Norfolk Southern Taps Consumer Marketing Playbook for B2B Success

Even industrial marketers can utilize consumer marketing tactics to get their message out.

The latest example is transportation company Norfolk Southern.  If you’ve watched any television during the past two months, you still might be humming their song “What’s Your Function?”

Since being hired in 2010, the marketing challenge for Norfolk Southern’s agency RP3 has been to turn an industrial brand into a magnet brand.  Previous work was built off the tagline:  “One line, infinite possibilities.”

The overarching message this year is that “trains connect us all.”

Specifically, the new ad is designed to “remind everyone how Norfolk Southern connects businesses, creates jobs, and keeps the economy moving.”  That’s bold.

Taking advantage of B2C marketing tactics to reach B2B decision-makers requires a tight understanding and definition of target audience, and desired outcomes.

For 2013, the goals have been reported as follows:

  • Target audience: Business and policy decision-makers
  • Campaign objective: Celebrate and promote the role of rail in building the nation’s economy

How do you measure that?  What we can glean from RP3’s case study is that metrics include before/after quantitative survey results for questions such as:

  • Norfolk Southern creates jobs; and
  • Norfolk Southern has a positive impact on the economy.

In addition, there are specific business initiatives that can be measured and perhaps partly attributed to marketing.  For example, commenting on the company’s 2012 advertising increase and new creative, Forbes magazine noted:

“While the ad campaign is unlikely to directly result in significant new revenues, it could help Norfolk in finding locations and partners for the construction of new rail routes in the future.”


Norfolk Southern taps the consumer marketing playbook to achieve its business marketing objectives with fun, catchy television advertising.  The business and brand-building initiative seems grounded in solid marketing discipline.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

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