The 2023 Agenda: B2B businesses embrace the power of brand
Marketing Week has identified the key opportunities and challenges that will shape marketers’ roles in 2023. As well as flagging what we think marketers should be spending time and money on next year, this is also a commitment from us to focus on these topics.
Almost 40% of all businesses in Great Britain are B2B, according to estimates by the LinkedIn B2B Institute. And yet, most B2B companies today would struggle to say they have embraced marketing and brand-building in the way B2C businesses have.
The majority remain focused on short-term demand generation and jealously guarding their customer base, failing to acknowledge the wealth of research proving the pivotal role brand-building plays in driving B2B growth.
But now the tide seems to be turning, with some excellent and effective B2B brand work rising to the surface this year.
Take Starling Bank, winner of this year’s Marketing Week Award for B2B. In January, the challenger bank launched its first B2B campaign in two years as consideration among B2B customers lagged at just 13%. A hybrid brand-building and response campaign, which ran across the country, ‘Set Your Business Free’ boosted consideration to 23%, drove a 15% quarterly increase in new B2B accounts, and grew market share from 6.3% to 7.5% – half that of high street giant Barclays.
This year also saw Maersk win its second consecutive B2B Grand Prix award at Cannes Lions for the effectiveness of its marketing strategy. It comes as the business continues to employ innovative and creative brand-building tactics to reinvent itself as a logistics and supply chain management challenger. With three consecutive brand campaigns between 2019 and 2021, the business has transformed 2016’s $1.9bn loss into an “all time high” net profit of $18bn in 2021.
How one B2B brand transformed perceptions of its business by thinking more B2C
Maersk’s head of marketing, Anne with Damgaard told Marketing Week in October: “I think maybe some B2B companies are not aware of the long term, or the brand-building part… We are very much aware that we need to have both.”
There are a number of other examples. The CEO of Sage – which refreshed its brand, launched its first purpose statement and unveiled a new brand campaign this year – credited increased investment in marketing with driving stronger customer acquisition and boosting its recurring revenues over the past 12 months.
Speaking at Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing earlier this year, Sage’s executive vice-president of global brand and integrated marketing, Craig Inglis, said the marketing team is now building the case for more big brand investment. And he isn’t the only one.
Indeed, according to LinkedIn’s global B2B Marketer Sentiment Study in October, more than two-thirds (67%) of the 1,700 senior marketing decision makers surveyed plan to increase or maintain their brand spend over the next six months, citing its ability to drive long-term sales (52%) and to keep a brand top of mind for buyers (42%) as their top reasons for doing so.
Earlier this year, separate LinkedIn data revealed 59% of B2B marketing leaders in the UK agree creative confidence is growing. Calling this a “good sign”, LinkedIn’s senior director and head of marketing solutions UK and Ireland, Tunji Akintokun, said the industry is “already pushing the envelope quite a lot more”.This is the B2B century, and marketers will be the ones to lead it
Of course, the context of next year can’t be forgotten. A recession looms, cost cutting is underway, and marketing budgets are almost always the first to face the chop. But the evidence suggests B2B marketers are increasingly thinking about the long game, and the industry should likely grow in confidence next year – and it must, if B2B businesses are to reach their full growth potential.