Purpose: This study aims to investigate the determinants of own-branding strategy and whether branding contributes to higher profitability among industrial firms. Building a strong brand can be a source of competitive advantage. However, brands may not be equally important to all firms, especially in the business-to-business (B2B) context. Design/methodology/approach: This study develops and empirically tests a conceptual model by considering the endogenous choice of branding strategy in the relationship between branding and financial performance. A large, nationally representative dataset from Taiwan, consisting of 13,098 manufacturing firms, is used. Findings: The present study suggests that larger, younger, more innovative and export-oriented firms have a higher propensity to develop their own brands. E-commerce usage is shown to be the strongest predictor of the decision to brand. The positive effect of branding on profitability is evident for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but not for large firms. Originality/value: Research integrating the perspectives of the decision to brand and branding effectiveness is scant. The methodology used in this study makes a theoretical contribution to the link between branding and firm performance. The findings indicate that large firms have more advantages for building their own brands, yet SMEs stand to gain more financially from branding relative to their large counterparts. This provides the important implication that SMEs benefit from building a strong brand in the B2B context.