How 3M is Using B2C Marketing Techniques to Humanise Its B2B Brand

While 3M is a company which operates firmly in the B2B space, its new marketing initiative is looking to connect directly with the end users of its products.

Even if 3M isn’t immediately familiar to you, it’s almost guaranteed that you use at least one of its products on a regular basis. In fact, the company’s website claims you are never more than three metres away from one. Beginning life in 1902 as a mining venture, 3M eventually branched out into consumer products, with some of its most famous creations including Post-It Notes, Scotch Tape, and masking tape. In 1929, 3M formed the Durex brand, allowing it to expand into Europe.

Today, 3M operates in several sectors including electronics, energy, and healthcare, and employs over 90,000 staff. The Minnesota-based company has revenues of over $31 billion, and sits at #97 on the Fortune 500.

Science for the Masses

3M was looking for ways to boost its B2B business by increasing awareness of its products in the minds of consumers. The company views its customers as professional, educated people working in all fields who, while they use 3M products in their working lives, also encounter the brand outside of that environment.

“Even though only 15% of our revenue comes from consumer products, everybody is a consumer,” said Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Sales at 3M, Paul Acito. “So really the campaign is a double play where we want to show that even in your day-to-day personal life, you’re encountering 3M everywhere. It follows on from us seeing the consumerisation of B2B and so that’s why we’re going to find our target customers in their personal life. We’re humanising the brand.”

3M sees itself as a science company and, based on its own research of 14,000 people in 14 countries, found that, while there is a global fascination with science, most people don’t understand it beyond a macro level. 40% of those surveyed didn’t see the impact science has on their day-to-day lives, and didn’t think it would be any different without it.


To address the issues raised by the research, 3M developed a campaign dubbed “Wonder.” Its goal was to show ordinary people how science touches their lives every day, and asks the question of what may be just over the horizon in terms of technological innovation.

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A series of three short films features people wondering about science, from self-driving buses and smart homes, to more durable mobile phones. By taking the focus off specific products and onto the things they actually care about – solutions to their everyday problems – 3M helps demystify both science and its B2B operations in the minds of the general public.

“The door they enter to view 3M is not a product door,” said Acito. “They don’t say, ‘I’m looking for very high bond tape.’ They’re dreaming about autonomous vehicles or smart roads or intelligent safety products. Those types of questions are the ones they’re asking themselves and we have answers. The whole point of the campaign is that it’s the newest chapter intended to broaden how people know the company by highlighting all the different ways we are in their lives.”

These ideas ring true across both B2B and B2C businesses, and it can take innovative brands such as 3M, who operate in both fields, to identify them and make the most of the opportunities they present.

Final Thoughts

B2C and B2B businesses are becoming increasingly similar in the way they promote themselves and build brand awareness. With advertising campaigns such as Wonder, and by carrying out independent research, companies such as 3M can use the resultant data to track behaviour and customer journeys. They can then use this insight to identify and leverage the parts of personal and business lives which are similar.

“I personally view all marketing as digital marketing, so it’s a great time to be a B2B CMO,” said Acito. “My mantra is, if marketing equals online, and online equals software, then marketing equals software. So, we built out our [marketing technology] stack. It’s the same stack we use in consumer and B2B. We map out what we think their journey is based on data and insights, and then we put assets in place, so they can encounter them in the places they like to search for information, which allows us to continually have a closed loop data feed.”

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