B2B marketers know the importance of capturing their upper-funnel audience, but foggy attribution and the ease of spending for these non-search ads makes this endeavor feel risky.
To understand how cybersecurity companies are approaching this challenge, we analyzed the upper-funnel advertising strategies of 15 cyber companies. Rather than trying to capture the entire industry, we’ve focused on a smaller set of cyber companies to narrow in on specific strategies. Our data came from Pathmatics for April 1, 2022 - March 30, 2023.
In our analysis, we’ve identified 4 industry outliers whose distinct upper-funnel ad plays are worth study:
- Bitdefender: The Heavy Weight
- Trellix: The Experimenter
- Cybereason: The Display Devotee
- Webroot: The Meta Method
Bit Defender: The Heavy Weight
Founded in Romania in 2001, Bitdefender’s now global presence serves small and medium business, mid-market enterprises and consumers. Bitdender is proud of its over 440 patents for core technologies, “including machine-learning algorithms to detect malware and other threats and anomaly-based detection techniques vital to detect and prevent new and unknown threats.” Their guiding mission is to be the most trusted cybersecurity provider.
|Software Development||1,001-5,000 Employees||$100M-$500M||Founded 2001|
BitDefender is vastly outspending every other company in our sample, claiming 60% of both spend and impression share over the last 12 month period.
They also outpace competitors in number of creatives, totaling 1,112 varieties in 12 months. The runner-up in this category ranks at only 554 unique creatives.
Average Daily Spend: $31,789.32
Top Platform: Desktop Display
Campaign Highlight: Partnership with Scuderia Ferrari
In late September 2022, Bitdefender announced a multi-year partnership with Scuderia Ferrari, the Formula One racing division of Ferrari. Bitdefender’s logo made an appearance on Ferrari cars, helmets, uniforms, and on the SF-23 single-seater days later on October 2nd at the F1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.
While the relationship may seem shallow at first, Co-founder and CEO of Bitdefneder Florin Talpes makes a clear connection between the two industries:
“When every second counts, only the most advanced cars win races on the track, and only the most advanced technology has the power to effectively prevent, defend and respond to cyberattacks."
By partnering with the powerhouse of racing, Bitdefender earns coverage and status as a powerhouse in cybersecurity.
Trellix: The Experimenter
FireEye - now Trellix - was founded in 2004 and quickly earned a reputation uncovering high-profile hacking groups. The company notably participated in taking down Ozdok, a botnet that at its strength accounted for 32% of spam worldwide; detected previously unknown vulnerabilities in Microsoft products; and traced nearly 50% of all 2022 state-sponsored hacking campaigns to China and Russia.
|Computer and Network Security||1,001-5,000 Employees||$500M-$1B||Founded 2004|
Trellix boasts the most diverse allocation of budget to different platforms and devices.
While most cyber companies heavily prioritize desktop display advertising, Trellix targets users via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, OTT, Desktop Video, Mobile Video, Desktop Display and Mobile Display.
Trellix also claims the largest OTT spend in our sample at 10% of their budget. We applaud this strategy, as our own strategic OTT spend for cyber clients has paid off big time.
Average Daily Spend: $3,966.69
Top Platform: Desktop Display
Campaign Highlight: Zen SecOps
Trellix’s top creative is a video advertisement showing how shockingly calm a security operations team can be when relying on Trellix.
This footage also happens to resemble the internal marketing teams for those brands trusting 97th Floor with their ad spend… just a coincidence, then!
Cybereason: The Display Devotee
Cybereason is an endpoint protection platform. Their company page describes them as a “new kind of cyber security company -- one that delivers future-ready attack protection that ends cyber attacks on the endpoint, across the enterprise to everywhere the battle is being waged.”
|Computer and Network Security||1,001-5,000 Employees||$20M-$50M||Founded 2012|
Cybereason is the only company in our sample whose impression volume outpaces their spend. However, there is a simple explanation for this: 99% of Cybereason’s non-search ad spend is devoted to Desktop Display ads. Display ads always guarantee high impressions, but is this the best way for Cybereason to be spending their budget?
One possible interpretation of this strategy is that Cybereason is playing by the 95-5 rule. The rule supposes that at any given time, only 5% of buyers are in the market and looking to buy. Conversely, 95% of buyers are not looking to buy. However, buyers hold strong biases for companies they already know when preparing to make a purchase decision. Investing in the 95% of out-of-market “future buyers” with brand awareness advertising can yield large dividends down the road as the 95% eventually rotates into the buying stage.
Average Daily Spend: $5,987.99
Top Platform: Desktop Display
Campaign Highlight: League of Defenders
Since its founding in 2012, an owl has been the center of Cybereason’s brand identity. When Cybereason began a rebranding process in 2020, conversations with stakeholders revealed that the owl would stay.
Chief Marketing Officer Meg O’Leary says, “The reality was that our customers and partners not only liked the owl as a part of our visual identity. They felt it reflected their own identity as cyber defenders. They too must be wise thinkers and shrewd hunters who adapt as they go, cutting through darkness and complexity to zero in on and neutralize their targets. The owl symbolized the best in all of us as defenders.”
Cybereason’s owl appears on all the creatives we pulled, featured on a black background to remind audiences that both owls and Cybereason see in darkness to detect and destroy threats. The ‘E’ in End found in the design seems to mimic an owl’s three talons slicing through enemies.
In 2020, the rebrand introduced the League of Defenders - a group of owls with distinct looks and abilities to encompass all of Cybereason’s abilities and services. You can meet the League here.
Cybereason stands out from competitors as a brand with strong visual identity, creating a mascot for the cybersecurity industry.
Webroot: The Meta Method
Founded in 1997 by Steven Thomas and his girlfriend Boulderite Kristen Tally, Webroot’s first commercial product was a trace removal agent called Webroot Window Washer. Today, Webroot “secures businesses and individuals worldwide with threat intelligence and protection for endpoints and networks.”
|Computer and Network Security||500-1,000 Employees||$100M-$500M||Founded 1997|
In a drastic departure from the norm, Webroot spends a massive 88% of their budget on Meta. Perhaps they’ve got on that both B2B and B2C customers are real people who sometimes just love to scroll.
Average Daily Spend: $7,397.05
Top Platform: Facebook
Campaign Highlight: Yep, it’s cat memes.
Now this creative insight is the real reason we wanted to talk about Webroot. Remember when YouTube had all of 10 videos on it? Maybe not. But just three months after YouTube’s founding in 2005, YouTube co-founder Steve Chen became the first person ever to upload a cat video to the site. Now, cat videos are a rather prolific form of inter-tainment. Even the suggestion of a cat video is now a meme in itself - rather meta, no?
Anyway, you get it. And Webroot gets it. And this is their homepage.
Although cat memes account for a tiny portion of their creative, Webroot is making a bold play here. I mean, how can anyone ignore an ad of space cats shooting lasers from their eyes? To us, that screams reputable cyber company.
They get it. And they know that some of their audience is the stereotypical cat-loving computer nerd who will be overjoyed to find themselves shown such a work of art.
So they’ve embraced this, sort of. Their other ads are rather bland in comparison, but we’re rooting for whoever at Webroot is wrestling for more cat meme ad budget.
From Analysis to Action
At 97th Floor, we're big believers that Extraordinary Marketing requires three things: deep audience understanding, bottom-line focus, and courageous disruption. Our analysis of these four bold cyber companies leaves us here:
- Intentional audience research - including one-on-one interviews! - clearly delineates the proper messaging, tone and creative for any campaign. Always start with your customer.
- Only those B2B businesses willing to invest in their 95% upper-market audience will maintain a strong pipeline of in-market audience. Performance marketing and brand marketing must align for bottom-line wins.
- There is ample space in the cyber industry and in other such B2B industries for absolute and controlled chaos. People are people, whether they're buying chapstick for their nightstand or security software for their business. Companies dedicated to a strong and surprising brand are more memorable and no less authoritative. Dare to have fun.