When you think about B2B marketing what comes to mind?
Go on, say it.
Whitepapers, that’s what. Lengthy, text-heavy, jargonistic, dull. Don’t get me wrong, there is often useful insight buried in there but have you ever read one through to the end to find it? I know my answer…
For me, this is a sad state of affairs. B2B brands want to achieve exactly the same as consumer brands; to get people genuinely excited about what they are doing. They want the same watercooler moments and social media shares. “Have you seen this? It’s cool AF!”. Those words are surely every marketer’s dream? However, most of the B2B marketing content I see is more of the same. And ‘the same’ rarely stands out or gets people talking.
The peak of inflated expectations
A year back, I had a glimmer of hope that B2B marketing was shaking off it’s boring image and starting to show innovation. Cannes Lions is the pinnacle of creative marketing and the 2017 event was exceptional for B2B brands, who comprised almost a quarter of award winners. In fact, the defining campaign of the event was State Street Global Advisor’s “Fearless Girl” statue which, in addition to making news around the globe, triggered a 384% increase in average daily trading volume after its unveiling. Email marketing service MailChimp also won big with it’s “Did You Mean MailChimp” campaign, a tongue in cheek play on the fact that its name often confuses the target audience.
However, a year on and we are sadly not seeing a cumulative increase when it comes to creativity in B2B marketing. At this year’s Cannes Lions there was next to no talk about exciting B2B campaigns. In fact, it took me over an hour to track down a single B2B focused award winner (it was Google BTW). With this in mind, we need to ask two questions. Firstly, does it matter than B2B marketing is lacking in creative flair and, if so, how do we change this?
Why does creativity matter?
In the words of one of my marketing heroes Dave Trott, “the human mind is a pattern-making machine that groups similar things together. Therefore, to make an impact, brands need to avoid the obvious and be brave and bold”.
My take on this is that, by stepping away from the tried and tested, B2B brands have an opportunity to stand head and shoulders above their competitors in terms of raising awareness. Being different means that your audience will take notice. You may even win a nice, shiny award.
However, glory alone is not enough to justify investing in something new. We need to see real business outcomes, something that creative campaigns can deliver by the bucketload.
Take, for example, Google’s recent Cannes award win. The goal was to demonstrate Google Cloud’s ability to turn data into insights. As a sponsor of the NCAA (to us Brits, this is basketball I believe) Google moved 80+ years of historical NCAA data over to Google Cloud and analysed this to make accurate, real-time predictions about the popular March Madness tournament during the games. Pretty cool right? What’s even cooler is that the campaign drove a 91% lift in product interest, $930K in immediate pipeline impact and 42% increase in brand search volume.
At this point, it is time for a caveat. I’m not advocating creativity for creativity's sake. Not every marketing activation requires an all singing, all dancing creative inferno. Sometimes a white paper is the right choice. Also, where you do decide to invest in a creative campaign it must be insight lead, based on a deep understanding of your audience and what makes them tick. But, done correctly, a creative approach to B2B marketing can bring you more awareness, great engagement and a full funnel.
My CEO says no
Shaking up B2B marketing sounds fantastic in abstract, but the challenge for marketers is how to put the theory into practice. It takes guts to carve a new path. It can be risky, and risks do not always sit well with business leaders.
However, as we have proved many times at Chameleon, taking a risk can lead not only lead to audience engagement and brand love, it can also offer tangible business outcomes. We’ve seen recent creative campaigns deliver qualified lead-gen contacts worth millions. If you are looking for fresh B2B thinking or support in selling a more creative approach in to your stakeholders drop me a line.