Why B2B marketers are advertising more like consumer brands to break through a crowded marketplace


If you think you’re seeing more ads for productivity apps or technology brands while binge watching your favorite shows, you are. At least that’s the case according to agency execs, who say B2B marketers are more willing to take a page out of B2C marketers’ playbook over the last year, showing up in consumer-facing spaces like TikTok and streaming ads with emotive and sometimes humorous spots.

Today’s marketing landscape is more fragmented than ever. Like consumer brands, business brands are looking to stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace.

“All of those things, the best B2C brands were doing, but it hadn’t really hit B2B yet. There was a sense that B2B just worked different,” said Jared Gruner, head of strategy at Ogilvy California, later adding, “I’m B2B, but I’m not just competing with other enterprise software brands. I’m competing with your vacation, I’m competing with politics, I’m competing with your friends.”

The line between business marketing and consumer marketing is beginning to blur. In response, agency execs say they’re encouraging B2B marketers to rewrite the playbook to include a more robust media mix and beef up the brand ethos or narrative with storytelling, by spending more on brand awareness efforts on TikTok or in streaming ads.

For example, Workday, a work-related, enterprise software company, rolled out a global campaign with humorous television commercials featuring Gwen Stefani, Travis Barker and Billy Idol during The Masters last week. The momentum builds after Workday’s 2023 Super Bowl spot last year. Last month, Digiday reported more B2B marketers were investing in influencer marketing. Meanwhile, productivity app Notion has been at it since 2022, when it released a global out-of-home campaign.

B2B marketers are also more willing to be flexible in their messaging, moving away from corporate speak and product pushing to emotional messaging, according to Leslie Lee, svp of marketing at Vistar Media, an out-of-home media company. She added that there’s been an uptick in recent years of how much B2B marketers are willing to shell out for programmatic out-of-home advertising to better meet decision makers wherever they are. (She did not disclose specific spend figures.)

Billion Dollar Boy influencer marketing agency co-founder and global CEO Ed East, said the agency is seeing more B2B influencer marketing inquiries. “What we’ve been trying to do is develop creative approaches where you can integrate B2B messaging into B2C content creators videos,” he said. “The content has been so corporate in the past now [B2B marketers are] trying to think about ways to cut through.”

It’s a similar narrative for Greg Tedesco, evp of Zeno Digital Experience (ZDX), who is coaching B2B clients to leverage mainstream consumer-facing channels like TikTok and streaming ads to target decision makers on and off the clock.

“Honestly, a lot of what we’re doing is appealing to these folks as people and not just their title on LinkedIn,” he said. “These different channels can be channels for reach and awareness and conversions even, and I think we’re going to see it continue.”

Leveraging B2C tactics isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon for B2B marketers, but the category has a longer lead cycle so finding ways to ensure brand relevance beyond the traditional sales pitch is increasingly more important.

“Those brands intuitively knew they had, if not the permission than the requirement, to do stuff that their audience was going to pay attention to,” said Gruner. “Those are universal principles that all brands should be following. I just think B2B has been slow — felt like they were different, felt like they were unique or special. Now, we know that’s not the case.”


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