B2B Marketing Lessons from Malcolm Gladwell: What the dog saw

  • Jaspreet

What the dog saw

Those of you who have read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest offering, What the dog saw, may be a little sceptical on what the content may offer a B2B company. While it is true that the examples offered in the 2 essays I am referencing, ‘The Pitchman’ and ‘The Ketchup Conundrum’, have at their heart consumer references there are lessons to be gleaned.

“There is no perfect Pepsi. There are Perfect Pepsi’s” – The Ketchup Conundrum.

The B2C market has long recognised the need for personalization within a product offering. “The Ketchup Conundrum” details the work Howard Moskowitz in helping companies like Pepsi and Campbell’s Prego Sauce find a variety of ‘Perfects’ within their product to cater to the different consumer tastes.

In the B2B market we have to adapt this lesson not to the product offering but to how we do the product marketing. We have been talking about how companies need to consider social media seeing as it is a platform most of their target audience is spending increasing time on. Yes companies do need to seriously look at social media as a platform for their marketing message but they should not be forgetting the segments of their target audience that are using other platforms as well.

As mentioned by Doug Bellin (Industry Lead, Cisco Systems) in his exclusive interview with B2Bento we need to find ‘industry watering holes’ where conversations are taking place and personalize how the message reaches the target audience in these different places.

Understanding what the needs are and starting putting those needs into a pocket of similarities to start driving our messaging to those pockets – Doug Bellin

There are multiple touch points through which we can communicate with consumers and B2B’s need to cater to that to effectively reach out.

Web 2.0 I think is going to be very crucial to getting that messaging out there, to delivering that message out there in multiple different formats. Could it be video, could it be voice, could it be texts/smses or so on going to the people who want to get that messaging? – Doug Bellin

The key to doing this would be to take a holistic approach to marketing – one message, multiple delivery options. B2B companies can try a mix bag of online, social, and traditional media platforms to push out their messaging. Most online and social media platforms have free versions which can be used as a trial to find the marketing “perfects” for each company.

“Most great innovation is disruptive. You have to explain it to customers several times with a different twist each time. Show them how to use it, why they need it, how it fits into their routines and sell them on how easy it is to use though revolutionary” – Ron Popeil, The Pitchman.

In the B2B context, the easiest way to show customers how you have a product that they need and how they can use it is through a case-study ,which can be either a written one incorporated in brochures and company websites, or explained through a video-case study.

So having that customer be that testimonial for you saying we did this for this reason and we saw this type of return on our investment, we saw this type of thing happening for us is going to be the driver and is really going to be where the wins are going to happen – Doug Bellin

In the same way that the marketing message needs to evolve to include multi-platform delivery so must the case-study be made available through different channels to educate both new and old customers on how they can maximise their goals through the use of the shown products and/or services. This can be done in tandem with the platform-mix chosen for the marketing messaging as well to reach, inform, entice and educate your consumers.

Related to the essay on “The Ketchup Conundrum” here is Malcolm Gladwell’s TED Talk on spaghetti sauce.


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February 28, 2010

Anol Bhattacharya

The biggest takeaway for a B2B marketer from the "The Ketchup Conundrum", is the need of mass personalization in marketing campaigns. In the previous post Doug Bellin also resonated the same call for action. Good news is - with today's technology, inbound marketing channels , marketing and lead nurturing tools - it's very much possible to run a 'personalized' campaign. Bad news is - till date, at least in Asia, most of the marketers are stuck with 'megaphone fetish' - shout out to as many people you can with same messaging.