CenturyLink Doubles Down On Consumer Branding As A B2B Foundation

centurylink IMGBrand advertising is becoming a necessary ingredient for B2B success.

While US telco CenturyLink sees two-thirds of revenue come from B2B services, consumer-oriented strategies like a national TV campaign and sports sponsorships are taking a larger share of CenturyLink’s budgets, said CMO Bill Hurley.

Consumer branding increasingly “lays the foundation” for effective B2B sales, Hurley said.

And it isn’t just CenturyLink. The branding consultancy Spencer Brenneman said in a January brand advertising report that more than 86% of 150 B2B marketers surveyed had increased B2C-style campaign spending in recent years and 81% expected to continue boosting their investment.

B2B brands ranging from IT infrastructure to health insurance providers are seeing “the emotional connection the company has with its customers” dictate non-consumer spending decisions, according to the report.

After running a national TV ad aimed at its consumer business, CenturyLink will move up its enterprise pyramid, with a second round featuring its SMB service and a final campaign boosting its enterprise work, Hurley said.

“You want to keep moving up but maintain that emotional component that this is a relationship,” he said

CenturyLink has no consumer traction in New York City, but it’s the company’s third-largest market. Still, the TV campaign it ran last month was the first major branding to blanket the market.

The telco still has separate teams and budgets for B2B and consumer marketing, though the consumer campaigns are no longer just about generating demand for consumer products. It makes sense to silo those teams because B2B and B2C products approach the market in different ways, but making a more emotional connection early in the funnel “is hugely important and greatly underserved on the B2B side,” Hurley said.

He said the B2B sales boost from consumer exposure is also why the team significantly upped its sports sponsorship affiliations in recent years, signing marketing deals with the National Football League’s Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks – who play at CenturyLink Field – as well as baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks and basketball’s Minnesota Timberwolves.

Hurley said the end goal for a B2B media plan is “to end up in content that says to a given individual decision-maker at a business, ‘What do you need to know about the network space?’”

But increasingly, he added, that business decision involves “being able to look back and connect it to that relationship with the brand you made with TV messaging and big-name sponsorship positions.”

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