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Big Ideas, Short Loops and the Long Game: How Will the 2020s Reshape B2B Marketing? 

  • by Peter Davis
  • 13th Dec 2019
    • B2B, Brand Building, Brand Growth, Creative


A new decade is upon us. For brands, now is the perfect moment to modernise and reenergise with some fresh creative thinking. So – where should we start?

Living in a Millennial World  

First things first. As we enter the ’20s, it’s vital to acknowledge just how much power millennials now wield in terms of B2B decision-making. A 2018 study by US agency Merit found that 73% of millennials “are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies.” In fact, one-third of millennials say that they’re the sole decision-maker for their department. The emo and emoji generation is all grown up.

These first-generation digital natives expect to see your brand making the most of its online presence. As a result, I predict a creative backlash against the sober, minimalist design and play-it-safe concepts that have become ubiquitous in recent years. Be brave – go big or go home!

Extraordinary is the New Ordinary  

High-end creative software has been demystified and democratised, making it far more accessible and affordable than it was at the dawn of the 2010s. As a result, even the tightest of client budgets can stretch to visual wizardry such as 3D rendering and FX-heavy video. You can take creative risks without taking financial risks – and the turnaround time is now days, or even hours, rather than weeks.

So, I’m expecting to see brands try some new and exciting things in terms of moving image and motion design. Worth keeping an eye on is the increasing use of film in tandem with virtual reality and augmented reality. It’s a technique that’s really gaining traction in B2B as an interactive and immersive way to tell brand stories.

And, yes, the industry has been running hot and cold on this for a few years now. But with phone and camera technology now where they need to be, and tools such as Spark AR Studio breaking through, B2B finally seems ready to embrace VR and AR.

Vignettes > Epics

You don’t need to be a sociologist or a neuroscientist to know that our attention spans are getting shorter, while our hunger for quick-hit gratification is increasing – exponentially. It’s no surprise, then, that GIFs and super-succinct animations are growing in popularity in B2B marketing.

Designed to be quickly consumed between fidgety thumb-scrolls of a newsfeed, well-designed GIFs can communicate a brand’s story efficiently, effectively and with a real emotional impact. Can you say it in a six-second GIF rather than a 60-second video? Because in 2020, you’ll find there’s a far more receptive audience for the former than the latter.

Think Ahead

Finally, here’s one thing that hopefully doesn’t roll over into the 2020s: the damaging short-termism that’s taken down so many B2B companies over the last few years.

Quick-fix tactics such as sales activation have risen to dominate B2B marketing, but they’re now bringing diminishing returns. For sustained, healthy business growth, brand-building activity is an absolute must.

In 2020 and beyond, I’d love to see businesses being brave, sticking their heads above the parapet and investing in bold, inspiring and emotionally engaging creative. At Upp, we recently published a book on this very subject, entitled ‘The Case for Balance: A Manifesto for Making B2B Less Myopic’. You can request a free copy here.

It’s no secret that times have been tough for many B2B businesses over the past few years. Whatever happens next, it’s now more important than ever for brands to produce creative work that really gets them noticed.