Each June at the Cannes Lions Festival the spotlight is shone on the role creativity plays with brands.
For many years that spotlight has been on creative campaigns for consumer brands such as Coca-Cola and Volkswagen. But last year, for the first time, business-to-business campaigns started to share the spotlight. The most memorable was the Volvo Trucks video demonstration of its dynamic steering capabilities, using John-Claude Van Damme doing the splits between two of their moving vehicles.
It has always been an anomaly in marketing that the same person buying a truck for their company during the day, is marketed to in an entirely different manner when they are buying a car for themselves on the weekend. The consumer marketer for the car brand uses creativity to emotionally engage, surprise, and delight a potential buyer, while the business-to-business marketer for the trucks focuses on rational facts and benefits to get a buyer over the line.
For years B2B marketers have operated under the misconception that their audience was almost robotic in response to their communication methods: “Tell them, and they will listen, and buy.” It was a one-way conversation with marketers telling them about their product, telling them about its features, telling them the benefits to their company, telling them how it works, and telling them how much it costs.
It was a 100 per cent rational one-way dialogue in a world where 95 per cent of decisions are based on emotion, and people crave the human element along with two-way conversations.
Thankfully, large brands, start-ups and small-to-medium enterprises are beginning to realise marketing to businesses doesn’t need to be boring; that creativity can be used just as effectively in B2B marketing as it is in consumer marketing. In the past two years, brands such as IBM, Caterpillar, Cisco, GE and Xerox have won awards on the global stage for creative campaigns in the B2B space.
IBM showcased its “smarter ideas for smarter cities” tagline, with outdoor posters on walls that had a canopy built above them, turning them into bus shelters to allow people some respite from the rain or the sun. Caterpillar highlighted the strength, precision and dexterity of four of its machines by filming them playing a game of Jenga with quarter tonne blocks. Both were incredibly simple ideas, finding the balance between understanding and emotionally engaging their audience, and getting across the rational benefits of what they were selling.
The cost-effective nature of video content, as well as social media, eDMs and digital has opened up further mediums for B2B marketers for so long limited to sales people, traditional direct marketing, brochures and print publications.
And great content does deliver. The Volvo Trucks “Splits” 75-second video has been viewed by 78 million people. Fuelled by social media and eDMs, it not only caught the eye of fleet companies and owner-drivers, but influential industry figures, and finally the creative community. Likewise Caterpillar’s 150-second video has been viewed by about three million people.
B2B marketers need to ensure their digital assets, including their websites, provide the same user experience that buyers are used to when shopping online for consumer products. A recent survey showed that 57 per cent of the business purchase process is completed by a buyer before they contact the supplier directly. That means engaging, relevant and easy to navigate digital assets are a crucial medium for B2B marketers.
Likewise, with eDMs and social media. Those same buyers of business products are also seeing very creative examples of email and social media marketing in their everyday consumer lives. It’s those examples that cut through the daily clutter in their inboxes and social feeds. B2B marketers need to follow suit.
Each year the Cannes festival provides a timely reminder of the power of creativity in growing successful brands and companies. While consumer brands have long held the limelight around creativity, B2B brands are quickly starting to share it. From big business to small business, opportunities abound for B2B marketers to shake off the tired norms and better engage their customers. Those who do so will reap the rewards.