Ignite B2B highlights industry’s diversity problem

On 30 January 2020, B2B Marketing put out a call for Ignite speakers.

They wanted people who had “been around the B2B block” and had experience and knowledge they wanted to share. Specifically, they were interested in case studies, guidance on how to achieve vital objectives, and “visionary perspectives”.

After 25 years in B2B across publishing, PR, and marketing, I do have experience and knowledge worth sharing. Plus, I’ve spoken at Ignite before and really enjoyed it so I decided to submit a proposal.

The power of difference

My synopsis was, “The world has changed, so why hasn’t your advertising? Diversity is the new normal and B2B brands that fail to reflect the diversity of their customers in an authentic, relatable way, risk becoming obsolete.”

I laid out some benefits of attending the talk, focussing on how a more inclusive approach can help deliver better customer and brand experiences, improve engagement levels and conversion rates, and build brand relevance and trust.

I even had a case study up my sleeve about how one of our clients – a global tech company – achieved 54% higher CTRs in MEA and an 11x increase in leads in Japan when more representative and inclusive imagery was introduced into campaigns.

On the face of it, the perfect marriage of commercialism and progressive, relevant ideals.

Source: Google/Ipsos, Inclusive Marketing Study

I didn’t hear anything back but saw the agenda was filling up, so I assumed I hadn’t made the cut. It happens. Fair enough.

Then on 3 June, I got an email thanking me for my submission and explaining that it didn’t fit with the event programme vision for Ignite.

It’s pretty hard to miss the significance of that timeline. Between the invite on 30 Jan and the email on 3 June, the world changed.

In that short time, we were hit by a global pandemic and witnessed the murder of George Floyd, sparking the renewed rise of Black Lives Matter protests around the world – on a scale not seen since the American civil rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Adland commits to action

In response to the protests about systemic racism, and on the same day I received the rejection email from B2B Marketing, The Drum published an open letter, co-ordinated by Creative Equals, from UK adland bosses pledging to do more to support black talent.

B2B Ignite took place three weeks later, clashing with Cannes Lions’ virtual offering, Lions Live, and The Drum’s Can-Do Festival. The twin pandemics – Coronavirus and racism – were all over the Lions Live and Can-Do agendas. Less so at Ignite.

Of course, these events are built to serve different agendas. Cannes Lions is a festival of creative marketing and Can-Do was launched this year to explore how brands and agencies are transforming their business models in the current climate.

Ignite is dedicated to learning and development, and the evolution of disciplines like ABM, Sales Enablement, and Martech. But Ignite also has streams for Engagement, Brand, and Leadership – broad themes that offer plenty of scope for exploring the business case for diversity.

Ultimately, any event built on foundations of learning and development should be inclined to search out future-facing or “visionary perspectives”, with a view to debating the question “Where are we – as an industry and a community – going?” Truly effective B2C and B2B marketing is built on an understanding of who consumers are and what makes them tick – what matters to them? The answers exist in a state of constant change. It’s our job to keep up.

Leading brands recognise that fact. Big names like Verizon, Diageo, HP, General Mills, and Unilever have been calling for faster progress on D&I for years. The speaker line-up for Ignite was filled with smart, qualified people. But it also reflected how little progress has been made in B2B. At 96% white and 64% male, the speaker line-up was seriously out of step.

The 2019 Agency Census from the IPA found that diversity improvements were “marginal at best and too slow in pace”, with data revealing that the number of employees from black and ethnic minority backgrounds had actually dropped over the prior 12 months.

As well as making up a smaller proportion of the UK agency workforce, staff from black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds had seen C-suite representation drop too, with less than 5% of C-suite roles held by people of colour.

Following Ignite, I saw a post on LinkedIn calling out Marketing Week for peddling the tired old cliché that B2B stands for ‘boring to boring’ and asserting that B2B is an exciting place to be right now. I’d agree wholeheartedly, were it not for the paucity of diverse voices and views. Make no mistake, the roster of Ignite speakers is filled with brilliant thinkers and worthy perspectives. But it fails to represent the increasingly diverse audiences we seek to influence – and the diverse talent that exists in our industry.

B2B is a fascinating and exciting world right now. Technology has brought about dramatic changes in how modern B2B buyers engage and there is a growing understanding that just like in B2C, B2B purchase decisions are led by a combination of rational and emotional thinking. People buy from (and champion) companies that align with them on shared values – like diversity and inclusion.

2020 hindsight

Looking back at my pitch to B2B Marketing, I should have done more to spell it out: diversity really is the new normal.

In the US, millennials represent 73% of B2B buyers, and only 56% of them are white. In the UK, millennials make up 25% of the population, and over 20% are of an ethnic background other than White British.

We’d do well to bear in mind that these millennials aren’t just B2B buyers. They’re employees. Innovators. Near-future business leaders. They want to buy from and work for companies that prioritise diversity and inclusion in a real way.

I believe those of us who have “been around the B2B block” have an obligation to hold ourselves accountable – to the board, to our clients, and to our teams. B2B brands that fail to reflect the diversity of their customers and drive genuine equality within their organisations will become obsolete.

Robyn Pierce
Head of Social Media

Related links


I don’t want a conversation with you


Trainers, or, sneakers as they’re often known, are another life–long obsession of mine.

For as long as I can recall, they’ve been a source of irrational fascination.

In 1990, when I was eleven years old, Nike Air had just launched in the UK, and I remember being totally fascinated by these amazing trainers with an air bubble. So much so that I saved every penny of my birthday money and nagged my parents to let me go and spend it on a pair of them.

I was beyond excited, and while I can never claim to have been the most popular kid in school, for a brief moment I relished the attention the trainers I wore to and from school brought.

In life, no matter what we may believe, many of the decisions we make are irrational

While I think my desire for Nike Air was fuelled by my natural instinct to want anything shiny and new, it did cement my love for brands at a very young age. Although I didn’t theoretically stay loyal to Nike growing up (I also bought Reebok Pump, Puma Disc and Adidas Torsion during this time, too), any trainer that wasn’t a brand I liked was instantly dismissed no matter how tempting its technical claims.

Call my decision-making process irrational, because guess what, it was, and to this day, for many things I buy, or want to buy, it still is!

Last year, Les Binet and Peter Field published research that analysed ten years’ worth of B2B marketing. If you work in the industry and your job is to sell to people (in any capacity), then you need to read it, understand it and apply it to everything you’re doing today; from how you’re apportioning budget, to how you’re planning marketing activity.

While there are many fascinating charts, two in particular stand out:

Brand building vs sales activation

The first shows the power of brand building, which is and always will be a long-term activity, but one that, if invested in, creates growth way beyond that of activation (think on-off campaigns you run all year).

The second chart I love is this:

Fame, is the name of the game

This chart shows that campaigns that are specifically designed to create fame for a brand outperform other campaigns on all business metrics. In addition, emotional campaigns also perform better in almost all metrics, particularly in the long term.

What this research doesn’t say is that you should stop doing the marketing you’re doing today, but what it absolutely does reinforce is the need for every business – no matter what that business sells – to ensure brand is front and centre of every conversation.

But remember; when it comes to brand it’s not just what you say, it’s what you do that matters…

When I was eleven, I wasn’t really exposed to much advertising. The internet didn’t exist, there was no YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat and there were four channels on television. So, influence over what I liked wasn’t what it is today. But I was into NFL – the Miami Dolphins to be precise. That might sound random but American Football was big in the UK back then (and still is today), and I believe my fascination for Nike came by association of the fact they were the primary sponsor for the team.

My love for Nike didn’t begin with a clever ad, it came from the brand doing what it’s always done – associating itself with amazing athletes and sports.

So next time you’re questioning what your business should be doing, remember that whilst the short-term results from brand activity might be slow, if you get it right (you’re consistent, and consistently good) the long-term effects of brand on your business will far exceed that of any short-term sales promotion.

Oliver Budworth
Head of Strategy at The Crocodile

A bloody good customer journey

Our Head of Customer Engagement, Matt Garisch, describes his recent experience of giving blood.

Sat planning my next tattoo, I suddenly found myself focussing on a rather different type of needle, and considering giving something back instead – by donating blood.

It’s not every day that an organisation makes me stop and re-evaluate my life choices. In this instance, it was the NHS’s Give Blood appeal.

Somewhere, somebody customer obsessed, thought about how to get people to donate, and keep them coming back for more, by using a clever mix of channels, technology, and a focus on customer experience to evoke an internal conversation in the recipient – in this case me!

Everything from the booking process online, the Give Blood app, the experience in the donation centre, and the follow-up (which was the thought-provoking icing on the cake for me), altogether created an awe-inspiring customer experience. They did their job so well, that it made my behaviour, dare I say it, predictable!

Here’s the journey they took me on:

  1. I decided I wanted to donate – so downloaded the app via a link in a tweet by the Give Blood appeal.
  2. I was offered a convenient appointment – signing up with no fuss.
  3. The experience on the day was great – the waiting room wasn’t full of awkward Londoner strangers, catching each other’s eye and quickly looking away. On the contrary, there was a feeling of camaraderie amongst us.
  4. I left feeling happy – I’d done a great thing and was proud of myself.
  5. I received a thank you message – an unexpected text message thanking me for donating, stating that my blood type would be updated on the app, along with my next potential date to donate.

And, I assumed that would be it…

However, about two weeks later, I got a further text from the service. My blood had been given to a named London hospital that day – wow!

Now, it may not be much, but that last message stopped me in my tracks. It had instantly made the whole process real for some reason. Donating is not something I did a few weeks ago, but now that I knew that it was actually being put to some use, and I knew whereabouts, this immediately created a flurry of internal dialogue around my choices of whether to donate again in future.

How is this relevant to B2B?

Often when we talk about customer journeys, it’s usually a straight line on a diagram which leads to some positive benefit for your organisation. The flaw (as it is with most things in this world) is the human element. You cannot predict, or encourage, the reaction you get from someone. Or can you?

Customer journeys do not begin with web pages, events (virtual or physical), emails, or social channels. They start in the mind, beginning with a conversation as a person works through a problem.

Have you thought about the conversation you want your customer to have when they are not engaging with your brand? Customer analytics platforms like Thunderhead and Kitewheel can show you the path, and (much like ABM theory and frameworks) they are useless, unless you look at how you fundamentally influence the decision-making process. Through using multiple channels that manage the ongoing conversation, you can minimise the chance variable in the decision tree.

And how can you break through the noise to positively influence their decision? Well, 97% of decision-makers say they have a preferred vendor before they go into a pitch process, according to a new study entitled Group. Mind. Set. How Group Dynamics Impact Business Decisions – conducted by B2B Marketing.

The point of the journey

Customer journeys are not a straight line. Spanning multiple channels, they start way before you have intentionally turned your marketing sights on them.

So, if my experience is anything to go by, and the journey I’ve been on influenced the chance variable in my internal dialogue, the stage has already been set, and I have made 92% of my decision already.

Only time will tell what the most likely conclusion will be. Let’s connect and I’ll let you know the outcome.

Beasting the B2B Awards

The B2B jungle is a competitive place with lots of fierce creatures. Turns out that team Standard Life have what it takes to be at the head of the pack having been shortlisted in no fewer than four categories:

  • Category 1: Best Multichannel
  • Category 16: Best SME
  • Category 22: Best Lead Generation & Nurture
  • Category 24: Bravery Award

There are no easy categories and all require a deep pool of skill sets, both client and agency side, to achieve connected strategies – with exceptional customer experiences that deliver results.

We hope that we have good cause to be swinging from the rafters come November 23rd when the winners are announced.

Standard Life: Step Ahead With Confidence

Exchanging success with LSEG win

The Crocodile has been appointed by one of the most iconic brands in finance.

The financial services regulatory landscape is constantly evolving. The upcoming MiFIR deadline will require those firms affected to work with trusted partners and implement effective technology solutions, in order to stay compliant and get ahead of the regulatory curve.

UnaVista is the leading transaction reporting platform from the London Stock Exchange Group that enables financial institutions to meet the requirements of MiFIR and other associated regulations, and also benefit from a suite of LSEG’s solutions and its impressive ecosystem.

The Crocodile has won a five-way pitch against some B2B agency heavyweights, to be appointed a roster agency for the London Stock Exchange Group, and to develop a new campaign to promote UnaVista to those organisations affected by MiFIR. It’s another great win for the agency at the start of the year and we are delighted to be working with one of the world’s most recognised and admired financial services brands.

Leica snaps up The Crocodile

Not one, but TWO recent product launches from premium brand Leica Camera meant two new projects for The Crocodile.

Video and social media were the common thread.

The Leica Sofort.
With a truly accessible price point, the first instant camera from the brand offers a prime opportunity to hit previously untapped markets.

To reach the right audiences during the saturated Christmas advertising sprint, The Crocodile devised a highly-targeted paid social media campaign to introduce the product to the UK market, with longevity. Careful not to pitch the product as a festive tech fad and keen to demonstrate the instant-print capability of the Sofort, a vibrant product-led video with a catchy soundtrack was created to be the hero visual. Video ads on Facebook are unrivalled for gaining reach and awareness.

The M10
The M is a Leica icon. This new version is the slimmest, fastest, most discrete digital M of all time. The Crocodile helped to capture the real-time excitement of the much-anticipated UK launch with a Facebook Live broadcast from the Leica Store Mayfair, London. Together with Tom Morgan, Reviews Editor of Stuff Magazine and Robin Sinha, Leica Akademie tutor, a brilliant Q&A and demo brought the magic of the M to the public at the earliest opportunity. A series of social content, including Instagram Story continued the buzz beyond the launch event.

Social media continues to be a prime channel for Leica to reach its target audiences and engage its community.

Nectar Business embraces video to champion SMEs

The continued and growing importance of high frequency, low cost video transverses both B2B and SME marketing. Nectar Business recognises this and has sought to take advantage with the launch of its new #MyBiz video series.

The result: a celebration of the brilliance and individual nature of great British business through an evocative and personal series of short video stories that intend to inspire and motivate the Nectar Business audience of small business owners.

The first video in the series features The Pickle House.

Nectar Business understands that running a small business can be a challenge, but also incredibly rewarding. The videos champion four very distinct small firms, with each tapping into themes that are applicable to all small businesses:

  1. starting out
  2. customer loyalty
  3. building relationships
  4. the importance of passion.

The Crocodile works with Nectar Business on its content programme, which includes the creation of Nectar BizHub, a new site to drive a more active conversation with the UK’s small business community.

“The #MyBiz series has allowed us to put video at the heart of our Nectar Business content programme, and it’s a fantastic way to hero and celebrate our small business customers’ stories. It’s very apparent that video is a core format for our audience and we’re aiming to use this to engage more closely with our customers in the future,” says Clare Gazzard, content manager for Nectar Business.

The Nectar Business #MyBiz videos are live now on Nectar BizHub and feature on the Nectar Business Facebook and Twitter channels.

Smart content marketing with Dell EMC

The merger of two of the world’s largest IT brands – Dell and EMC – into one premier end-to-end technology company has obviously created lots of news coverage over recent months.

During this transition, The Crocodile has worked closely with the Dell EMC product teams and subject matter experts to develop an exciting new content marketing campaign. The activity promotes Dell EMC’s advanced data storage systems under its new brand identity, around topics such as “the future of storage” and “building your data lake”.

Enterprise tech can be complicated subject matter – but our combined team has successfully created a clear and accessible content narrative using multiple formats. These include engaging articles and blog posts on the business benefits, eye-catching infographics and fun animated videos.

An advanced POEM (paid, owned, and earned media) strategy was also formulised to optimise SEO and drive reach, engagement and traffic via social media.

We’re delighted that the campaign is playing a key part in helping the new Dell EMC make a big splash in the IT industry.

Take a look at some of the campaign assets here: