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Taken from the recent whitepaper, “Making a Promise to the Customer: How to give campaigns a competitive edge” by WARC, The B2B Institute at LinkedIn and Roger Martin.

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“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

This mindset, attributed to advertising pioneer John Wanamaker, has been the curse of marketers for the past decades.

It has forced marketers, particularly those who work in the rational, logical and product-driven world of B2B, into an unwelcome over-reliance on the short-term performance marketing that captures existing demand, often at the expense of making the brand investment that creates demand in the future.

The logic is seductive: demand capture is easy to measure and generates a plethora of short-term attribution highs. Demand creation is lumpier: it relies on the wetware of the human brain to recall a brand in a specific buying situation, and for the prospective customer to believe that the product will do what it claims to do. The memory structures lodged in the hippocampus are the decision arbiter. No ‘last click’ model has yet been invented to attribute for that. But it is nearly impossible to drive long-term value through marketing without it.

At the B2B Institute at LinkedIn, our foundational belief is that long-term brand building is the biggest untapped opportunity for B2B businesses. We want to de-risk brand investment for B2B marketers and make the arguments supporting brand investment easier to explain to stakeholders who don’t care or understand “brand”.

About a year ago, we began talking to Roger Martin, the originator of integrative thinking in business and the architect of the idea of “marketing as strategy”, about whether there was a unifying theory that could unite the ideas of demand creation and demand capture for marketers in B2B to use. That is how the idea of making a Promise to the Customer was born.

Unlike “brand”, which has become a word that means many things to many people (including, to many B2B CFOs, an opportunity to cost-save), a Promise to the Customer requires no work to understand, and means the same thing to everyone. Far from replacing existing marketing thinking, we see a Promise to the Customer as a wrapper for the key marketing disciplines everyone already understands.

For a promise to be deliverable, we need to understand Product. By zooming in on the most valuable promise that a marketer needs to make, we have to think about Price and Place. And to make the promise memorable, we need to use brand codes, distinctive assets and the kind of hippocampus-hacking creativity that stores annoying jingles in the brain for life. In short, we need to understand Promotion.

While many marketing outcomes are weighted in favour of the biggest brands with the biggest budgets, when it comes to campaigns that make a Promise to the Customer, the greatest gains we saw were for campaigns with lower levels of budget, channel and campaign duration.

Obviously, every marketer wants more budget and to work for already famous brands. But for newer brands with less confidence and less ability to spend money, a campaign that makes a Promise to the Customer offers a clear competitive advantage. In fact, at every level of campaign, be it budget, number of channels or duration in market, we saw that the brand health, market share, penetration and long-term brand and sales effects were significantly enhanced in Promise to the Customer campaigns.

When we looked at campaigns that did not make a Promise to the Customer, we found that a theme that many had in common was that they tended to be more inward looking. Namely, they tended to attempt to communicate the brand’s own social values to the audience rather than communicate the value that the product delivered for the customer. Our approach does not label Promise to the Customer campaigns ‘good’ and non-Promise to the Customer campaigns ‘bad’. It simply attempts to tease out which of the two types delivers better brand and long-term commercial effects.

B2B campaigns were particularly underrepresented in our dataset, making up only just over 100 of our sample of more than 2,000 campaigns. But, we hope this work is the beginning of a new way of thinking about marketing that will help B2B marketers – and their B2C colleagues – to make decisions that deliver better campaigns and more reliable results. We hope the mental model of a Promise to the Customer will guide marketers to greater confidence about what will work.

In fact, we would go as far as to promise it.

To find out more, see “Making a Promise to the Customer: How to give campaigns a competitive edge” by WARC, The B2B Institute at LinkedIn and Roger Martin.