Insight July 11, 2017

B2B and B2C Marketing Success – Summed Up in One Word


By Anna Condon, Junior Copywriter

Whether you’re selling shoes, managing financial portfolios, or renting chickens (yes, that’s a real thing), your marketing won’t succeed without one key factor:


It’s a simple advertising principle that should be the foundation of every project. But with so many bounce rates, social shares, influencers, purchase paths, sales funnels, and every other marketing buzzword you can think of – empathy is one of the first things that falls by the wayside.

It’s not about you.

You’re close to your company. You want the business to succeed. You want people to like your service. You want to be ranked high on Google. Just by nature of running the business (or managing the marketing of the business), it’s hard to look past the blinders of your core values, your business goals, and your desired perceptions.

But in the end, marketing isn’t about you. It’s about what you can do for your customers. And if you can’t understand what their values, goals, and perceptions are, your marketing is going to suffer.

Think about your life. Do you choose friends who only talk about themselves? Who aren’t there for you in a crisis? No! That’s not how we operate as people. We look for relationships that enrich our lives. For people who take an interest in our interests, who truly want the best for us. And it’s the same with brands.

No one wants to hang out with the guy who can only talk about how much money he makes and how he hiked that one mountain or how amazing he is. So, don’t be the business version of that guy.

Understanding people trumps understanding media.

Technology is constantly changing. It takes a lot of work to become a social media guru, or understand how to utilize virtual reality, or design an award-winning website. But even if you’ve put in that work, your audience still comes first.

On a basic level, that means not investing time into media that your audience doesn’t use. If they’re not spending time on YouTube, it doesn’t matter how awesome your video content is. If they’re not tech-savvy, your mobile app probably isn’t going to gain much ground.

target audience

But at a deeper level, it means understanding your audience no matter the medium. Before your customer is a Facebook user, they’re a parent, a sibling, an artist. Finding ways to relate to those aspects of your audience is going to help them connect with your brand. Relating to them using clever media is just icing on the cake.

Take BBDO’s much-discussed “Evan” spot for example. This PSA, made for Sandy Hook Promise, got a lot of attention for the twist at the end – throughout the video, viewers think that they’re watching a sweet story of a teenage meet-cute. In a dramatic twist, it’s clear that the viewer missed signs of another student planning a school shooting in the background.

But while everyone has discussed the nature of the twist, that clever storytelling aspect isn’t what’s really compelling about the video. It’s this moment:

Sandy Hook Promise has a powerful message – and they understand that talking about a school shooting is different from experiencing one. It’s not the twist that gives you a deep, ice-cold feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s not the wrap-up, which focuses on the shooter in the background, that really connect with you. It’s that nice, normal moment that’s jarred by something that evokes real emotion.

So yes, while this is an effective spot that makes great use of visual storytelling, it’s really driven by its powerful understanding of what will have the largest impact on the viewer.

What does empathy mean for B2B marketers? 

It’s easy to highlight a PSA, or even a consumer-focused brand, and say, “Yes. That needs empathy because it’s talking to people on a personal level.”

But empathy matters just as much for B2B. The trouble with the “business to business” title is that it makes communications seem like some bland interaction between faceless entities: My service is great and you are a business who needs great service so pick me. The thing that marketers tend to forget about B2B is that they’re not actually marketing to a business. They’re marketing to a person who happens to work at a business.

So those same needs matter. A business might need a supplier who delivers on time. But a person wants to impress their boss. To get a promotion. To make sure they can deliver to customers, make them happy, and earn their trust.

Your message may not change much – but grounding it in empathy can make a huge difference:

We deliver prompt, professional service to make sure your business can succeed.


We know your customers rely on your service. That’s why we made our service quick, professional, and reliable – so you’re always left looking great.

Which brand would you want to engage with?

Juniper Networks, a data center security company, recently launched a campaign that does a great job of taking a boring service, wrapping it in the interests and needs of their audience, and delivering a polished package that utilizes cool technology.

Knowing their tech-savvy audience, Juniper created a sci-fi game that helps educate customers on the benefits of their service.

The game itself is great, but the strategy behind it is better. They’re not marketing to IT workers. They’re marketing to people who work in IT. People who are interested in new technology, who use their phones, who like science fiction. And the result is an incredibly memorable campaign.

Don’t forget the basics. 

Empathy is Advertising 101. But in an increasingly distracted world, it’s good to take a breath, take stock of your marketing strategy, and make sure that the people you’re marketing to are still your core focus.

Create, design, market, communicate – and do it in memorable ways. But before you do, remember who you’re doing it for and put in the work to understand them.