Survey Finds B2B Brands are Not Prepared for Today’s High-Stakes Issues

  • 86% of business leaders take values into account when making important buying or partner organization decisions
  • 80% of business leaders and 70% of senior marketers would terminate a business relationship with a supplier based on a failure to address a high-stakes communications issue
  • 82% of consumers say they would consider ditching a brand if they were associated with a partner or supplier that handled a high-stakes issue in a way that violated their personal values
  • In the US, the top three high-stakes issues for consumers are immigration, income and wage gaps and
    political corruption
Inplace #2

Hotwire, a global communications agency, today released research analyzing the role of high-stakes leadership in today’s Post Business-to-Business (B2B) world, where the lines between B2B and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing are blurred, end-user and consumer audiences collide, and high expectations towards all brands are persistent.

The key findings show that 8 in 10 business leaders would end a relationship with a partner based on the failure to address high-stakes communications issues, such as data security, income, and wage gaps, or sexual harassment, among other wide-ranging issues. While 82% of consumers say they would consider dropping a brand if it were associated with a partner or supplier that handled a high-stakes issue in a way that violated their values.

“Every day we see headlines that bring companies to their knees,” said Sahana Jayaraman, EVP, Global Head of Strategy & Marketing Services at Hotwire, “From #MeToo to gender diversity, to pay equity, the list is endless. The reality is that we live in a high-stakes era in which every issue can be ‘the issue’ that shapes your reputation. Consumer expectations toward brands are changing, and unlike before, the pressure to take a stand on values exists now for B2B and not just B2C.”

Hotwire’s latest report turns to a mix of marketing leaders, business decision makers, and consumers to determine how high-stakes leadership can impact the business’ bottom line, specifically exploring how a brand’s grasp on its core values and its preparation for crisis events can play a role in mitigating the negative backlash of a crisis.

According to the report, nearly 60% of senior marketers have been involved in a high-stakes communications event either at their current or previous organization, and nearly 70% of business leaders worry about a high-stakes communications event. On top of this, half of marketers (50%) agree that having clearly defined values is the number one thing they can do to prepare for a high-stakes event. With only 31% of senior marketers and 22% of business leaders citing that their company has core values that would fully guide them during a high-stakes event, it’s no surprise why brands are worried. According to 65% of marketers and 63% of business leaders customer loss and brand reputation rank as the two most prevalent concerns in the event of a crisis.

When it comes to preparation, the data indicates that marketing leaders are not as prepared as they should be, although 78% of senior marketers say that high-stakes issue planning is at least as important as any other factor in their marketing and communications plan. However, 45% of marketing leaders don’t have a current high-stakes communication plan in place. Yet less than half (48%) of the marketers surveyed feel that their company’s communications reflect core values a majority of the time, and 53% say they’re vulnerable to damaging impacts of a high-stakes communications event.

In terms of putting a stake in the ground on high-stakes issues, 61% of senior marketers and 57% of business leaders say their organization should do more to take a stand on key issues.

Importance of values in a Post B2B world

When it comes to consumers, nine out of 10 are conscious of their personal values and are prepared to align them to their spending habits. Over three-quarters, (76%) of consumers make an effort to buy products and services in line with their beliefs. On the flip side, nearly 50% of these consumers admit to having ditched a product or service because the company violated their personal ideals.

Of the many high-stakes issues that consumers want companies to take a stand on, the top five global interests include protecting the environment (26%), sexual harassment (23%), climate change (22%), data security (21%), and income and 2 wage gaps (21%). In the US specifically, the top three concerns among consumers include immigration (44%), income and wage gaps (38%), and political corruption (37%).

“Brands must be prepared for anything and everything – if they find themselves debating until the last hour when an issue strikes, they will suffer hard,” Jayaraman said. “However, high stakes-issues don’t just pose threats, but also present huge opportunities. If brands are clear on their values, and know where they stand on issues as an organization, then they will be better prepared to navigate swiftly through a high-stakes issue.”

To read the full report High-Stakes Leadership in a Post B2B World, please click here

About the Research

This research was carried out by Sapio Research on behalf of Hotwire from December 2018 to January 2019, via surveys among three distinct groups: 658 CMO’s and senior communications executives at B2B and B2C companies; 688 general business decision makers at B2B and B2C companies; and 6,218 consumers. The research was conducted across the following countries:

  • US
  • UK
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • Germany
  • France
  • Australia
About Hotwire & Enero

About Hotwire

Hotwire, the global communications agency, helps CMOs better engage and connect with their customers. From Sydney to San Francisco, we operate with a borderless mind-set across 22 locations including the UK, US, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Australia, together with co-branded partners Yellow Communications in the Netherlands and Belgium, Active DMC in the Middle East and VIANEWS in Brazil, as well as other affiliate partners. For more information, please visit

About Enero

The Enero Group limited, a boutique network of marketing and communication businesses, is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX: EGG). The group includes advertising agency BMF, PR agencies CPR, Frank, and Hotwire, strategic consultancy Naked Communications, digital agency Orchard, research consultancies The Leading Edge and The Digital Edge, and agencies OB media and Precinct. For more information, please visit