A Time for Compromise in B2B Marketing?

Three takeaways from B2B Marketing Ignite London 2022

By Callum Macdonald, Copywriter

"Brand is more than just outbound communications. It’s the values and actions that exist at the core of a business and plays a part in how businesses conduct themselves."

I’m still a relatively fresh face in marketing having only stepped into the industry at the beginning of the first UK lockdown in 2020 and B2B Marketing Ignite London was my first marketing event; not B2B marketing event, ANY marketing event.

So, I saw this as a somewhat overwhelming, but exciting opportunity to hear innovative marketeers and their perspectives on the current state of B2B marketing. With eyes peeled and ears pinned back I leapt at my chance to see and hear what the people at the cutting edge of B2B marketing had to say.

I found that the overarching theme of the event was that modern B2B marketing is not a zero-sum game. It’s not black and white, at present a key skill marketers must have is the ability to blend the perfect shade of grey.

These are my three key takeaways -

Brand and Revenue – balancing the race to the bottom, with a race to the front.

Any business leader will tell you that generating and growing revenue is top priority, and in a period of economic uncertainty many make the error of cutting marketing budgets to focus on maximising sales. Even her majesty’s government has been encouraging businesses to cut marketing spend and focus on reducing prices – funnily enough this idea was thoroughly derided to by the audience at Ignite London when mentioned.

Brand is so much more than just an awareness driver; it ensures audiences come back time and time again. A strong brand can create a sense of reassurance at the bottom of the funnel while a weak brand may see prospective customers getting cold feet. A strong brand reassures customers that they’re making the right choice and at a time when people need as much reassurance as possible this can be a real differentiator. Fundamentally, is it worth not investing in brand during economically uncertain periods?

This was one of the key talking points in the morning panel discussion entitled “F*** the funnel (bet on the brand)”. Where the panellists, in particular Maria Winn, stressed that there doesn’t have to be a binary choice between brand and demand, and that in actuality it has been shown that businesses can successfully ride out an economically troubled periods by strengthening their brand, ensuing they remain at the front of the customer’s mind. Just Global’s Martin Simcock brought up the example of JCB and how they saw massive success by reinforcing their brand presence, rather than chasing short-term revenue gains.

By developing a budget that finds a compromise between the race to the front of mind and the race to the bottom businesses can find a compromise between short-term results and long-term success.

Talent and technology – together in perfect harmony

Marketing Technology has exploded since the digital marketing revolution began. In 2021 the global industry was worth $344.8bn and as new must-have technologies are continually being developed the MarTech arms race is still very much ongoing.

For the last few years everyone and their dog had a turn banging the AI drum, proclaiming that marketing is now smart, predictive, and the best innovation for maximising ROI. At Ignite 2022 we heard from level-headed and the lofty, but all were describing MarTech as what it is, a tool to be wielded by experts in their field, not the answer to every woe in modern marketing.

“AI, AI, AI!” – everyone and their dog

Of course, AI can do a lot especially in automating repetitive, unenjoyable, and value limited tasks, accelerating processes with more accuracy and less cost. But the people who used to do those tasks were not all replaced, many would see them as liberated. AI can’t do it all which is why it can be seen as a path to freedom from the mundanities of work. For more on the societal implications of AI taking all of our jobs I highly recommend my colleague Matt Mundy’s article “Why I’m not scared about AI copywriters replacing me”.

Jason Miller’s keynote “How to be creative in ways that no AI can” was a prime example of this sentiment. He analysed the strengths and weaknesses of AI and left us with a lasting message that without human guidance AI is exceptionally limited, and that when they come together some fantastic and creative content can be developed – as exemplified by the famous Lexus ES 2019 advert: Driven by Intuition.

Talented marketeers are being recognised as just as vital to success as the technology they use. And with marketing talent at an all-time premium it is vital that businesses do their upmost to keep their best and brightest around, or create a workplace that attracts new talent that can effectively use marketing technologies to truly maximise ROI.

Businesses must again find that sweet spot between investing in their people, and their MarTech.

New channels and old branding – out with the old in with the new?

The meteoric rise of social media influencers on LinkedIn like Rob Mayhew has not gone unnoticed by B2B marketers and even though he is seemingly not directly marketing any product or service, he has advanced the conversation around B2B marketing on social channels like TikTok and Instagram.

Brand is more than just outbound communications. It’s the values and actions that exist at the core of a businesses and play a part in how businesses conduct themselves. Maria Winn, who was part of the panel discussion and mentioned earlier, spoke briefly on employee engagement and how by empowering their employees to embody the brand’s values the message is imbued with more authenticity, especially when speaking on corporate social responsibility initiatives. So it’s certainly something a lot of marketeers have been talking about and considering.

TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and similar are totally dominated by Gen Z and millennials, which offers great opportunity for businesses to develop brand awareness with the next generation of business leaders and potential talent. However, there is a question that must be answered before brands enter the word of TikTok and start trying to go viral is –

“Can B2B marketers make the compromise between making successful and engaging content for a channel like Instagram or TikTok while staying true to their brand?”.

The users on these platforms may be young, but they are far from stupid and will be repelled by poorly delivered messages that are stick out in their experience for all the wrong reasons. Brands who try to muscle in with poorly thought-out brand messaging will likely find their content being described as cringey, doing the exact opposite of what they had hoped.

So, is it worth retrofitting or updating the brand messaging when posting to these new social channels? Well, it depends. It depends if the audience is one you wish to engage on those platforms, it depends on haw drastically you’ll have to change the messaging, and it depends if you have creative capacity to create unique, experimental content for these platforms.

The brands who seek success here need to find that balance, that compromise, between what thy stand for, what they are known for, what they want, and being engaging… easier said than done.

We hope the B2B Ignite left you feeling inspired and energised with innovative ideas to transform what you do and how you do it.

It is vital that marketers keep their finger on the pulse of our rapidly changing industry. Which is why Just Global and B2B Marketing have partnered up to conduct research into the new meaning of ‘Brand’. We would be incredibly grateful if you would add your perspective as every view creates a more complete report for our industry to use.

Interested in working with Copywriters like Callum?  Contact Just Global.
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