Celebrating the best in b-to-b marketing

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Welcome to the inaugural issue of BtoB's Best 2004: Top Marketers, Brands, Creative. This special issue presents our selections for the top b-to-b brands, the year's best creative (integrated campaign, TV, print and interactive) and, of course, the top marketers who set in motion the great programs that help build great companies. A year or so ago, I worried that slashed marketing budgets and a short-term-ROI myopia was making marketers tentative and risk-averse, particularly in terms of their creative efforts. I ought to have had more faith.

To purchase our BtoB Best issue as a PDF, click here.

Take DHL, winner of our BtoB Best Award, integrated category (page 28). DHL made the bold decision to run TV spots that identified, by name, its two principal competitors. The spots cleverly and aggressively usurp the diligent branding efforts by both FedEx and UPS. My favorite: a 150-foot billboard near UPS headquarters in Atlanta that reads "Yellow. It's the new brown."

Or American Express, winner of our Best Award, interactive category (page 34), for linking a reality TV show about a salon owner with a new Amex Web "sitelet" offering interactive information for small-business owners. American Express was also a sponsor of the TV show.

Or eBay's 2004 promotion called "Dream Big, Save Big" that asked business owners to write essays about what winning $50,000 to buy equipment on eBay would mean to their business. Some 16,000 wrote essays. Strongly echoing this successful promotion are eBay's testimonial print ads, which won our Best Award, print category (page 32).

Nor have these advertisers lost their sense of playfulness, despite a rough economic recovery at home, worries about global terrorism and the war in Iraq.

FedEx's "Luggage," winner of our Best Award, TV, has a man and woman waiting to fetch their office equipment, including a massive multifunction printer, as it comes crashing down an airport luggage carousel. The point? This pair of business travelers would have been better off going to a local FedEx Kinko's for their copying, printing and shipping.

This issue's picks of the top 10 b-to-b brands is sure to spark healthy debate. In fact, we've begun that process by including expert commentaries by three branding specialists with each profile. Not surprisingly, our panelists sometimes had very different opinions. On HP: "... a great job in defining and building their new brand." "A totally flawed marketing strategy: Putting the Hewlett-Packard name on everything is just not going to work ..." On Intel: "... has always been impressive in their ability to build and leverage their brand." "... undermining its strength (and its brand name) by devoting too much time and attention to consumer electronic products."

And it's worth underscoring that the most powerful brands-IBM comes to mind, HP more recently-have taken the business of creativity and brand-building very seriously, spending significant dollars on the task and obtaining real, bottom-line results.

Last but not least, our profiles of top marketers. The common thread connecting these individuals is this: They represent a new generation of results-oriented marketing professionals.

Consider Allison Johnson, senior VP-corporate marketing at Hewlett-Packard Co., and our Marketer of the Year (page 4). As the profile of Johnson recounts, one of her challenges this year is implementing a new analytics system to measure the effectiveness of HP's marketing efforts.

"It helps us make smarter decisions about how we spend money and where we spend money," Johnson says. About 80% of HP's total marketing spend in now tracked, measured and managed through the system.

Indeed, many of the marketers we profile talk about measuring the impact of marketing, both to understand the target audience and to get the messaging right. Another thing is certain: Without regression analysis, customer segmentation, pricing models, sophisticated Web site and e-mail analytics and, ultimately, sales conversions associated with different marketing activities, marketers will be ill-equipped to justify their spending to C-suite executives.

It's my hope that you take away a few of these great ideas and insights, seeing how they can fit in your own marketing and advertising efforts. At the very least, I hope you come away energized and excited by this top-notch collection. M

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