Diversity and Storytelling in B2B Marketing and Branding
Stories have fascinated both children and adults for centuries. People are drawn to stories because of their inclination to find meaning in everything. Every moral or virtue can be associated with an account in all cultures across the world.
After all, stories create an experience that can impact people’s decision-making. As a result, and not surprisingly, storytelling has become a powerful tool in marketing and branding.
Storytelling, however, has worked better in B2C marketing than in B2B. The argument is that marketing products to individuals are far more straightforward than marketing sophisticated business solutions to other organizations. Let’s understand the different approaches used in storytelling before we juxtapose how diverse storytelling in B2B marketing can be an effective tool in branding.
Approaches Engaged in Marketing
Storytelling can be a powerful tool to engage audiences, evoke emotions, and create a sense of presence. There are various storytelling approaches that marketing has used through the ages.
One of the foremost approaches is Personalization which taps into universal human emotions and values. A prime example is the Coca-Cola ads that have always pulled at the viewer’s heartstrings. Their early ad campaign of the 70s, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, to the more recent Ramadan ad shows how Coca-Cola has connected with a diverse audience by recognizing and celebrating cultural traditions. The Personalization approach has created a solid emotional connection over the years, translating into brand loyalty and success.
Evoking emotions, Emotionalization is another approach where the personal stories of individuals are employed to connect with the audience. A great example is the Nike “Breaking2” campaign, which documented the journey of three elite runners as they attempted to break the two-hour marathon barrier. The campaign used the personal stories of each athlete to create an emotional connection with the audience and inspire them to push their limits.
Airbnb’s “We Accept” campaign promoted diversity and inclusivity by showcasing the many different cultures and lifestyles welcomed on the platform. Using this multifaceted Cultural approach, the campaign promoted a powerful message: “No matter who you are, where you’re from, whom you love, or whom you worship, you deserve to belong.”
Through the above stories, it is evident that storytelling can play an essential role in bringing diversity into marketing and branding, especially in the B2C context. However, the challenge is how storytelling can diversify branding and marketing stories in B2B.
Tackling the B2B Branding Challenge with Storytelling
“Your customers feel before they think.” – Dan Hill
According to an article in Demand Science, research by Google in partnership with Motista and CEB, 50% of B2B buyers are more likely to buy if they can connect emotionally with your brand.
Yes, for most B2B organizations selling their solutions by evoking emotions among the clients is challenging.
As a first step, share the story of your brand to connect with customers and build brand loyalty. When you share the challenges, setbacks, and victories that led to the company’s creation and the innovative solutions, you set it apart from the competition. These stories demonstrate your resilience and determination, which can inspire and motivate your audience.Studies show that companies with a diverse workforce notice a 33% rise in productivity, and those with a diverse board saw a 43% increase in profits. Prime examples, the two giants, Microsoft Story Labs platform and Google’s AdWords Stories, have touched that chord among their clients and customers when sharing company values while connecting with them.
Embracing Diversity in B2B Storytelling
With storytelling, you humanize your brand. Diversity encompasses a wide range of stories waiting to be told – not only colour and gender but areas like generational diversity, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), people with disabilities and multicultural diversity. Diverse and inclusive marketing means taking a more human, audience-focused approach across your content. How can this be done in B2B marketing?
The success of “The Fearless Girl” campaign by State Street Global Advisors demonstrates the power of storytelling in building a brand’s identity and connecting with its audience. The statue, a powerful visual symbol that embodied the company’s values, resonated with people worldwide who saw it as a symbol of female empowerment. In addition, it created an intense emotional connection, particularly with women and those who cared about gender equality.
One of the most potent B2B storytelling that resonates well with inclusivity and diversity is the inspiring video campaign by Accenture’s Joe Taiano called #InclusionStartsWithI. This video featured a group of Accenture employees sharing stigmas and stereotypes that people face in the workplace.
We also have Google’s social videos that have received positive reviews. For example, football player Marcus Rashford stars in The More We Learn, the Closer We Get, a documentary that explores the value of accepting differences by illustrating what it’s like to be an outsider. And yet another service provider from the B2B segment is HubSpot, with an audience of more than 6 million and is considered a pioneer of B2B content marketing. HubSpot provides research, original data, and insights, all via stories about how readers can increase their revenue with or without HubSpot.
B2B companies can use storytelling to highlight the experiences of diverse customers, incorporate various characters in brand stories, and share the stories of diverse employees to create a more inclusive workplace. Closer home, B2B companies can celebrate and share various cultural traditions and events, such as holidays, festivals, or historical milestones, creating a sense of community and belonging among customers from different backgrounds and promoting cultural understanding and awareness.
However, before you go all out to include diversity and inclusivity in your campaigns, remember that diversity has its complexity, and caution has to be implemented when including it in a campaign. “Embrace diversity of backgrounds, cultures, and subcultures along with thought processes and other natural ways people are different yet similar simultaneously. Do not perpetuate stereotypes or go for the obvious representations. Instead, take all your preconceived notions off and be open to showing real people how they live and work,” says Kyle Golding, CEO of The Golding Group. The key in B2B storytelling is finding the right story for your audience, telling it in a way that resonates with them, and testing it until satisfied!