5 Great B2B Marketing Campaigns from the Last 5 Years

B2B marketing doesn’t have to be boring. Let these great campaigns from 2007 to today inspire your efforts.

April 28, 2017

Here’s a sentence that wouldn’t have made sense a decade ago: “I’m excited to be a B2B marketer.” You might have found some outliers in 2007 who were genuinely chuffed to be in the industry, but an emotional word like “excited?”

“I’m satisfied with the work I do” or “My job is meaningful and makes a difference” would have been the proper, professional way to express the sentiment.

As B2B marketing evolves, though, we have learned it’s okay to be excited to be doing what we do. Not only that, we can let that enthusiasm combine with creativity and humour to create compelling experiences for our audience. B2B doesn’t have to mean “Basically, 2 Boring.”

Let these great B2B marketing campaigns from the recent past inspire you to memorable, exciting B2B marketing in the future.

1. GE, “Brilliant Machines Rock”
GE created their Brilliant Machines campaign to address a daunting challenge: How do you get people to care about the heavy machinery that makes modern life possible, but is invisible on the consumer level? Faced with promoting products that most of us take for granted, GE grabbed attention with some good old-fashioned rock and roll spectacle.

They hosted a concert in Times Square featuring Compressorhead, an all-robot heavy metal band (complete with four-armed drummer) The brand provided free phone charging stations and Wi-Fi to encourage people to stay and watch the show. 

While most of us likely don’t have the budget for a fog machine and stage setup, we can still look to providing extraordinary experiences. If your solution is hard to visualise – like cloud-based software, or data infrastructure – look for creative ways to make it more concrete.

2. Sungard, “Zombie Survival Kit”
Sungard Availability Solutions sells enterprise-level disaster recovery solutions. They have plenty of data that demonstrates the need for, and efficacy of, their offering. In order to truly differentiate themselves to enterprise decision makers, however, they decided to do a little creative storytelling.

The company developed an eBook about recovering from an unlikely disaster: zombie apocalypse. The campaign included suitably gory infographics, social media posts, and even a sweepstakes to win a physical Zombie Survival Kit. 

Sungard’s foray into the zombie craze made their company memorable to their c-suite target audience. In addition to downloads of the eBook and views of its satellite assets, the campaign resulted in higher click-to-open rates for subsequent email campaigns.

This campaign’s success highlights how even the most senior decision makers aren’t averse to having a little fun. You can bring creativity and humour into the mix without alienating your audience. Odds are they’ll be grateful for the diversion, as long as your content brings value, too.

3. Caterpillar, “Profoundly Disconnected”
If you were to pick the ideal spokesperson for heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar, your thoughts might not leap to “former reality TV star.” The company saw the potential in partnering with a celebrity influencer, however.

In 2013, Caterpillar launched the “Profoundly Disconnected” initiative with Mike Rowe, former host of “Dirty Jobs” and advocate for skilled labour in the United States. There is a ‘skills gap’ in the U.S., with many graduating from uni unable to find work, while skilled labour jobs go unfilled.

Caterpillar was able to increase visibility for their brand and recruit for their workforce. The partnership was successful because Rowe’s passion for skilled labour dovetailed nicely with Caterpillar’s position as a creator of skilled labour jobs, and Rowe’s audience found the messaging extremely relevant.

This example shows that influencer marketing, even with a celebrity influencer, can work in B2B. The key is to make sure the influencer shares goals and values that are relevant to the audience you want to address.

4. Philips, “100 Days of Life-Changing Innovations”
The Telegraph partnered with Philips in 2014 for a massive experiment in branded content. Philips sponsored stories in the print version of the Telegraph and online, a new story each day for 100 days. Each piece highlighted the ways that Philips products – healthcare, lighting, and consumer appliances – made a difference in people’s lives.

Most importantly, these stories weren’t written to push product. They’re personal stories from celebrities, journalists, athletes, and specialists. Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle, futurologist Peter Cochrane, and explorer David de Rothschild all provided first-person accounts of how Philips made a difference in their lives.

There are a host of lessons for B2B marketers in this example: First, Philips invested in a traditional publishing outlet to co-sponsor the series, bringing their branded content to offline readers as well. Second, they used first-person stories from influencers to demonstrate their brand’s value. Third, they made a bold claim and backed it up with their testimonial evidence. How many of us would have the temerity to say our solution changes lives, then devote 100 days to proving it?

5. IBM, “Singapore 60/60 Exhibit”
B2B companies often want to position themselves as forward-looking and state-of-the-art, as opposed to stodgy or stuck in the past. This is especially true in the technology sector, where startup culture reigns supreme. Long-established companies tend to downplay their heritage in favour of looking to the future.

By contrast, IBM celebrated its 60th anniversary in Singapore by celebrating its legacy, while simultaneously showcasing its potential. The 60/60 Exhibit was an interactive digital time machine, in which browsers could explore IBM’s history in Singapore and the company’s vision for the future.

The end result shows IBM as a company of the past, present, and future, looking ahead while underscoring its commitment to development in Singapore.

This campaign was a creative leap forward for IBM, with a beautifully-designed site highlighting the past and taking a look at how science fiction might become fact in the years to come. It proves that B2B marketers can own their brand’s legacy in a creative, forward-looking fashion.

B2B marketers, rejoice: B2B has gotten a lot cooler in the past five years. As more companies realise the potential of creative, exciting, experiential B2B marketing, look for even more compelling examples in the years to come. Or better yet, create the next evolution in B2B marketing for your brand.