How to Create B2B Blockbusters and Humanize Storytelling

Takeaways from the 2016 BrandZ™ B2B Summit

November 10, 2016

BrandZ Summit 2016

“Baseball hasn’t changed in 108 years. Marketing has greatly,” said Dmitri Seredenko, Director & Head of Strategy Practice, Americas at Kantar Vermeer, during the first annual BrandZ™ B2B Summit held in San Francisco on November 3. His nod to the Chicago Cubs’ winning their first World Series in 108 years wasn’t said in jest — instead it emphasized how marketers need to stay current with emerging trends to deliver value.

Celebrating the release of BrandZ™’s ranking of the Top 20 Most Valuable B2B Brands, WPP and Kantar Millward Brown, in partnership with LinkedIn, brought together some digital marketing heavy hitters to offer their take on how to keep winning in the ever-changing field of tech marketing.

In panel-style discussions moderated by LinkedIn Head of Global Agency and Channel Sales Mike Romoff, the branding leaders — including HP’s Global Head of Marketing for Personal Systems Alex Craddock, Intel Vice President of Global B2B Marketing Strategy Alyson Griffin and IBM Watson’s Vice President of Brand Experience and Design, Susana Rodriguez de Temblique — shared some everyday tactics that marketers can leverage to drive ROI. Here are four insightful takeaways:

Marketing adds measurable shareholder value for B2B brands

Marketing in all its forms is vital in developing brands that are perceived as purposeful, responsible, trustworthy and innovative -- the more prominent and powerful the brand created, the more valuable the brand. That’s the argument made by CEO of The Store WPP for EMEA and Asia, David Roth, who asserts that “investing and creating valuable brands increases shareholder return.” Doreen Wang, Global Head of BrandZ™, Kantar Millward Brown, noted that positive qualities like purpose and innovation, when attached to a brand, have the ability to increase growth potential by up to 5X. “Responsibility and trust drive value,” says Wang, and “brands scoring high in purpose grew faster in value.”

As such, Wang suggests “marketing is not a cost, [rather] the most important investment to ensure long-term stable and financial growth.” Both Wang and Roth urged the C-suite to view marketing (and marketers) not as a budget line item, but instead as drivers of organizational growth that deserve significant resource allocation.

Even with growth-driven research on the side of marketing, adding value is still no easy task. Kantar Vermeer’s Serendenko shares that a mere 14 percent of B2B customers find vendor product offerings differentiating enough to offer value worth considering. For B2B marketers, the odds, in this case, seem stacked against them. In an increasingly saturated market, the panelists suggest taking heed of the following to cut through the noise:

Humanize storytelling to better connect with prospects

If well told, great stories (just like great content) keep people’s attention over time. It’s often these stories, not the products behind them, that turn prospects into loyal customers. Audiences respond best to messaging that is emotive and human in nature. This is especially important for B2B marketers in the technology sector, who work to market platforms and services that are sometimes obscure in nature. “Our best stories are those that are told by others —- how others are using our technology. [Those stories] remove the fear and complexity of technology,” says Susan Betts, Consumer Brand Strategy Lead at Microsoft. By demonstrating how technology has helped people, Betts suggests that brands consistently using this practice become more purpose driven, and, as a result, more relatable and successful.

Create B2B blockbusters

Blockbusters are the new way to monetize content. These blockbusters, AKA “big rock” content pieces, have higher success and utilization rates, and also have the ability to be sliced into smaller projects over time. With blockbusters, the same idea can take on many different manifestations within a content calendar. Disney has seen wild success implementing this model with their motion picture slate (think Marvel Studios), and LinkedIn’s Senior Strategist Jon Lombardo thinks that B2B marketers can take advantage of the same tactics, too. According to Lombardo, blockbusters solve some of marketers’ biggest pain points by being more focused, of higher quality, more effective and more sustainable. Blockbuster content, if properly repurposed, can fuel a marketer’s goals for years to come.

Don’t forget about millennial decision makers

The millennials are coming! Well, marketers, it looks like they may be here already. And they’re not going anywhere but up, on the decision making ladder, that is. Currently 46 percent of B2B buyers and influencers are millennials, meaning that in order to succeed, marketers will need to tailor their messaging and content strategies to appeal increasingly to this demographic.

LinkedIn’s own Alex Rynne has been beating the drum on this one for a while. Check out her regular column, Millennial Minute, for more on how to market to and win over this ever-connected generation.

To learn more about who made the cut of BrandZ™’s most valuable B2B brands, view the complete list here. And to stay on track with the latest trends in B2B marketing, subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog.