Once upon a time there was B2B (or BTB). And B2C. The two gave birth to B2B2C. And BTP (it stands for Business to People, the layman should not confuse it with the more popular BTp). Now we are at H2H (Human to Human, just to be clear).
All of this is the result of the intuition of Philip Kotler, of the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, the greatest global marketing guru, who has traced the path of evolution in recent decades. In his latest work (H2H Marketing. Human to Human Marketing) he was joined by German colleagues Waldemar Pfoerstch and Uwe Sponholtz. Fabio Ancarani, of the University of Bologna and associate dean of BBS, who edited the Italian edition of the book (published by Piccin Editore), explains this path in his preface.
If H2H is the ultimate destination, where did we start? From marketing that saw the world rigidly divided in two, with consumers on one side (B2C) and business customers on the other (B2B). From there we arrived at the syncretism of B2B2C, business-to-business-to-consumer marketing, which looks, even in the relationship between companies, at the end customer. Or BTP, which goes beyond the traditional distinction between consumers and business to admit that there are actually similarities and that even in the purchasing departments of companies, the buyer is not an impersonal entity, but a person with motivations, perceptions of risk, preferences. Marketing policies then began to investigate psycho-social motivations, psychological segmentations and the emphasis on branding policies not only for consumer goods, but also for industrial goods. The final customer too ended up in the spotlight, at the end of the value chain, the “customer of the customer”. Even packaging, once the preserve of consumer goods marketing, has become an important factor in business, or even in services. The attention of companies has shifted to the emotional and experiential characteristics of products and purchasing processes. Experiential marketing, experiential shopping, sensory marketing, and even olfactory marketing were born.
In today’s world of digital transformation, change is driven by the centrality of technology and data (big data), but also by the integration between the tech component and the “touch” component, the human one, in a multichannel and omnichannel environment. Tech and human, physical and digital: to use a neologism, “phygital”.
And so, we come to H2H marketing, human to human, the latest evolution of Kotler’s thinking, living proof that even at 90 years of age you can still be creative. The marketing of this Kotlerian nouvelle vague looks at the customer as a person, be it an end customer or an industrial buyer; an individual with values and looking for values, who asks companies for a mix of products and services that meet their desired benefits, breaking down the traditional barriers between “B” and “C”. “Human marketing to humanize marketing, in an era where technology is increasingly automating it. “There is no intent, on the part of Kotler and his two co-authors, to dispense with or bypass technology; rather, their marketing is based on an ever-increasing integration between the digital-technological and human-physical aspects. The path that leads to H2H marketing has passed through the marketing of solutions, experiences and emotions, where consumers and customers acquire their own humanity, to the service dominant logic, which increasingly focuses on the service component even in goods, to the service/human capital link, to the virtuous circle between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, shareholder value and stakeholder value. Today, socially responsible and sustainable marketing policies take center stage: the post-pandemic era, when we finally get there, is likely to accentuate these characteristics”.
The conclusion is that more humane marketing helps improve marketing and that its path, when it meets the converging paths of sustainability and social responsibility, can restore marketing’s role as a leading corporate function.