The struggle to stand out...
“Oh wow, you work for a design agency? Who do you design for?” How many times have you heard this? And don’t you always feel like you want to say brands or products people have heard of? Despite how creative those projects were…
Do we do this because of notoriety? Brand recognition? A perceived skill level? Or just because it makes us sound on-trend? It’s fair to say that Business to Business (B2B) work does not sound as sexy as Business to Consumer (B2C). But, we’ve done some digging and we beg to differ.
B2B campaigns tend to be thought of as work related. They use stock imagery, sales patter, statistics and feature-led copy as their ‘creative’, and are by brands and companies that you have no real loyalty towards outside of your 9-5 (another myth, but that’s for another blog.)
Whereas B2C campaigns are seen throughout our personal lives; their creativity and visuals show aspiring fashion, the latest technology, cars we want to drive and holiday destinations we would love to visit. They are focused on us, the consumer, and we value them.
Ask yourself this… ‘can you think of one B2B campaign which struck a chord with you?’ Probably not. Now, can you think of a B2C campaign that resonated with you? Made you cry? Or, that you just thought was beautifully executed? Nike – ‘You Can’t Stop Us?’ Calms – ‘Last Photo?’ maybe Dove – ‘Reverse Selfie?’… the list goes on for many of us, and you don’t even have to work in our industry to think of one.
But why is this? Why are B2C campaigns more identifiable? Why are they remembered more? And why do we think of them as more creative? After all, the campaigns are created in the same professional agencies, using the same software, going through similar stages of research, ideation, writing and designing (hopefully), and crucially, they have the same potential reach across a huge list of digital platforms and outputs.
Data - Friend or Foe?
B2B marketing is historically about measurability, sales targets and the bottom line. In this world, there is such a massive log of data captured across social channels, ATL, TTL, BTL, clicks, algorithms and user habits, that it’s easy to think of something being successful on paper.
This has led to a reliance on data rather than creativity for B2B marketers so when they brief design agencies they can focus more on the data rather than the creative proposition offered by a studio. This is ultimately short-term thinking and we need to embrace the long-term gains of brand value, familiarity and emotional connection that are historically more prevalent in B2C campaigns, simply through great creative ideas.
“I worry that B2B marketing is becoming a glorified arm of the sales team… too focused on short-term outcomes… obsessed with statistics the finance people can understand. That’s not where the value is”.
Ed Southerden, Head of Planning. Bray Leino.
With this in mind, it seems as though we need to focus on the people buying the product and not the product itself by speaking to the individual and not the profession. This creativity is established in B2C, and it is beginning to happen in B2B too.
Change is happening...
Cannes Lions have a B2B award category now. And the winner of this inaugural award and the creativity behind it epitomises the narrative within this blog – people. That winner is Sherwin Williams Paint for their Speaking in Color digital service, beautifully designed by Wunderman, Minneapolis.
“There was a great idea behind it. There was a great strategy behind it. B2B often follows in the wake of B2C in many ways - whether it’s ideas or trends. What Sherwin Williams developed here was a brand experience specifically tailored for a very niche target market but the implications are going to be explosive. It’s going to start in B2B and it’s going to be adopted by B2C in a second”.
Paul Hirsch, COO. Dormeus.
This type of thinking by Sherwin Williams Paint shows we should not devalue our B2B audience. In fact, B2B can lay the blueprint for B2C to follow when it comes to targeted marketing. The reason why this campaign won was that it is a quality creative that speaks to people. Even if it is a service, a functional tool or has a work-related use, emotion can outweigh rational thinking (even in business).
This is what people remember and this breeds a higher thought of creativity, notoriety and familiarity. And, if it’s something the man in the street has heard of, you will probably tell them about it when they ask what you do for a living.
Is our B2B audience changing?
We also have to remember that our world has moved on massively in recent years. Audiences have changed, and the way they consume media is very different. Normally you would consume B2C at home, and B2B at work – but for many of us home is our workplace, and the headspace we all occupy is different now; you can be in work mode sitting in your armchair so the creative for any B2B campaign needs to speak to the audience’s environment, and mentality in an authentic way.
If you look at LinkedIn, never has there been a greater merger between B2C and B2B target markets and individuals – with changing work habits, the great resignation and side hustles – we are not just businesses or consumers, we are people, and we have to remember that next time we are producing work for a business tool, a solution or an infographic, it has to resonate with people and their needs.
Our final thoughts...
At Squeezed Media we firmly believe B2B can be as creative as B2C, and even accelerate it at times! B2B has financial backing, committed audiences across home and work environments and dedicated marketing departments which are there to build and maintain brands over the long term.
As animation and video studios, we need to all creatively interpret the B2B statistical data provided by our clients, we need to hone it, craft it, love it, and make it authentically connect with their customers through creative and expressive ideas that benefit us all.