Matt Hillman, Creative Director
Google the term “fails” and you net more than 350 million results—everything from proposals gone wrong to typos on billboards. Narrow it to “brand fails” and that number drops to just under 90 million. Expand the search to “b2b brand fails” and it falls to 325,000.
So what is it that’s protecting B2B brands from the foray? How is it that not even 4% of the brand fails are categorized as B2B?
One answer might be market size, the sheer volume of business in B2C vs. B2B makes for more opportunities to fail, but that’s not the case. If anything, B2B dwarfs B2C. In fact, by 2020, Forrester research projects the US B2B eCommerce market alone to be worth $1 trillion—twice the size of the US business-to-consumer (B2C) eCommerce market. Every year, B2B companies spend billions of dollars marketing their products & services with print and digital ads, trade shows, websites, collateral, and more; so there’s plenty of opportunity.
Then what is it? Why don’t we see the catastrophic failures in B2B marketing that we see in B2C? I suspect it’s a number of things—publicity, saturation of visible media, how easily broad B2C audiences can take offense to things—but most importantly, it comes down to the very intimate conversation in B2B between a specialized brand and a specialized audience.
There’s a unique level of understanding between B2B brands and their audiences, regardless if they’re selling building products or engagement surveys or auditing software or anything else. Where B2C requires an exploration of demo- and psychographics to find cues for connecting with various consumers (e.g., “White and Hispanic, suburban, college-educated women, 24–40, with multiple children, seeking time-saving solutions to maximize family time”), in B2B, we focus on clearer audience sets (e.g., “manufacturing company CFOs and COOs looking for greater shipping efficiency”).
Over time, that understanding means a greater ability to forecast how messages will be received, what matters most to those you’re talking to, and how to speak to them on their own terms.
Add to that the direct feedback between purveyors of B2B products & services and those who purchase them—or at the very least influence that decision—and you build a familiarity that simply doesn’t exist in most B2C marketing. As a result, B2B marketers can be less prone to putting their foot in their collective mouth.
But let’s face it: seeing the fails happen to someone else’s brand can be oddly satisfying—whether B2B or B2C. We take a deeper look as to why that happens in our latest whitepaper, “The Appeal of Brand Fails (and Six Ways B2B Brand Can Avoid Being One.” Get it for free right now.
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