What makes a B2B marketing campaign great? The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) judges its annual B2B marketing award applicants on challenges, insights, overall idea, and execution. Trade group B2B Marketing judges entries to its awards competition in terms of “understanding of objectives, strategic thinking, creativity, and effectiveness.”
Regardless of the metrics, major marketing awards are judged by panels of marketing professionals. So for our list of great B2B marketing campaigns of 2023, we asked marketing professionals across a variety of industries for the work that most impressed them.
Our basic criteria was simple: Which campaigns made them sit up and take notice? As far as entry eligibility, we took a broad view, following the Oxford definition of a marketing campaign as “an organized course of action to promote or sell a product or service.”
With these criteria in mind, here are five standout campaigns, in no particular order.
1. Shopify: Let’s Make You a Business
E-commerce platform Shopify wants to make everyone an entrepreneur (with a Shopify storefront). Its first branding campaign ran between April and July 2019, spanning 12 geographic markets and virtually every available channel, including TV, online video, social media, billboards, and wallscape ads.
Campaign copy encouraged would-be business owners to take action: “Let’s make your mom’s ‘famous’ recipe actually famous,” read one ad. Iconic art recalled maps, charts, and other how-to staples. The campaign impressed Mason Culligan, founder of Mattress Battle, with its integrated messaging, built-in calls to action, and widespread deployment.
“The campaign was solid in terms of brand awareness and ingenious in establishing authority,” said Culligan. “Shopify was everywhere…. They were showcasing brand dominance through and through.”
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2. StoreKit: Map of the cheapest pint on the London Underground path
StoreKit is a U.K.-based B2B distributor that sells point-of-sale (POS) systems and software to retailers, including drinking establishments. In 2019, a unique StoreKit content effort, spanning multiple blog posts and associated art, caught the attention of Marcus Clarke, founder of Searchant.
Called “Map of London Underground by the Cheapest Pint,” this project entailed StoreKit’s Adam Stead researching drink pricing at 263 pubs closest to each one of the London Underground’s 270 stops. He then used that research to build three maps highlighting the various beer prices on the line. When Stead completed the maps, he wrote and posted several articles explaining them on the StoreKit site.
Clarke says he picked this off-kilter content campaign for its three unique strengths: “First, it’s deceptively simple,” he says. “The idea is instantly understandable, but the data was complicated enough that StoreKit actually made three maps out of it. Second, it’s highly visual. A map has to be one of the most basic interactive elements in human culture. And finally, it’s seemingly familiar. It takes a well-known existing graphic (the tube map of London) and puts a whole new spin on it.”
The project went into depth with original research about a niche industry that’s also one of StoreKit’s target audiences. It’s a prime example of inbound marketing content that generates data for others in the industry to use, rather than repackaging information that’s freely available elsewhere.
StoreKit completes the marketing angle of the project with a gentle call to action at the bottom of each article: “Are you from a pub or a bar?” it says. “Check out our advice on pub and bar till systems to understand the right till software and payment processing for you.”
3. Dropbox: #Life Inside Dropbox
Not all marketing campaigns are designed to boost sales. Dropbox’s “Life Inside Dropbox” social media project reaches out to untapped talent, building a deepening pool of qualified, diverse potential employees. At the same time, it demonstrates the company’s favorable labor practices, helping to court enterprise customers.
The campaign invites existing Dropbox employees to contribute to social media content, including interviews, analysis, video content, and images all tagged with the built-for-virality slogan #LifeInsideDropbox.Highlighting employees showcases Dropbox’s “company culture and diverse talents,” says Leonard Ang, CMO of Creation BC. “Their campaigns stand out because they have striking visuals, utilizing photo collages and videos.”
The social media campaign also inspires “tons of user-generated content,” Ang says, driving visibility through shared media as well as owned media.
4. Deluxe: Small Business Revolution
In 2016, small business-focused marketing agency Deluxe started streaming a reality TV show called Small Business Revolution — Main Street. The show partnered with the small town of Wabash, Indiana (population 10,112) to offer six of the town’s businesses a share of $500,000 worth of marketing, branding, and business services from the Deluxe team.
That first season garnered more than 1,100 news stories, more than 2.3 billion earned media and social impressions, and more than 1 million views within the first year. In 2019, Deluxe aired season four of the show — now simply titled Small Business Revolution — in which the Deluxe team helped eight small businesses in the town of Searcy, Arkansas.
“They’re never like, ‘Hey, buy this,’ or ‘This is why you should buy this,’” Cummins says. “They’ll just say things like, ‘We brought in Sally to brainstorm with our Deluxe graphic design team, and here’s what they came up with.’ And they have a board of six things, and you think, ‘Those people are creative.’ ”
Without anything approaching a hard sell, Small Business Revolution demonstrates value and a strong assertion of authority wrapped in an entertaining, familiar video package.
5. eFileCabinet: The Rage Cage
In 2019, digital file management provider eFileCabinet used a very physical event to demonstrate the value proposition of its online software service: They asked people to break stuff.
The Rage Cage debuted at the June 2019 Scaling New Heights accounting conference. It consisted of a mobile office in an enclosed area. Attendees were invited to don protective gear, grab a baseball bat, and work out their frustration with paper filing systems by smashing file cabinets, fax machines, and a copier.
The event was built for attention (the noise alone drew visitors) and user-generated social media content (even non-participants paused to photograph the action). With a $1,000 prize for the most-liked Rage Cage video on Facebook, the stunt became an ongoing lead generator well after the conference wrapped up. The Rage Cage even led to an earned media spot in a local newspaper.
“The company had incredible social engagement while collecting contact and remarketing information for their exact target audience post-conference,” said Joseph Wilson, digital marketing specialist at Epic Marketing. “Everyone was a winner. Not just the company or the participant with the most popular video — everyone was excited to work together.”
Getting multiple stakeholders excited to work together? That’s a clear hallmark of great B2B marketing campaigns in 2019 and beyond.
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