulting and accounting businesses – in part because of an economic environment where businesses are increasingly looking outside themselves for inspiration, but also reflective of the sector’s broadening offering and growing mission to inspire. Accenture leads this trend (29), followed by EY (32), Deloitte (36), Boston Consulting Group (38), McKinsey (41) and KPMG (50). All have significantly improved their inspiration status since 2021, with PWC (down from 39 to 66) the only faller.
  • There was also a strong presence from travel brands in the Inspired B2B Top 100, as the world opened up post-COVID. Alongside long-established car rental brands such as Hertz, 2023 saw the rise of primarily B2C travel brands among B2B audiences, as these brands increasingly ramp up their B2B offering to bring more inspiration to the business travel category. New top 2023 entrants include Airbnb (51), Expedia (56) and Tripadvisor (63). 

To succeed, B2B brands must engage and inspire diverse buying groups. Your customers are ultimately human, and you still need to meet them in human ways, to make a true emotional connection. Inspiring them with warmth, humour and creativity is just as important as making a sound business case.

B2B brands that embrace this are just as successful as B2C brands. Digging into the Inspire database, we see the same powerful relationships between B2B brands’ Inspire Scores and their ability to perform in the marketplace, grow faster and command premium prices.

– James Irvine, EMEA B2B Practice Lead, Wunderman Thompson

Wunderman Thompson is a global authority on B2B marketing, having developed Inspired B2B strategies for brands including Canon, Duracell, GE, IKEA, INFOR, Kyndryl, Mercedes-Benz (Vans), Microsoft, Sherwin Williams, and T-Mobile. Earlier this year the network announced the expansion of its global B2B offering with the launch of Inspired B2B, a new initiative dedicated to inspiring growth for ambitious B2B brands, and was awarded the inaugural Creative B2B Grand Prix at Cannes Lions in 2022 for ‘Speaking in Colour’, an AI tool designed for Sherwin-Williams Coil Coatings that allowed architects to speak colour into existence for the first time ever.


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