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B2i b2c marketing

What is B2i Marketing? (personalization is the new standard)

We debate if B2i, not B2C (ie business to the individual not business to consumer) is the new standard. So much of marketing is trying to target people on a personal level - with the goal of being relevant and intimately meet needs based on the relationship that's been established. Yet, this runs counter to the mass market approach that has been a tried and tested strategy for decades.


Episode 023 TOPICS:


  • B2i vs B2C (business to individual vs  business to consumer)

  • How algorithm driven targeting represents a move back (in time)

  • Why we both love Spotify

  • Lessons from Lego, Eddie Bauer and Nespresso 

Across the Pond- Marketing Transformed.

23. What is B2I Marketing? (Personalization is The New Standard)



In this week’s show, we’ll be talking about B2I, not B2C. Business to individuals, not business to consumer. So much of marketing is about trying to reach people on a personal level, being relevant, intimately meet the needs based on the relationship that has been established. But, that kind of runs counter to the mass market approach that has been a tried and tested strategy for decades.


Getting Personal

 My marketing career started at Safeway, a grocery chain in the UK and then Gillette, a packaged goods company and then Procter and Gamble. Those were all big companies with big brands and for the most part, they’ve been using their clout to reach broader audiences. Until recently, P&G were the largest advertiser in the world. According to Statista, in 2019 they’ve been overtaken by Samsung, and I think about eleven billion dollars they’ve spent on advertising, around that amount.

 So, now, as a P&Ger, that sort of badge of being the biggest spender used to be a badge of honour to basically say you have all that advertising clout, and that infrastructure and expertise and that kind of made us proud about what we did and how we did marketing in that traditional way. But, knowing the big bucks and still spending on traditional, broader, mass-reach advertising Chris, is this B21 stuff just a buzzword? Do marketers really know what they’re doing and take it seriously? You know, couldn’t we just stop the show now and move onto something else? Instead of this B2I idea you’ve got. 



Yeah, well, fair point Sam, I think we’ll debate it but let’s give it twenty minutes before we finish that debate. Look, I’ve always been an advocate for direct marketing. You mentioned Safeway- that was the department I was in, it was all about loyalty marketing, all about the findings of the segments and targeting them accordingly. 

My whole career has been around creating targeted campaign ideas to different segments of audiences and really my philosophy has been why go mass when you can go smart? So, if you can be clever about what you’re doing and spend less and be more efficient- then it’s not really about the big bucks I don’t think Sam, but here’s the rub. 

So, groups, community, and fans, clearly everything we were talking about last week, incredibly powerful for engendering loyalty, extending revenues, or helping affect change, but then, as Marketers, we spend half our lives talking about personalization at least. So, I get the argument about getting back to mass communication and making people identify with each other. So, B2I maybe a buzzword, or maybe not even may, it is isn’t it. We’re great at bringing out new ways.                   



Yep, great at coming up with acronyms that no one understands, or perhaps no one cares about Chris. Are people going to care about B2I?



Yeah, absolutely. But, I think the philosophy isn’t new and I think it is sound. Fair enough, it is still the mass spend is reaching broader segments, but I guarantee you- it isn’t the most efficient spend that we could do from the marketing perspective. So, I know you’re being purposefully antagonistic.



No, I would never do that Chris.



Well, at least once a week. But, anyone who doesn’t get the relevance of using tech and data science to give customers what they want, has already missed the boat in my opinion. You look at all the innovations that are out there and it’s about trying to create that to get closer to the customer. I think the interesting question is, how you marry this all up. Last week we talked about the power of fans, mass communities, all to be linked with a common interest and it’s about how you bring that back to the person. 

I mean, interestingly Sam, I was thinking about the hashtag, that way we label ourselves, label our interests, it’s absolutely revolutionised how we self-form around groups or interests. And let’s face it, ten years ago it would have come across as odd, that word- hashtag, I think the only people who really knew what it was were coders and the rest of us just thought it was a redundant symbol on your own keyboard. 



That is a good call. I remember first, years ago, around the advent of social, trying to explain to people what a hashtag is and how to use it and people couldn’t understand the concept. Now, years later, it’s the folks that don’t know what a hashtag is are the minority and everyone, even weddings now, if you don’t have a hashtag for your wedding, is anyone even coming? Does it exist? Where do they post the pictures? 



That is absolutely true mate, very, very true. But look, therefore, let’s not dismiss that concept of B2I, let’s indulge it a little bit.

What Does B2I Really Mean?


 I think when we look at it, the nature of it is connecting to human beings. So, it’s business to individuals rather than ensuring that you don’t get it confused with business to business or business to consumer. Your customers, your customers that are influencers and the influencers to the final audience, now, is seen as much more of the network effect where you’re focusing on the end to end experience and you better make sure it’s a good one. And I get that.

 I’ve worked in a number of different marketplaces where actually, it might be business to business to consumer or alternatively, it’s a marketplace offering. So there’s a business to consumer element and a business to business element. And to be honest, you can wrap yourself up in the lingos and technology. The bottom line is unless you can ensure you’ve got a great consumer experience for those end users then you really haven’t got a proposition.

 I think that’s where traditional marketing sales, where they’ve had specific B2B or B2C approaches and potentially have been quite siloed with, potentially business to business focused marketeers or direct to consumer marketeers. Now, where it’s been morphed into an all-encompassing category and that’s because consumers are increasingly demanding and vendors have to engage and partners have to engage with them on their own terms. 

I think the other aspect of this is in conjunction with data, it could be about a mindset really, where we’re taking personalised marketing to the next level. If you think about what we tried to do with marketing, where it’s all about building trust, we sort of want to demonstrate our customers’ needs and how we support them. We want to ensure we become their trusted advisors; we want to stay with them for the whole length of their journey. 

We talked about lifetime value and we talked about once we’ve established relationships and they’ve shared their experience with their peers or the advocates or the fan groups and it builds momentum. Well, all of that is only possible if you think that you’ve got a relationship with an individual rather than with a company or a segment for instance.



So, Chris, I’m going to push you here. How is this different from doing marketing well and being commercially savvy to having the right propositions, the right ideas and products in the market, sales, and marketing both driving collaboratively together, isn’t that just modern marketing?



Well, I’ll tell you what, if it was just modern marketing I’d be very happy. Because the reality is that, as we talked about before, you have to make sure marketing isn’t just like the emperor’s new clothes where you are effectively just selling a spin or selling something that you’ve already sold three or four times over. 

In one sense, what I like about it is that it’s kind of nice really that we go back to where we were, we talked about retro a couple of weeks ago and this view where we’re trying to create a more individual shopkeeper scenario where we know where you live, we know a bit more about you, we actually have a personal relationship, we understand that you came in last week and bought a product and we want to know what that purchase was. And there are technical areas of doing it, you know, Google Maps, you put in and it says welcome home; nice touches to some, creepy touches to others and we’ll debate that a bit more I’m sure. 

But the one I really like is Spotify and their discovery weekly. Spotify’s got over fifty million songs and it has over one hundred and fifty million users within that and you can get absolutely lost in it. I like listening to a lot of music, a lot of diverse music, but Spotify uses machine technology to deliver tailored playlists of songs, but it also has different categories as well. 

It has your discover weekly, or radar for all of the new stuff and it learns from what it’s learning from you, your listening habits and what it learns from other listeners and their listening habits and it tries to create a more accurate view on what you’re going to be listening to. Netflix is another example where other people like you are watching this or listening to this. 

And what I find quite interesting is on one side, you’ve got this selfish egoistic characteristic we’ve all got, where it’s all about us, all about meeting our individual needs exclusively, but it’s also about satisfying that other key part of our human psychic, about our sense of comfort and that we’re not alone in our choices that we make. So, I do like that fact that whether it’s called B2I or what, I don’t really mind what it’s called but I do like the fact that we’re trying to get closer to that almost personal individual relationship which we may be more accustomed for. 


Sam Tries to Get Free Clothes


Ok, you’ve got my attention, I was going to cut you off there when you were in the middle of getting deep and meaningful about a sense of belonging. I was sold by Spotify so, yes, thumbs up to you. I love their insight approach and they know me well enough to nudge me in a new direction and create a taste breakers playlist. Which basically says stop being lame listening to the same old stuff, here’s some new stuff that you could listen to.  

There’s the relationship of trust and respect and being open to the idea. They obviously didn’t call it ‘you’re being lame’ they’re actually trying to position it in a way that I’m receptive to, and in fact they released new music at midnight, Eastern time in the US, and I often stay up just to see what new music’s come out. In the old days, you had to rush to the record store to get to hear the new remixes or the B-side to the new Sade track or whatever twelve inch from some dance act. 

So, now you have that instant access immediately, and it’s got me thinking, how well do brands know their consumers and how well can they know their audiences? Can they really get to know them intimately enough? I basically dress, head to toe in a brand called Eddie Bauer. It’s an outdoorsy brand in the US, I buy button down shirts, jumpers, under shirts and all that kind of stuff. I have one of those membership cards and I get regular discounts. So I basically am brand Eddie Bauer, whenever I dress. So, they have permission, on what you’re saying, to send me stuff. And based on how lazy I am at finding a different brand. 

I’m not really into buying clothes that much, I’d probably keep the stuff they send me. They should know the kind of stuff I like because I order them all the time but, are they actually set up to see this pattern? Do they have the empathy? Do they have the deep learning that you talked about? Do they have the analytics or the supply chain to do this? One thing is for sure, I’m not going to the store to spend time, and I’m not going to spend any more time online to find stuff on their website, they could do it for me, and they could probably make so much more money. So, let’s see what happens. Are Eddie Bauer listening after this show? 



Is this just a shameless plug Sam? To try and get some gear, is that what this is all about?



It’s not a shameless plug! It’s the idea there… I’ve been shopping with them, doing the same thing for eight, nine, ten years now and they’ve not taken the initiative to say ‘hey, we know you so well, try this, try that, just like Spotify are doing, and that for me, I’m sold on this B2I idea, and I’m thinking about it in my terms Chris, I want brands and companies to help me. But, tell me why you’re so passionate about it? 



My core philosophy is that I’ve always tried to do marketing by: how do you provide relevant, personalised, responsive content or communications to help improve the lives of the customers that you’re trying to serve.

The other element I’ve always prided myself on is how do we use marketing and technology with good insight to improve the lives of your customers? So, it comes together quite nicely. You also know I’m not a fan of buzzwords and there’s always that downside as well. 

I read this great article, I think the guys called Steve Denning, it was on Forbes, and I think he was quoting someone else actually so, I must find out who he was actually quoting, but he said, imagine a business traveller walking into a hotel room designed by a company that knows how to craft a B2I experience for its frequent visitors and the rooms populated with photos of their family, generated in digital frames, you can imagine that one, it wouldn’t be too difficult to do would it, temperature of the room and the lighting- just the way you like it. 

Again, you could get that from previous visits, favourite music is playing, again, easy to do from previous visits; her inbox is an email asking her would she like the salmon Caesar salad without croutons that she ordered last time, turns on the television and suggests a movie she hasn’t seen starring her favourite actress, a rental car, the make and model she’s been eyeing for purchases available at the hotel, along with a reminder to take her allergy medicine if she can take a drive in the country. And he makes the absolute valid point that we can imagine, without necessarily wanting it, that may be a bit freaky if all of that was actually done. 

So, we do have to ask ourselves that there’s these nice touches where we want to be surprised, we want to be delighted but sometimes there’s an air of mystery or a part of yourself that you don’t want to communicate and where does it move to this is my personal space, my personal data and how much of that do we actually use. It’s a real challenge actually. 


Bad Personal Touches


Yeah, I love that example where you’re solving problems, meeting your needs, making you feel at home, in the right mindset, in the right mood and you’re open to it, you’re receptive to it. We’re a bit concerned these days with our data privacy and we’re picky about who gets the info and how they use it. That example you shared Chris is wonderful, I can buy into it, but you know what? It was my birthday the other day. And I am one of those people that quite likes their birthdays, but I got quite a few lame offers through email. Hulu offered me a free month’s trial for the thousandth time and I’m still not going to sign up for Hulu

So, really, it’s my birthday, am I going to join something I’ve said no to one-hundred times already? And then, Air France offered me a thirty-euro discount in an email completely written in German. Now, to be frank, I lived in Germany for a period, but the last time I flew that airline was eleven years ago when I immigrated to the US. So, I’m clearly data in their data base and I don’t really speak German anymore, but somehow they decided to wish me happy birthday that way. 



Do you know how that conversation’s gone Sam? Their marketing team has sat around saying right, we need new customers. We’ve got this pot of lapsed customers over here that we haven’t talked to in a long time, what possible reason could we get away with to communicate with them? 



So, let’s send a discount to someone in a different county, who moved away years ago, ‘cos that’ll work. What a waste of time, money, and effort. So, I’m again arguing that most brands in my life are still in the dark ages when it comes to doing it right, simply due to their inability to do personalisation right because of the poor data quality. So, can you share with our audience some people who do it well, Chris.



Yeah, I think the category that does do this very well is gaming. And you can look at that as a category from social gaming right through. The idea in terms of getting to know your experience and the cross sale and the upscale based on that is very powerful, certainly the recommendation side of it as well, as in looking at game titles you do or have used. 

We, when I was at Inspired Gaming, had a sort of in-depth project looking at data algorithms based on what users were spending their time playing and what other games we could offer them as a result of that. And it was fascinating because you realise that some customers, what they really want is to play the same game, and you really must respect that. They go ‘I am just a fan of this game; I am not interested in anything else and this is all I am going to play.’ 

While others might have a broad portfolio of games they might want to choose from, where others might be a bit more choosey and only play a brand extension or a version two or a version three of that. And I think that’s fascinating again, because with personalisation, one size does not fit all ironically, some people just want what they’ve asked for, they don’t want any embellishing of that. So, the gaming category is quite strong there.

 But you know Sam, I don’t think it’s just about data. There are ways to get intimate and drive relationships and that’s about good experiences as well I think, which don’t have to be digital and online.



Yeah, I think Chris, you’re absolutely right. I remember first blogging about my experiences with the brand Nespresso back in 2009. And for me, it’s just one of those brands that permeates my soul and I always think of Nespresso, I acquired a new, what was called a Citiz Machine when they launched it. It cost me five hours of my life because I had to take a round trip to a retailer called Sur La Table which was in Chicago at the time, and the traffic was horrendous trying to get there and back and I got my new machine through an exclusive launch that they had, because the official launch was going to be two weeks later. 

So, I spent five hours trying to get something two weeks early and I think that already says the power of exclusive launches helps motivate true fans, true consumers who you’re connecting with to actually do something. And in fact, for that brand I’m fanatical enough to visit a store anywhere I go, everywhere I travel. So, if its Barcelona, Stockholm, Geneva, Frankfurt or New York, I’m left in awe at how they excel at delivering a perfect brand representation of style, indulgence and premium-ness in every and each location Chris, I like to feel special, I like to get the packaging, I like to feel like I’m entering this coffee world. 

It’s not just about providing this thing in my mind; it’s actually about tapping into the basics of great customer service. 

The experience I had at that time, I recall spending three hundred dollars on a machine and receiving at least three phone calls in the first week, to make sure that everything was working ok, if I needed anymore coffee, if I had used different features, and I think they knew that if you get a customer up and running successfully and delight them in the first week, they can win. 

That was kind of a simple low bar, but you know what Chris? I’ve recently moved into a new home and we’ve furnished it and we’ve applied it and spent a lot of money on those furnishing and appliances, and countless number of products and brands we’ve bought yet, not one of those brands have been in touch or connected with me in any real way. Despite the fact I’ve registered with Bosch and LG, the best I get is a standard content, and guess what Chris, a ten percent discount of cooker ventilation filters. It’s as if a ten percent discount is as personal as it gets from most brands and marketers. Stop sending me ten percent discounts and thinking you know me! That you’re getting to me so well. I’m not going to use them ‘cos I don’t care about what you’re sending me.  



Yeah, I bet in a way that contact you had around that Nespresso was worth about three emails on your birthday as well, because it’s about timeliness isn’t it, it’s not appearing formulaic. I mean clearly a nice touch to get a call or an email on your birthday from someone you respect but, at the same time that formulaic discount or that formulaic ‘oh it’s my birthday- here’s twelve email spam from people I know.’ Just becomes wallpaper and consumers are just going to move round it, aren’t they?  

Today’s Three Key Takeaways


Yeah, and reflecting on what we’ve covered through your examples and your passion for the area, I think there’s a common theme that links a lot of these concepts, it takes certain metrics to understand how to do this well. Legacy businesses might tend to rely on volume, and they spend billions and millions above the line. 

So, ten percent off is their way of activating against getting more volume, right? But in the cases of the disruptors of these brands that really get to connect with you, they’re thinking about engagement, they’re thinking about advocacy on social and abandonment of the car and what that actually means as an indicator of what you do or don’t want. They look at the patterns, they look at the behaviour and then they try and figure out what is the human insight? What is the truth behind that? And solve that versus just sending another ten/fifteen percent this time. How about that as the next iteration of the solution. 

So, I think that’s what those companies that you talked about do really well. they really understand the sentiment of what I believe and what I’m after and try to solve that.



Yeah, I like that Sam, those metrics are what needs to be part of the future. Now, that might be one of your three key takeout’s but, I’ll let you have an extra one because I think it’s good to just sum up where you think we got to in this session. Some good points there. 



  1. Well, I’d start off by quoting you, Chris. Why go mass when you can go smart. There’s truth behind getting to that intimate level and solving real consumer needs driven by human insight. 

  2. Secondly, you’re going to have to have some sort of data strategy, with a quality behind it, a cleanliness behind it, an empathy and true understanding of what it means to avoid those ten percent discounts. 

  3. And thirdly, the right metrics to be looking at must include advocacy. It must include engagement, it must include things like car abandonment to really understand and go behind what consumers are doing and then, looking to solve them in the right way versus your traditional- volume metrics. 

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