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In April, the British integrated accounting, payroll, and payment systems company Sage refreshed its brand to reflect its new purpose statement: “To knock down barriers so everyone can thrive.” The refresh included a new brand architecture, visual and verbal identity, and product portfolio migration strategy, and with these changes came a membership program, new digital services, and new partnerships.

Of course, it’s all well and good to create a new business experience for existing and potential new customers—but it only works if those business clients actually know what is new and exciting. So in May, Sage launched a global ad campaign to get the word out to small and medium businesses around the world.

The “Sage—Helping Business Flow” campaign ran across television, outdoors, digital, and social channels. The company even partnered with professional sports leagues like Major League Baseball and Six Nations Rugby—which produced an unusually expansive reach for a business-to-business firm. The campaign features real Sage customers telling their stories, rendered as short animated films. Thus the CEO of a horse accessories retailer recounted her excitement upon receiving her first order; the head of finance of a travel agent described the “payroll sweats” experienced due to an overwhelming fear of payroll going wrong.

According to Marketing Week, which cited the Sage campaign as one of the best marketing campaigns of 2022, the rebrand combined with the marketing communications have produced roaring success. Sage saw about $218 million in annual recurring revenue coming from its new customer acquisition in 2022, up from $169 million in 2021. The company also reported overall recurring revenue growth of 9 percent over the year, to $2.32 billion.

On an investor call, Sage CEO Steve Hare credited sales and marketing with Sage’s lucrative 2022. The company spent about $914 million on sales and marketing in 2022, up from $844 million the previous year. And Hare believes that these numbers represent just the beginning, such that “our opportunity for growth is significant.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does marketing like Sage’s lead to increased revenue?
  2. How should Sage measure the success of its marketing campaign?
  3. Should other business-to-business firms invest heavily in such public-facing marketing?

Sources: “Sage Unveils First Global Ads by VCCP for Brand Refresh,” DecisionMarketing, May 9, 2022; “Sage: Helping Business Flow,” adsoftheworld.com, “The Best Marketing Campaigns of 2022: Part 2,” Marketing Week, December 6, 2022; “Sage Refreshes Brand to Reflect the Changing Needs of Its Customers,” sage.com, April 28, 2022; Niamh Carroll, “Sage Hails Increased Marketing Spend as Customer Acquisition Jumps,” Marketing Week, November 16, 2022; “The Sage Group Plc (SGGEF) Q4 2022 Earnings Call Transcript,” seekingalpha.com, November 16, 2022