When I started out (around the time Duran Duran roamed the planet), business-to-business (B2B) marketing was confined to the domain of the literal. The customer was deemed rational and analytical, so the messaging was bland and unimaginative. B2B meant “boring-to-boring.” All the communications felt like PowerPoint presentations. We spoke in the native language of sales collateral and trade show jargon. And a bulk of the work seemed dependent on sales teams’ connections and cold calling target clients.
Yet, over the past decade, we’ve seen B2B marketing evolve into “business-to-beautiful” marketing -- marketing that illuminates the beautiful stories behind businesses today, expressing their visions and values in society. Suddenly, some of the best work is aimed at procurement executives through thought leadership, branded content, social media and content marketing strategies that drive a wonderful overhead appeal to shareholders and lovers of great narratives.
The shift was inevitable, in my opinion, given the rise of the internet and social media. What we’ve realized through social is that businesses are inherently emotional beings, they are creations of our imaginations, rivers of human growth and determiners of where we build our future communities. B2B marketing is no longer isolated in the ivory tower, creating empires unknown by the general public. Instead, “B2Beautiful” marketing has made the connection between B2B storytelling and our human growth potential. These B2Beautiful stories captivate our imaginations and trigger emotional resonance -- key ingredients in building that residual stickiness factor in an attention-deficit world.
My company, The Harris Poll, recently released the Reputation Quotient study (registration required), which reports that contemporary drivers are found in today’s consumer desires, and many of the storytelling strategies employed by B2C marketers are becoming increasingly applicable to B2B marketing.
We see brilliant examples of brands implementing B2Beautiful campaigns today and engaging communities even in functional, low-interest categories. Maersk, for instance, is humanizing logistics services by personifying its giant cargo ships and documenting their travels through stunning visual images on Instagram. Cisco’s award-winning documentary, The Network Effect, highlights telecom development stories, while companies such as Salesforce and The Mosaic Company have created engaging podcasts. The Mosaic Company’s podcast, “The Great Yield Mystery,” featured a dramatic audio play about two farmers trying to understand why their harvest came short -- it even offered listeners clues to solve the mystery and win prizes.
These companies understand that brands are stories in and of themselves and every aspect of who they are -- from their work culture, logistics, products and services, to how they think and operate behind the scenes -- is essential to creating an effective B2Beautiful marketing strategy. Their strategies provide five crucial takeaways that marketers should keep in mind while creating B2Beautiful marketing, regardless of if you’re a startup or a large corporation.
Read more here.