The must-have Spring trends for B2B marketers

Our guide to the ideas, technologies and tactics setting the B2B agenda

May 10, 2019

The must-have Spring trends for B2B marketers

What’s Hot and what’s Not? It’s the question any fashion-conscious B2B marketer asks themselves as spring heads into summer. And it’s the question that we answer in each edition of The Sophisticated Marketer Quarterly magazine.

Fresh from our latest issue, here are the must-have new content formats, marketing technologies and lifestyle choices setting the B2B agenda: the questions influential marketers are asking, the campaigns they admire, the cocktails they’re drinking and the buzzwords they’re dropping into conversation. Just as importantly, here too are the gadgets they’re leaving at home, the fashion choices they’re regretting and the strategies they’re probably ready to move on from. We’ve picked out the Hot, the no longer quite so Hot, and the factors raising or lowering the temperature on different trends.

It’s tough balancing on the cutting edge of B2B. We’re here to help.

The Hot List:

Audio Books
Relaxing, convenient, something to look forward to on the commute home – and perfectly adapted to a potential voice-first content world.

Whether you call it flexitarianism or casual vegetarianism, and whether you’re making choices on health grounds or environmental ones, a more thoughtful and creative approach to protein is firmly on-trend.

Employer branding
According to PwC, 77% of CEOs say that the ability to source skills is the most significant threat to their business. That makes employer branding one of the most significant new applications of marketing skills.

Neuroscientists are increasingly aware of the link between physical fitness and flexible, creative thinking. If your exercise comes with a healthy dose of fun and nostalgia mixed in then all the better.

Content brands
It’s front-of-mind for us at LinkedIn as we’re celebrating the fifth anniversary of the award-winning Sophisticated Marketer content programme. B2B marketing pioneers like Doug Kessler have been arguing for the value of investing in credible, recognisable content brands for years. As competition for attention in social media feeds intensifies, their value is greater than ever.

Negroni cocktails
One part gin, one part vermouth, one part Campari, with an orange slice and an old-fashioned glass. There’s something about bright colours and aperitifs at the moment – and that’s made this century-old drink a sudden must-sip.

Our LinkedIn Content Intelligence report confirmed the Colin Kaepernick campaign as the hottest ad of the year among senior marketers. It was bold, emotive, superbly executed and demonstrated the enduring value of knowing your audience and taking risks to align your brand with it.

The elderberry detox
A powerful source of Vitamin C and antioxidants, this is the ancient method of the moment for spring cleaning your system. Just make sure you’re preparing it properly – and not eating the poisonous raw berries or bark.

Audio branding
Arguably the most creative and forward-thinking ad of this year’s Super Bowl, Michelob Ultra’s spot featuring Zoe Kravitz and a microphone in the rainforest could persuade more marketers to pay attention to how their brand sounds.

Cryptocurrency applications
Senior marketers are desperate for insight into cryptocurrencies and the Blockchain technology behind them: who’s using them? How do their own business models need to adapt? And what are the real marketing benefits on offer?

Soft skills
LinkedIn data shows that Creativity, Persuasion and Adaptability are among the five most sought-after soft skills this year – and they happen to be the skills that sales and marketing run on.

Flexible working
LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report shows that it’s increasingly essential for attracting sought-after digital skills, and building the diverse workforces that creative thinking requires.

To the delight of Geography teachers everywhere – it’s back!

Sales enablement strategies
As businesses focus more attention on the practicalities of sales and marketing alignment, it’s becoming clear where the biggest opportunities are. Increasing marketing support at the bottom of the funnel is one of them.

Pets at Work
We loved Purina’s LinkedIn Marketing Award-nominated campaign to persuade more businesses to open their doors to dogs. Maybe it’s not for every office – but innovative thinking about boosting morale and productivity is never a bad thing.

The Not List:

Panel discussions
It’s no longer enough to assemble a line-up of marketers, give them a topic and sit back. Group discussions at conferences can still generate compelling thought-leadership – but it often requires a bit more creative thinking. We loved the Jimmy Carr hosted gameshow on Quality media environments at Advertising Week Europe – and Microsoft’s quick-fire buzzer rounds taking on the issue of creativity and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Overly ‘creative’ spectacles
Using eyewear to signal you’re a free-thinking intellectual can be a little lazy. Time to let your ideas do the talking.

Siloed learning
Continuous learning is the key to navigating an age of digital disruption. Flexible, online courses make it possible to build learning organisations that are hugely attractive to talented people looking to develop their skills. However, this won’t happen if you restrict training to senior roles or specific functions. More and more organisations are freeing employees to explore their own potential.

Data-free personas
Developed from brainstorms and a bit of desk research, they lack credibility – and they are therefore rarely used. It’s time to get serious about building personas that you can build marketing strategies around.

We went off them the minute we saw would-be FYRE festival creator Billy McFarland scooting around the office on one in the Netflix documentary. Should you trust someone who’s not willing to walk down a corridor?

Luxury team-building experiences
From backstage passes to concerts to luxury weekends on country estates to dining suspended from a crane, there’s an experiential arms race going on when it comes to team-building events. The irony is, all that expense can often get in the way. Shared moments are often more memorable when they’re simpler.

Open plan offices
recent Harvard study warns they can reduce collaboration rather than increase it. Alternatives aren’t always easy to come by – but an imaginative approach to creating a mix of semi-private and shared spaces is a good start.

Mulled cider
It’s inevitable – warm, spiced beverages have to go the way of the winter months.

Outdated statistics
They’re probably the biggest risk to thought-leadership strategies. Research from LinkedIn and Edelman shows that B2B buyers demand higher standards from data.

Dangerous, counter-productive, irresponsible – and a lot less fun than actually living healthily.

Skiing injuries
Once upon a time it was glamorous to hobble into the offices with one of these. These days it’s all pain for little gain in the style stakes.

Dictatorial best practice
It’s great as a starting point for planning marketing activity – but apply it too rigidly and you’ll be ruling out experimentation and data-led thinking.

Secret pay packages
Transparency on pay is another key trend in the LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report – and for businesses looking to improve gender balance, it can send a very important signal.