The purpose of festive B2B marketing

The holiday season is all about acts of generosity, the perfect time to explore more purposeful brand and business building

B2B Marketing goes into overdrive in the run up to the holidays, but mainly because the festive season gets in the way of next year’s campaigns. B2B marketers will recognize the rush to get ready for next year and the pause when everybody looks at each other and says, “What are we doing for our holiday marketing initiative?”

The answer usually comes back as a question, “What did we do last year?”

Unlike their consumer cousins, B2B marketers don’t really know what to do with the holidays, apart from bust a gut before it so they can enjoy it with their families without the return to work being too frantic. Through the eyes of one of our clients, Trelleborg Marine & Infrastructure, the reason is obvious: nobody thinks of gifting their loved ones IOT ready, industrial grade port infrastructure on the most joyful of cold and frosty mornings. People don’t queue outside Airbus to pick up commercial airliner bargains on Boxing Day. PWC doesn’t do New Year specials on consultancy. But are they missing a trick? No. B2B buyers don’t work like festive shoppers, to whom the global economy is grateful.

So, what is the opportunity that the holidays gifts B2B brands beyond sending Season’s Greetings? I think the answer lies in purpose marketing.

Purpose is looming large on many a business agenda. The Business Roundtable, comprising many of the world’s most powerful chief executives, just agreed to redefine company purpose in a way that no longer puts shareholder needs first but the needs of everybody. They spoke of ‘conscious capitalism’ in a world that needs businesses to contribute to a positive future for all.

Only the most cynical of us would think the sentiment humbug, but the skeptical will be asking if the sentiment will translate to meaningful positive impact. The source of this skepticism isn’t just a jaded view of corporations, it stems from the question of how will purpose translate to profit? This is the question keeping conscious capitalists up when all is quiet about the house. The current global business ecosystem is inescapably based on a cycle of extraction, conversion and consumption wherever you happen to fit in.

The LED lightbulbs and compost bins are most welcome, but unless you live and work naked in a tree trading moss with your neighboring tree moss farm, you’re part of the purpose conundrum.

Everyone feeling festive? Well let’s be generous with ourselves: rapid radical change results in ruin as my old Nan used to say. The journey to sustainable purpose must be a carefully considered one if it isn’t to undermine what a business has built. But we can act meaningfully now through marketing. The concept of business value is changing as attitudes to company purpose change. Companies’ must deliver emotional value as well as commercial value.

Which is why at Stein IAS we’re talking about delivering Ideas with value that deliver commercial and emotional satisfaction to stakeholders. Anyone who is tuned in to purpose marketing initiatives will be acutely aware that some add value, but others are seen-through as hollow marketing ploys. The reason for this is while some are authentic and fit with the company mission, others are random attempts to jump on a cause bandwagon that get called out big time on social media. It’s no wonder B2B brands are nervous about diving in.

But the holiday season is all about acts of generosity, so it’s the perfect time to explore more purposeful brand and business building. Do something that involves your people in a rewarding, charitable initiative that forms the basis of your content. Purpose is for your people as much as your customers. People-powered purpose marketing initiatives have instant authenticity and build loyalty. Last year, Stein IAS produced a children’s book and digital experience in association with homeless charity WIN. We brainstormed the initiative, crafted the story called ‘Somewhere To Believe In’ about a girl in need of a home at Christmas, lovingly illustrated every page, worked hard to sell the book to raise money for WIN, and bought and gave copies to children’s hospitals. We loved every minute of it and made good money for a charity. The initiative involved everyone; everyone felt good about it; and we are winning marketing awards for purpose driven initiatives which benefit the charity brand and our own. A valuable idea to the business in the true spirit of the holidays.

‘Tis the season to deliver purposeful ideas with value, just what your brand always wanted.

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