B2B firms that make an explicit promise have 48% more chance of increasing brand health

Research from LinkedIn’s B2B Institute and Warc suggests showing a “promise to the customer” could be revolutionary for B2B brands looking to increase their brand marketing spend.

Making a direct “promise to the customer” (PTTC) in a campaign makes it more likely to be successful in driving brand health, market share and long-term sales, according to new research from the LinkedIn B2B Institute and Warc.

The research – produced with help from strategy expert Roger Martin – draws on more than 2,000 award entrants and winning campaigns from the last five years and finds campaigns that make a direct promise to the consumer are 60% more likely to report increased market share than campaigns that don’t. They are also 17% more likely to report increased market penetration.

Perhaps most interestingly, however, is that a campaign with an explicit promise at the heart of it was found to increase brand health metrics by as much as 48% more than a campaign without one.

For Mimi Turner, head of EMEA at the B2B Institute at LinkedIn, this is the crucial aspect of this research that could help B2B marketers, in particular, sell the importance of brand to senior leaders. “B2B as a category is enormously growth-oriented,” she says. “B2B businesses spend a lot of money on marketing and advertising and they’re typically very comfortable spending it at the bottom of the funnel where you get measurable results. It’s much more of a struggle to have the debate at the top of the funnel about what value this creates.”

LinkedIn B2B Institute: Advertising should be ‘memorable not clickable’There are three distinct promises brands can make to a consumer, according to Turner: better value and quality, being easier-to-use or able to say “this product will make you feel something different”. This boils down to whether it’s valuable, deliverable and memorable.

LinkedIn and Warc assessed each of the campaigns and discovered only 40% made a promise to the customer. “That was really incredible,” says Turner. “60% of campaigns are not making a really tight, explicit promise to the customer about the value they will create for that customer.”

Aldi’s ‘From Shame to Pride’ campaign (promise: Aldi is a supermarket you can feel proud to shop) and Starling Bank’s ‘Helping Business Fly’ (promise: Starling has tools to help your small business grow) were both highlighted as campaigns that show impressive signs of growth.

In Aldi’s case, the research finds the ad had a 64% penetration and helped Aldi to fifth place in market share, whereas Starling saw its awareness score increase from 57% to 70%. The B2B institute also claims these results are replicated irrespective of budget, duration or number of channels used.

We felt that brand is a really hard sell in B2B. But a promise to the customer is something that everybody is on the hook for.

Mimi Turner, LinkedIn B2B Institute

A key element of the research for Turner was its lack of ambiguity when it came to campaigns meeting her definition of a promise to the customer.

“I wanted something explicit in the campaign objective or something explicit in the campaign presentation,” she says, pointing out that a lot of successful campaigns were excluded having not made a promise to the customers.

Another key component of the research is how it can help marketers when addressing the C-suite.

Turner believes a ‘promise’ to the customer removes words like ‘brand’ and ‘purpose’ that have become murky and ill-defined, and is therefore something that will appeal to senior stakeholders because of its simplicity.

She claims conversations about brand marketing have become harder with rampant inflation, especially in the B2B space, and despite B2B marketers wanting to do more brand work, they don’t always know how to articulate the concept of future cash flow and value to a board focused on short-term results.

This is the B2B century, and marketers will be the ones to lead itMarketing Week’s Language of Effectiveness research highlights marketers are feeling the pressure to lean into performance marketing given the current economic climate. Nearly half (45.2%) of the surveyed marketers say increased pressure from senior leadership has made them focus on performance over brand.

A promise to the customer could change that, says Turner. “It is something that everybody can understand – even my nana,” she says, pointing out you don’t need to have studied Ehrenberg-Bass, Rory Sutherland and the Mini MBA with Mark Ritson to get a handle on it.

“We felt that brand is a really hard sell in B2B. But a promise to the customer is something that everybody is on the hook for. It represents zero net new marketing thinking: we are not inventing a new model, we are not de-positioning anything that anybody else has done. Marketers don’t need more models.”


Promise to the customer is a particularly exciting opportunity for smaller brands with a smaller marketing spend, Turner suggests. She points to how the findings of the report show the effectiveness of a PTTC campaign was irrespective of how much money was spent on it.

“When we looked at the lowest scores of creative commitment, separated out the ones that made a promise to the customer and the ones that didn’t, we saw you were 84% more likely to increase market share if your campaign has a promise to the customer at the heart of it when you have a low budget, low channels, low number of channels and low duration,” she says.

B2B brands shouldn’t fear rejection, but being unknownTurner compares this to the American baseball film Moneyball, where a real-life smaller team found great success competing against wealthier clubs by using strategic analytic methods. She believes a PTTC has the opportunity to achieve a similar thing for SME marketers, particularly during troubled economic times.

“We should all learn some austerity marketing 101,” she says. “You might as well make a promise to the customer at the heart of your campaign because compared to all the other people who are doing the same amount of stuff as you and with the same amount of money; people who made a promise had a much more significant frequency of positive brand health and positive market share.”

And for Roger Martin, who has put his name to no shortage of impressive marketing theories over his career, this research is the most exciting of all he says. “It is no exaggeration to say that in the four decades I have been working on strategy and branding, this promise to the customer finding is the single most exciting discovery with which I have been involved,” he concludes.



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