B2B marketing needs to be inspired by the B2C world – simple, to the point, authentic and personal. The Drum caught up with Vicki Kassioula and Maggie Walkoff from The Marketing Practice in Cannes to reflect on the creative insights and biggest lessons for B2B marketers.
Creativity is critical to marketing. Without them, how can a campaign hope to stand out, get noticed, or get the attention it deserves? But the business-to-business (B2B) world is notoriously “uncreative,” especially when compared to consumer-centric advertising and marketing—or is it?
For the first time this year, B2B took a firm place in the spotlight on the global creative stage at Cannes Lions 2022, with the inaugural Creative B2B Lions Grand Prix being awarded to Sherwin Williams for his digital service Speaking in Color created by Wunderman Thompson.
Cannes Lions 2022 discussions suggest B2B marketing needs to shift perceptions from boring to fun and creative
While it’s a big step in the right direction to see B2B brands and marketers up their creative game, there’s still a long way to go to catch up with B2C and offer B2B buyers the same level of creativity, excitement and personalization Delivering the experiences they expect today.
Vicki Kassioula, Senior Project Manager, The Marketing Practice, says: “It’s still in its early stages and there is untapped potential that could take years before B2B will take hold of a global creative stage where everyone knows what it stands for.”
Bring emotion and excitement to B2B
As digital innovation accelerates, B2B brands have never been more empowered to learn from and embrace the principles that have served B2C marketers so well for so long. The product a B2B company is selling might not be the most exciting, but that doesn’t mean the ad can’t be.
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“B2B marketing can no longer afford to be boring,” says Kassioula. “Over time, we’ve seen that providing your customers with an exciting, personalized experience has been second nature to B2C for decades.”
However, in today’s world, where B2B buyers overlap heavily with B2C buyers, they need to be offered similarly engaging experiences. Every B2B buyer is also a person – and with digitization, it will be even easier to connect these dots and blur the lines between B2C and B2B.
“Understanding customer needs and wants has never been more important to create tailored, personal B2B experiences,” says Kassioula. “We live in a world of content overload, B2B customers are inundated with content every day – for B2B to stand out from the crowd, we need to make it exciting and move it away from the dry corporate language it’s always been thought of as. ”
Shift the dial with communication
People are looking for emotional connections to brands and companies – this is no different in B2B. If they can’t get that from their B2B partners, they’ll go elsewhere, adds Maggie Walkoff, Creative Designer, The Marketing Practice. She says: “The goal is to find a way to resonate with the target groups. To ensure the work stands out from the crowd, we as marketers must understand our client and strive to create an emotional connection.”
For the shift to happen, the gamut must shift towards content that is engaging, human and reflects what shoppers are looking for. Millennials have pushed this, yearning for a more authentic, transparent, and real voice. To engage and resonate with this audience, the message needs to be simple, straightforward, and to the point—allowing the imagination to run wild.
“People don’t want all the fluff anymore,” says Walkoff. “Having an overarching message right away motivates people. So if they just have time to watch that, they get the message they want without having to delve into deeper details.”
“Content is about keeping it as short and sweet as possible,” Kassioula adds. “You need a message and a hook. It’s about trying to break through this information overload that we all live in and create something different that makes people want to stop and learn more.”
Practice what you preach
So how can B2B push creative boundaries while embracing the broader impact of campaigns that address sustainability and diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI)?
“Integrating sustainability into communications or campaigns is no longer pretty, it’s a priority,” says Kassioula. “It’s an exercise to tick, and for some customers it’s often more important than price. The best way to do this is to be authentic and transparent. Don’t greenwash and practice what you preach. Do what you say to contribute to society and the environment, and back it up with facts and figures.
“When it comes to adopting a sustainable mindset, it’s crucial for B2B campaigns to be simple, straightforward, not overly promising and to use the right language.”
Kassioula points to IKEA’s Taste the Future campaign as a great example of this. In line with its sustainability commitments, the brand hosted people for an interview or a partnership dinner over experimental 3D-printed meatballs. “It’s an interesting way to target B2B, but also your own employees that they wanted to hire,” she says. “And it was a slightly different campaign that brought this product to life and got people interacting with it in person.”
With sustainability and DEI taking up much of the conversation at Cannes this year, Kassioula was inspired by companies that not only ensure representation, but emphasize the need to go further. Her key takeaway is, “We shouldn’t just be doing good for our business, we should be doing good for the world and thinking about the broader impact that diversity can have.”
Drive creative ideas forward
Regarding the week’s standout sessions, Walkoff mentions a discussion between David Droga, chief executive officer and creative chairman of Accenture Song, and Alex Schultz, chief marketing officer and vice president of analytics at Meta. They spoke of the importance of “having a variety of people with different backgrounds and creative ideas in the room to drive different thoughts” and attracting creatives to higher positions, which leads to greater success.
In order for B2B to shift its perception from boring and corporate to fun and creative, there is a lesson to be learned about the customer-partner relationship: it must be at the service of the creative idea.
Recalling a discussion between PepsiCo and Alma in Cannes, Kassioula says, “No matter what the bottom line of the campaign is or what return on investment (ROI) they want to achieve, it’s the idea that should drive those relationships between partners and customers.” You should help shape it. The ROI is return on idea.”
The overarching message is that for B2B marketing to be more creative, it must be simple, it must be to the point, and most importantly, it must be human, authentic, and personal.
You can check out Vicki’s takeaways from Cannes in the video at the top of this article.