As the line between B2B and B2C marketing blurs, Workday taps humor in consumer-facing media channels

In today’s fragmented landscape, the line between B2B and B2C marketing is increasingly blurry, and some business brands are taking a page out of consumer brand marketers’ playbook to better reach audiences. That includes the marketing team at Workday, a work-related, enterprise software company.

Last month as part of its global “Rock Star” campaign, Workday rolled out two humor-filled television commercials featuring Gwen Stefani, Travis Barker and Billy Idol during the Masters Tournament for golf. The commercials are a follow-up to the company’s initial “Rock Star” campaign that debuted during last year’s Super Bowl, which helped boost Workday’s brand consideration and awareness, according to Workday CMO Emma Chalwin.

Workday is hoping that using less traditional B2B language, opening up its messaging to focus on humor as opposed to just its product, and showing up on television and social media will help the company better reach audiences, per Chalwin. For example, in this most recent campaign, Workday leveraged Billy Idol as a LinkedIn ambassador to give the brand more social amplification.

“I would say we’ve become much bolder. We’ve become much more differentiated due to our use of humor, fun and then taking more of a B2C tone of voice,” said Chalwin.

Despite taking a page out of the B2C playbook by showing up in consumer-facing media channels and using humor instead of taking a product-focused approach, Workday hasn’t necessarily changed its media buying strategy, Chalwin added.

The company’s budget has been flat year over year, she said, without adding any specific spend figures. Notably, Workday launched its “Rock Star” campaign during last year’s Super Bowl, when advertisers shelled out at least $7 million for a 30-second spot. But with a media landscape that continues to be crowded and competitive, Workday is being more thoughtful about its ad placements, Chalwin said.

“I don’t say that we’ve changed our media buying strategy. But we’re in the places that you would see our buyers and our customers going to and consuming content,” she said, noting that the Workday brand is increasingly showing up across linear television, social media and other channels.

Across the board, marketers are beefing up their brand narrative and ethos to compete for shoppers’ attention, with the ultimate goal of boosting brand relevance. B2B marketers aren’t exempt from this. In response to the changing marketing landscape, more B2B marketers are investing in influencer marketing.

Digital marketing agency TandemTide, which serves both B2B and B2C brands, has been advising its own B2B clients to focus on sharable, savable content that’s entertaining, educational or funny — or all three — to capture shopper attention, said Brandy Alexander, TandemTide’s principal and director of client innovation.

“What we say is, if you’re creating content for a B2B brand, and it’s content that you would not consume yourself, go back to the lab. It’s not ready for primetime,” she said.

At this point, with fragmentation in the market and the phase-out of Google’s third-party cookie muddying tracking capabilities, marketing has simply gotten harder. In other words, B2B marketers need to double down on efforts to authentically connect with shoppers by showing up wherever they are, Alexander added.

“At the end of the day, it’s really your B2B buyer is also a consumer. So, the lines are very blurred already just from a targeting standpoint,” Alexander added. “If you’re just creating content that is selling products, you’re never going to crack the code.”

It’s unclear if Workday’s marketing strategy and media buys will change going forward, as Chalwin declined to offer specific details around the brand’s next steps. However, she did say that “the beauty of this campaign is it has legs to continue on.”

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