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B2B marketing: It’s time to talk to people, not companies

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Over the past decade, the emergence of the digital age has meant that technology has invaded all aspects of our lives — and marketing is no exception. Big data, artificial intelligence, and rapid innovation mean that change is constant, and yet at the same time, we are also experiencing a back-to-basics approach in human-centric thinking.

B2B products and services have a reputation for being boring and hard to understand, and traditional marketing efforts haven’t done much to change this. Now, marketers are starting to explore the ways in which they can make their efforts more personal, engaging, and creative. This approach has been embraced by many when targeting consumers. It’s time to apply this thinking in the business-to-business (B2B) industry.

It’s largely down to the rise of B2B tech companies often founded by young talent and staffed with millennials that are fun and hip, such as Slack and MailChimp. These emerging brands are more willing to question traditional tactics used in the B2B industry and are willing to inject some creativity, fun, and personalisation.

So what are the likes of Slack and others doing that you should be thinking about for your B2B marketing campaigns?

Rethink the traditional B2B brand

Historically B2B marketing efforts are seen as dry, feature-focused, and difficult to digest. There is an attitude that B2B campaigns need to be corporate in tone and stick to the product or service. But we now live in an age where our B2C marketing efforts are personalised and engaging For many, this has changed what we expect from brands trying to communicate with us — and that includes the B2B industry.

As millennials infiltrate the workforce, this expectation is going to increase. As such, companies need to inject some personality and boldness into their brands. This undertaking doesn’t have to be overly risky, but it has to help the company stand out and grab attention.

Take We Workas an example. On the surface, the company is essentially office and working space. But everything from the service, to the interiors, to the brand mission breathes personality in a subtle, hip manner. We Work is just one of the many B2B brands who will harness this approach over the next few years, and as a result, our expectations from B2B marketing will continue to shift.

Dream up content for humans

With 94% of B2B buyers conducting research online before making a purchase, education trumps promotion in the business world. The issue is that many B2B brands are stuck in their ways of creating bland or highly technical content because they have forgotten who they are talking to: a person, not a company. And people want engaging content, not something that switches them off instantly.

Creative storytelling is one effective way to generate content that people will respond to. Move away from the blog and look at more dynamic approaches, such as quizzes, videos, and webinars. Use numbers by all means to illustrate a need or problem, but make sure the numbers are presented in a digestible way.

This approach is not limited to startups, but one that established brands such as Deloitte are embracing by demonstrating the power of storytelling and ensuring it speaks to its audience. It uses its wealth of knowledge to act as a resource in an array of formats, from videos to podcasts, and is now a go-to area for professionals seeking data and insight in a friendly way.

Corporate gifting should just be gifting

We have all had the free pen, the calendar, the USB — useful perhaps, but what about an effective marketing tool? Perhaps less so. The traditional approach to corporate gifting has focused on products that will aid working life. But what about something for the personal life?

Think of gifts that speak to people and their personal preferences, such as branded cupcakes or water bottles for the gym. Or if you have more of a budget, look at sending some wine, an iPad, a spa voucher, national trust membership, or theatre tickets to your client with a handwritten note to show a more personal side. The cost and effort may exceed sending those pens, but the individual will remember you and it gives them a reason to pick up the phone and contact you.

So in summary, when approaching B2B marketing, look at B2C campaigns and tactic. Don’t feel as though they are limited to you as a consumer but think how you can translate that idea to B2B campaigns. Add some thought, fun and engaging storytelling, as well a personal touch, and it will be on the way to creating more effective B2B campaigns.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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Who should take advantage of IGTV first?

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YouTube has had a near monopoly on the long-form video space — until recently. Instagram’s IGTV is here and it looks like it could be a formidable competitor. IGTV is the popular social media platform’s very own vertical video app, which is designed to allow brands, influencers, and creators to post longer segments; allowing for videos up to one hour in length, compared to the previous length of only one minute.

IGTV will almost certainly develop as a bona fide YouTube competitor, at a time when YouTube may be in its most vulnerable state. Here are the most likely reasons why:

IGTV could be a brand safety oasis

YouTube is especially sensitive to IGTV at the moment due to brand safety concerns. For the past year, YouTube’s biggest challenge has been assuring advertisers that their buys will be safe. At one point, 250 brands stopped advertising on the platform altogether. And, while almost all brands have returned, and YouTube has invested heavily in being a better partner, half of advertisers say YouTube has done a poor job with brand safety and managing inventory quality.

For IGTV, this is a gift. Though it has been careful not to say so explicitly, Instagram will likely be positioning IGTV as a more curated and brand-safe environment than YouTube. Brands want an alternative in light of safety concerns, so they’re looking at options from Snapchat and other premium publishers. We see this in our own spend data, with YouTube ad growth almost completely flat; increasing by just 0.2% from January to May.

So, what can brands do in the interim, whose main concern is brand safety? The instinct is to be cautious. But that may not be the right answer. Instead brands should be clear and firm with expectations. Brands first to market will be able to push Instagram to be brand safe – to demand it – and IGTV has the opportunity to challenge Google Preferred by providing brands with a transparent, brand-safe solution to YouTube’s shortcomings. However, the platform has to prove it by example first.

YouTube has made significant strides in showing advertisers that they are taking brand safety concerns seriously (e.g. the implementation of whitelist and blacklist technologies, partnering with DoubleVerify). IGTV has to be brand-safe out of the gate — or at the very least, safer than its competitor — to draw those advertisers away from YouTube.

Advertisers will like IGTV for performance

Beyond brand safety, IGTV could beat YouTube on performance. Over the past two years, the demand for performance by digital media has exploded. Last year, brand frustrations culminated when P&G and Unilever, two of the world’s biggest advertisers, dramatically cut ad spend due to concerns around transparency and ROI. Ad budgets are being scrutinized more than ever and a growing number of operations are being taken in-house.

This ties back to IGTV and YouTube in a few ways. First, according to ANA data, influencer marketing has surged. Seventy-five percent of brands are spending on influencers and nearly half will increase spending in the next year. Why? Sixty percent say they’re happy with the performance they’ve seen, with Instagram being the second-most popular channel for influencer programs, just behind Facebook.

Instagram has established itself more strongly as a performance channel than YouTube and it offers an unmatched ability to drive purchases. That’s an advertiser’s dream, of course. A recent study, reported by RetailDive, and conducted by Dana Rebecca Designs, revealed that 72% of users have made a purchase decision as a direct result of something they saw on Instagram. YouTube, by contrast, has helped with purchase decisions already planned. If Instagram can deliver similar performance through IGTV, advertisers will come calling.

Retail brands, specifically those that are significantly reliant on online shopping, should realign their budgets to make IGTV a priority, as IGTV will be a great resource for driving the right type of customers toward a purchase.

Instagram is growing, while YouTube is not

Unfortunately for YouTube, brand safety isn’t the only major challenge it has grappled with recently. In addition to ad growth, viewership numbers have begun to slow down. A few months ago, major channels and influencers on YouTube saw their monthly views stall. An analysis by eMarketer echoed this pattern, noting that YouTube’s audience growth was 13% in 2016 but only 9% in 2017. According to the report, “YouTube viewership is nearing saturation in many markets.” Those numbers are likely to continue to erode.

IGTV, by contrast, is only just getting started. Its growth prospects are bright. Instagram’s user base is growing by 5% each quarter. The company recently announced 1 billion monthly active users. YouTube has more at 1.8 billion, but Instagram hasn’t shown any signs of plateauing. Also, consider that consumer tastes have shifted towards vertical video as mobile viewing has exploded. IGTV is a vertical video-first platform, while YouTube only added vertical video compatibility in January. The viewership trends are in Instagram’s favor, whereas YouTube is playing catch up.

YouTube could wonder about its ability to maintain audience numbers if top stars and influencers desert it. At its core, Instagram is a social network. YouTube, by comparison, is not. Most come to YouTube for personalities like Smosh and Jenna Marbles. But if the personalities go away, so do the viewers.

In recent months, some influencers haveeither left the platform or chosen to diversify their content across challenger services such as Twitch. As YouTube tightens brand safety and copyright controls in an effort to calm advertisers, creators are concerned that the cleanup is leading to “viewer suppression” and demonetization. IGTV has already partnered with popular influencers such as King Bach and LeLe Pons for its launch, and any blowback among YouTube’s community of stars will only help it attract more creators.

Tread cautiously

IGTV’s opportunity to become a brand-safe, performance-driven, vertical video alternative to YouTube isn’t just hype. That being said, brands should remain vigilant during this time, and not act on impulse once IGTV decides to monetize. Some may be tempted to dive right in, due to the influencer-heavy list of content creators on the platform, but IGTV will have to prove it has learned from the woes of its competitor, before it can truly outshine YouTube.

Todd Krizelman is chief executive officer of MediaRadar

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Group Nine centralizes branded content team with launch of an in-house studio

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Group Nine Media is bringing its branded content strategy under one roof with the launch of in-house studio Brandshop.

The digital publisher announced today (11 December) that Brandshop will bring together the creative services teams across its four brands — NowThis, Thrillist, Seeker, and The Dodo — and the branded entertainment piece of its production studio Jash.

Group Nine president Christa Carone said centralizing everything will better inform the outlet's editorial strategy.

"The campaigns, the videos, and all of the programs we're developing are entirely informed on the insights that we're seeing from the audiences that engage with our editorial content. So, when an advertiser asks what young are people interested in, [we have a] robust set of data to be able to answer that question in an informed way," Carone told The Drum.

According to Nielsen, Group Nine reaches over 80% of US adults in their 20s. Group Nine brands earn more than 140 social engagements each month, per Listen First Media.

Yosef Johnson, senior vice president and head of Brandshop, will lead the new studio. He called it a "holistic new shop" across Group Nine's four brands.

Group Nine is the latest media company to push a brand content strategy. Condé Nast recently set up its own agency and brand consultancy in the UK.

Carone said Group Nine is seeing "very healthy, double-digit growth" in the area, and that as a social-first publisher it has a unique position in offering branded content.

"We lean very heavily into the social platform. It's one of the reasons we know advertisers want to work with us, because we are known in the marketplace as being one of the most robust social-first publishers, so our learnings from that are helping advertisers better understand how they can engage with younger audiences on social," Carone said.

Digital media currently stands on some shaky grounds as it competes for advertising dollars with giants such as Facebook and Google. BuzzFeed's chief executive suggested a merger among media companies could help publishers better compete.

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Marketing Day: Facebook’s ad tests, Alexa’s email feature, Hulu’s OTT ad marketplace

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Here’s our recap of what happened in online marketing today, as reported on Marketing Land and other places across the web.

From Marketing Land:

Recent Headlines From MarTech Today, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Marketing Technology:

Online Marketing News From Around The Web:

The post Marketing Day: Facebook’s ad tests, Alexa’s email feature, Hulu’s OTT ad marketplace appeared first on Marketing Land.

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