5 best B2B marketing campaign ideas of all time

25th July 2019
Author: Chris McKay
Posted in: Creation

Have you ever seen marketing campaign ideas so good they make everything you’ve done in your career as a marketer feel like complete and utter trash?

Great marketing campaigns are hard to come by. In B2B, they’re even rarer. So what are the magic ingredients that make the best stand out? Is it an eye-watering budget? Definitely. But whether you’re flush with cash or scraping coins together, there are core elements from these great campaigns we can adopt for our own.

“The Wolf” – HP Enterprise Solutions

What did they do?

Printers aren’t exactly the sexiest of products….is something you won’t be able to say after you’ve seen this campaign. Who knew one of the most intense web series ever made would be produced by HP? It just goes to show that no matter your product, your marketing campaign should never be boring. HP made this 3-part cinematic web series as a thriller – fast-paced, high stakes, and it often gets compared with the hugely successful TV series Mr. Robot for its focus on cybersecurity. The campaign raises awareness of the security risks businesses are facing, in the context of their insecure digital printers.

The series stars some pretty impressive celebrities – Christian Slater and Jonathan Banks – and is directed by award-winning director Lance Acord. At the time of writing, the video has over 2.3 million views. And that’s just part 1.

Why was it so successful?

The importance of emotion is often forgotten in B2B companies’ marketing campaign ideas. HP cannot be accused of that. The narrative of their web series is emotive and creative, which makes the message all the more powerful.

There’s a feeling of anxiety and insecurity that escalates as the video progresses, which makes the call to action extremely effective. It drives people to HP’s cybersecurity site with a sense of urgency, where they’re shown HP’s portfolio of enterprise products. It really is in a class of its own and more B2B companies should take note of this masterclass in campaigning.

“What is quantum computing?” – IBM

What did they do?

IBM collaborated with Wired magazine to create video content for social media. In the video, IBM’s Dr. Talia Gershon (senior manager of quantum research) is given a mammoth task – explain quantum computing to 5 different people: a child, a teenager, an undergraduate student, a graduate student, and a professional.

Why was it so successful?

The best part about this campaign is that they’re not even selling anything – not directly anyway. This campaign is all about increasing thought leadership and brand awareness. Using an industry expert to lead the discussions firmly establishes IBM as a master innovator in their subject-matter, which makes them even more credible as a company.

The format of the campaign is also extremely effective for social media. Video content is on fire on social these days and the interview style fits the channel really well. The different points of view keep things interesting (especially the adorable little girl understanding quantum computing better than most adults would), which makes the fairly long length of the full video barely noticeable.

“So yeah, we tried Slack…” – Slack

What did they do?

 Riding the coattails of popular sitcoms like The Office and Parks and Recreation, Slack created this mockumentary-style video ad to show exactly why they’re better than other forms of professional communication. The video surrounds the company Sandwich Video, one of Slack’s real customers, as they introduce Slack to their office.

Why was it so successful?

This campaign was so impressive because, sure, it’s a really fun video, but it’s also a case study and testimonial. Sandwich video are a real video agency that use Slack, and they created the video to show how Slack had brought all their disconnected forms of communication onto one platform. 

It’s genuinely funny, packs in a lot of information, and the mockumentary style makes it very personable. The fact that Slack seems almost distanced from it makes it even better. We’re hearing the story from a client’s perspective, which adds legitimacy and makes the app seem more genuine, which is much more effective than a company ramming its own success down our throats.

“What matters” – GE

What did they do?

One thing many B2B companies struggle with is getting people to care. Even if the product or service they sell is widely-used or an essential tool, they often don’t actively view it as beneficial to their lives. So what did GE do? They played up to it. They created an ad that acknowledges that people care more about their own personal lives than what GE is doing, while simultaneously pointing out their importance as a business.

Why was it so successful?

This was so successful because of perspective – a human perspective. By using powerful human storytelling to stir up emotions, this B2B company reminds the businesses they sell to that it’s ultimately real human beings who benefit from their products. 

The intimate applications of GE’s products made this campaign a very attractive communications piece. On paper, GE might seem dry or clinical as a business, but the human and end-consumer focus of “What matters” reveals how the company makes a difference in their lives.

“Hey world” – Upwork

What did they do?

Upwork fully embraced humour in this bold campaign. They created a series of short punchy videos each aimed at a different organisation or celebrity, advertising all the different types of freelancers they work with. For example, in the “Hey Mr. President” video, they remind Donald Trump that they have Social Media Strategists who could help him run his Twitter. They target everyone from NASA to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Why was it so successful?

People love humour. B2C brands have absolutely nailed this with cheeky, controversial, but hilarious marketing campaign ideas. B2B brands, on the other hand, might toe the line occasionally, but tend to play it much safer. The fact that Upwork are willing to push the boundaries of B2B marketing makes them stand out in all the right ways.

Also, because the videos are targetted at celebrities or high-profile organisations, it’s going to be watched and clicked on. Their use of namedropping and calling out people more famous than them is a great way to use other people’s fame to increase their own. You’re not going to get anywhere playing it safe, and this campaign of Upwork’s is anything but.