The past few years have shown us all the volatility of supply chain management. The 2021 Suez Canal incident (whilst great for viral content) blocked an estimated $9.7 billion worth of products each day, though this pales in comparison to the impact of the pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia War. Despite its impact on our lives, the supply chain and B2B brands have a reputation for being unglamorous.

DHL Supply Chain recognized this perception and began a journey to breathe fresh air into its B2B brand, coining it ‘The Ultimate Sidekick’. The campaign contributed to:

  • 5,586 leads in Salesforce for 2021
  • Impacted 50% of gross profit in Q4 2021
  • Increased global Net Promotor Score (NPS) from 36 to 50 by Q4 2021
  • Achieved 90% client renewal rate

Jaclyn Pannell, Head of Global Marketing Campaigns at DHL Supply Chain, walked us through DHL’s award-winning B2B campaign, from omnichannel strategy through to personalization.

Being the Robin to B2B’s Batman

Chances are, you are familiar with DHL and its B2C parcel delivery service which transports over 1.6 billion packages per year. You might be less familiar with its B2B arm, DHL Supply Chain, which deals with the invisible backbone of global trade, the supply chain.

DHL wanted to strengthen its supply chain brand, attract new clients, and retain existing ones. However, given that many of its solutions supported clients on the front line, it was keen to highlight itself as the ultimate sidekick rather than the hero.

“We’ve all seen the advent of Marvel,” Pannell explains. “Every superhero has a partner. We work alongside our clients and that is the key behind the ultimate sidekick. They’re Batman, we’re Robin. Not in anyone’s shadows, we work together.”

However, each client has a different problem. Each client had slightly different areas of concern and emotional levers. DHL created and delivered personalized content to different target segments which gained outstanding engagement with its global audience:

  • 500,000 new followers on social media
  • 100% of DHL Supply Chain’s global accounts have engaged in the campaign to date
  • Content consumption increased 56% from 2021 to 2022

Bringing the ultimate sidekick to life

Bringing a persona to life is especially hard for B2B brands. The ‘ultimate sidekick’ concept demonstrated the superlative difference DHL Supply Chain aims to offer its clients. To bring the ‘ultimate sidekick’ to life, DHL created a playbook for content around this campaign, including guidelines for imagery and text.

Imagery:

  • Photos and videos were taken in a cinematic style inspired by comic-book films.
  • Assets were desaturated to emphasize DHL’s recognizable red and yellow brand colors
  • Guidelines were provided for new assets including cropping, the use of moving imagery, and lens flare.
  • Each of DHL Supply Chain’s global solutions had its own ‘power shield’ graphic logo.
Shield logos for each of DHL's B2B solutions
The different shield logos for DHL’s eight B2B solutions

Text:

  • Guidelines were provided for font, text color, and location.
  • Clear instructions for the tone of voice included ‘consultative, not salesy’ and ‘confident not arrogant.’ Practical examples such as ‘boost not increase’ were provided.
  • The hashtag #ultimatesidekick was used consistently in all external messaging.

DHL built a profile for each unique client to supplement these guidelines, from a Head of Logistics to a Real Estate Director. Each profile included their role, what they cared about, and what they wanted to hear. It then matched these up with eight different ‘ultimate messages.’

Example:

  • Title: Real Estate Director
  • What they care about: “Technical expertise.”
  • What they want to hear: “We have the expertise and technological edge to help you build a more streamlined and resilient supply chain future.”
  • Message theme: “Optimising efficiency and ROI: Distribution network design.”
  • Message: “Mastermind real estate solutions with your #ultimatesidekick”

DHL created multiple messages for each solution. Tailoring content drove engagement with DHL’s B2B target segments who received personalized messaging reflecting what they needed from their ‘ultimate sidekick’.

DHL B2B message: "Triump with your sustainability commitments"
An example of DHL’s B2B messaging for its sustainability solution

“We also looked at the type of company that we wanted to engage with factors such as revenue level. This helped us build parameters around the person we were talking to”.

“We know they’ll be researching online. We targeted messaging to social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter and connected to publisher sites like Bloomberg for programmatic advertising.”

“They would look at a relevant article which would connect to DHL. They would click on the ad, and this would bring them into our ecosystem”

Prepared assets included an article on robotic picking technology to highlight DHL’s expertise in digitalization. It also produced case studies including a story about helping a consumer products manufacturer find savings with co-packing.

Other assets included brochures, video explainers, vlogs with team members, infographics, and flyers.

How DHL delivered personalized content

Creating the content was step one. Step two involved delivering this content to the right person at the right time. Pannell explains how DHL built these personalized journeys.

“To unify the campaign and ensure that every client had a distinct but meaningful experience, we developed multiple landing pages. Using AI, we were able to understand user interest and serve up relevant content to the individual in a unified style.”

Each journey was mapped out by the given solution to meet client challenges identified in the research. If a client clicked on a transport advert hosted on LinkedIn, they would be taken to transport content on the landing page. Any further pieces of content recommended would be related to transport. Pannell continues:

“Our eight solutions all had key client challenges identified against them, and a range of key messages developed to address the challenges.”

“Every asset linked back to a client challenge and an area of our proposition. We could show clients quickly and easily how we could bring the same sorts of benefits to their own business by being their ‘ultimate sidekick’.”

DHL's eight B2B Sidekicks stood together
Each of DHL’s eight B2B solutions had its sidekick

The content was run across 8,000 publishers. Once an audience member became a known contact, DHL could see their behaviors across all its channels. This allowed DHL to serve personalized content that would convert them into its ecosystem through relevant landing pages and social channels.

Building omnichannel consistency

Delivering personalized communications is, of course, not as simple as drafting up the relevant copy and imagery and rolling out the adverts.

To build consistent external messaging, DHL also worked to improve the internal infrastructure of its marketing division. The marketing team bridged an internal talent gap and invested in technology, as Pannell describes.

“Our mantra is customer-centric, insights-driven, and digitally enabled. To deliver this we needed to bridge a gap in our workforce. Firstly, we employed digital specialists. These were omnichannel managers who had experience in delivering consistent messages to every touchpoint. Secondly, we invested in digital training for our existing marketers. DHL Supply Chain is a DAX 100  brand, so we need to make sure our internal skills are robust enough to cope with the new digital landscape where clients experience our brand at every turn.”

“We also invested in our digital infrastructure and ecosystem. We moved our reporting away from individual channels to a holistic overview of how all channels are doing on one page. It was a matter of shifting our viewpoint to see the whole picture rather than one pixel at a time.”

From investors to team members, internal alignment is a vital part of DHL’s B2B campaign journey. It allows the marketing team to build greater trust with internal stakeholders like the CEO as a result. Omnichannel begins internally by ensuring the internal teams and technology are aligned.

The need to raise B2B Awareness

When you go to the supermarket you expect milk to be in the fridge. When you need a prescription from the pharmacy, you expect the dispenser to give it to you.

In the past few years, people have understood how fragile the supply chain can be and how reliant they are on the supply chain running smoothly. DHL Supply Chain ran a survey in 2021 and found whilst people are aware DHL help with the supply chain, they were far less aware of DHL’s other solutions. Here is a quick survey summary:

  • The research was global. It covered 21 countries, 12 languages, and three panels.
  • 97% of the respondents stated to know DHL as a provider of logistics and supply chain services.
  • The numbers were far lower for other solutions. 46% of people were unaware of DHL’s real estate solution.
  • DHL scored well on areas such as popularity among other providers and offering something different.

Pannell discusses how the survey findings impacted the tone and strategy behind DHL’s messaging.

“We found our clients have a will to research and know more about the supply chain with each purchase or decision. They know we can help solve their problems, but they aren’t fully aware of our solutions.”

“We wanted to build awareness of all our solutions. Knowing we had an emotional bond with our clients meant we wanted our ‘ultimate sidekick’ messaging to be conversational, personal, and built on client advocacy.”

Case Study comment from a B2B client of DHL
Another example of a DHL Case Study from a B2B client in Germany

Client advocacy means credibility. This came in the form of case studies by satisfied clients. DHL made a global map. Clicking on a given location would bring up a case study. Pannell shares an example:

“Take resiliency and agility in the face of trade restrictions during the pandemic. A location in North America had a case study about pivoting from an automotive site to a life sciences manufacturing site within seven days. Our role in delivering that agility meant instant credibility.”

DHL’s B2B future

As awareness of the supply chain continues to increase, DHL Supply Chain will continue its investment in marketing through investment in technology, infrastructure, and people.

“Firstly, we’ve learned we can be much more real-time in our messaging. If we’ve worked hard to gather these unique insights on our audience, we have to bring them into our story now rather than in six months.”

“Looking forward, we’ll be investing much more into research and our digital architecture. We’re working on a data warehouse to help us unlock these insights and improve the efficiency of taking these insights to market.”

“We’ll also be investing heavily in talent. We want to bring on more marketers. It’s brought us rewards thus far through the ‘ultimate sidekick’ campaign so we’re trying to make our team a place where employees can thrive. We went from 50% turnover and 7% employee satisfaction in 2019 to 0% turnover and 96% employee satisfaction in 2022.”

DHL has not only delivered an engaging campaign for its audience but also recycled these positive results internally to secure further buy-in. With this investment, DHL Supply Chain’s marketing division will be well placed to show supply chain heroes how its B2B arm can be their ‘ultimate sidekick.’


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