HomeDissertation:Creative BtoSforS Communications in an Age of Sustainability

Creative BtoSforS Communications in an Age of Sustainability

Basic Thinking

The association of BtoB advertising, or BtoB communications, with the idea of “from business to business” has tended to narrow the concept and limit it to activities between companies and the organizations that are their direct customers. Stakeholders are diversifying, however, so actually it is necessary to think of the concept in a broader sense. Originally the difference between BtoB communications and corporate communications by BtoB companies was that recipients of the former were limited to “businesses,” but in practice interpreting them as being the same facilitates discussion, so that is my approach in this article.

In any case, there are limits to explaining the present state of communications (Figure 1). The field has become more sophisticated and complex and has expanded its targeted domains. It cannot be explained by drawing a simple line connecting the transmitter of information with the recipient. Consequently, the concept of BtoB communications should be expanded.

A BtoB company cannot communicate with consumer through products; it will not get its message across if it does not talk about itself through corporate communication activities. Accordingly, at present there is a trend among BtoB companies to strengthen their communications directed toward society. In order to distinguish them from traditional communications aimed directly at sales promotion and business support, these communication activities can be called “business to society” (BtoS) communications. This concept refers to the corporate communications of all companies, including BtoB enterprises, targeting a broad and diverse range of stakeholders. The aforementioned concept of BtoSforS communications, furthermore, asserts that such communication activities should be directed toward the realization of sustainable development for both companies and society.

The predecessor of this concept of BtoSforS communications is the communication activities of BtoC companies, which can target the public in general, highlighting their social contributions. “Corporate social responsibility (CSR) communications” and “social communications” are sometimes used synonymously. Concepts differ depending on the critic, but Masami Inoue, for example, defines CSR communications as “dialogue and exchange of information with stakeholders relating to the company’s CSR thinking, approach, and activities in order to realize corporate social responsibility, build trustworthy relations between the company and stakeholders and share values, and enhance corporate value and social value.” In other words, she stresses two-way communications covering a wide scope.

In this article, I define BtoSforS communications as “communications that convey to society the details and significance of the company’s social contribution activities, including businesses conducted by the company, and communications that lead to a change of attitudes in society through those activities.” My argument is that this definition should be applied to BtoB companies. Limiting the discussion to advertising, in the traditional categorization of product and corporate advertising (Figure 2), I position BtoSforS communications in an area overlapping part of the latter.

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