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We've all been scrambling to figure out what the "new normal" will look like post-pandemic. But it's pretty apparent that no one knows for sure.

Most of the conversation around marketing during the pandemic was focused on the B2C economy, but the B2B sector was also fundamentally disrupted. After all, how could a company plan and budget for an industry tradeshow that might be canceled on a week's notice?

Not surprisingly, that chaos has rewritten the rules of B2B marketing, leaving companies unsure of how to reach and interact with their prospective customers. But one thing is certain: Physical connections are increasingly important, and savvy marketers are honing their approaches to maximize the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Now that companies are back in the proverbial saddle, what are B2B marketers doing to re-engage in the out-of-home (OOH) world? More important: can they simply rewind the clock to 2019 and pretend that the last few years didn't happen, or do they need new approaches to attract customers post-pandemic?

As it turns out, it's a little bit of both—and it all comes down to engaging with people where they actually are.

The Rise of Hybrid Work

One of the biggest changes is that even though millions of people are returning to work, they are not going into offices full-time. In fact, more than half of American companies requiring people to be onsite are making them show up only once or twice a week. That's a massive shift that is changing the face of marketing, because all of the techniques that companies used to reach commuters are out the window.

One major example is the decline of drive-time radio shows, which traditionally captured high advertising revenues because they were targeted to a captive audience of tens of millions of people doing a twice-daily commute. Because far fewer people are on the roads now, there has been a significant decline in listenership for "Morning Zoo"-type programs that have lost their reliable regular audiences.

That extends into the print world, as well. Fewer drivers means that billboards and other signage are less valuable than they were two years ago. Even sandwich boards outside of restaurants aren't as effective because there are simply fewer people seeing them.

In such a climate, how are marketers supposed to engage with people who are living different lives than they did before the pandemic?

As it turns out, the rules may have changed, but the DNA of marketing is still the same: It's about creating positive, memorable engagements that will drive purchasing decisions.

Marketing With Physical Media

An important part of marketing today is to create a physical, tangible connection. That has always been important, of course, but after months of social distancing and living in isolation, people are hungry for actual contact with each other. That's why decidedly low-tech tools such as direct mail and flyers are suddenly roaring back.

Even tradeshow signage and swag, cryogenically frozen since 2020, are now front and center as industry events, and in-person marketing activities have resurged. Those events are often a display of physical marketing at its finest, as companies stand out from the pack with creative setups and giveaways that double as free promotion when customers wear and display branded items they resonate with.

Even items such as stickers can play a key role in brand-building because companies can create items that perfectly communicate what they want to say. For example, stickers allow companies to display logos and messaging with customized design through unique shapes, sizes, and materials to create one-of-a-kind products that will help them stand out from their competitors.

Stickers have long been the low-cost guerilla marketing technique of choice for bands, skate and surf brands, and other groups that embrace a counter-culture aesthetic. Many OOH destinations, such as dive bars, coffee shops, and tourist attractions, often not only tolerate but also encourage creative sticker use.

Stickers are a budget-friendly means of propagating your brand into all manner of surprising places. As more people start reincorporating dining, bars, nightlife, and travel into their lives, activating your brand's biggest fans and transforming them into promoters through creative stickers could make for a particularly effective OOH marketing strategy.

The Internet revolution long predates COVID-19, but when the pandemic hit North America, companies accelerated the move to all-digital strategies. Today, we are seeing a rollback as companies embrace pre-2020 techniques—and augment those approaches with new ways to create physical connections with their customers, who desire real-world interactions more than ever before.

More Resources on Out-of-Home Advertising

Six Out-of-Home Advertising Tactics to Reach B2B Audiences

Global Spend Trends for Out-of-Home and Cinema Advertising

How to Target Millennials With Billboard Advertising

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OOH: How B2B Marketers Can Reintegrate With the Physical World

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image of Andrew Witkin

Andrew Witkin is the founder and CEO of StickerYou, a global e-commerce leader in custom-printed, die-cut products that allows businesses to create high-quality materials for personal expression, marketing, and packaging.

LinkedIn: Andrew Witkin