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Solving B2B creativity’s C-suite conundrum

By Ian Darby | journalist

November 29, 2023 | 6 min read

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Making the internal case for increased investment in brand and creativity in B2B marketing is no easy task. But the rewards more than outweigh the risks.

Risk vs reward: B2B's creativity's C-suite conundrum

Risk vs reward: B2B's creativity's C-suite conundrum

It’s encouraging to witness the current renaissance in B2B marketing. The power of the best creativity and ideas is proving more than a match for consumer marketing.

However, there remains a sense that CEOs and board members are more conservative when signing off on investment in B2B marketing creativity.

This issue formed the basis of a session at The Drum’s B2B World Fest in which the panel discussed the best ways for B2B marketers to convince the C-suite of the value of creativity and a strong brand and the balance that this presents in terms of risk versus reward.

Keith Browning, LinkedIn’s brand marketing director, kicked off proceedings with some incisive statistics from LinkedIn’s B2B Marketing Benchmark research. These reveal that B2B marketing is in rude health – two in three B2B marketers say their budgets will increase over the coming years.

Moreover, the study highlights that marketers are investing greater levels of spend across the marketing funnel and devoting more time to working with the C-suite. Some 84% of marketers indicate that they have strengthened their skills to demonstrate to CEOs and CFOs the value of B2B marketing impact and of their brand.

Browning added: “What you see, also, is that CFOs agree with that. They have an increased belief in the ability of their marketing team to drive growth. So, it’s really positive and optimistic.”

Invest in creative

However, the view from the agency world introduced a note of caution. Marc Keating, chief innovation officer at Stein IAS, argued that there remains work to do in terms of raising B2B creative standards and convincing boards to invest in marketing.

He said: “We’ve made a lot of progress in the last few years, but one of the challenges with creativity is that it’s so subjective. When the idea is going into the boardroom or the decision-making unit, it’s typically a risk-averse group of people, so the idea can get watered down.”

Keating also described the emphasis in the past few years on short-term, demand-focused B2B marketing driven by advances in performance marketing. He later described a “brand/demand” model that balances both the short and longer demands made of B2B marketing and how this can help to demonstrate value internally.

Meanwhile, Browning made a persuasive case for investing in B2B creative work that pushes boundaries. Introducing the consumer marketing idea of “creative commitment” and how it holds true for B2B marketing, he said that there are three levers marketers can pull to make their advertising more effective: long-term commitment to creative ideas, scale of budget and diversity in the range of media channels deployed.

Browning, who has been heavily involved in developing a new creative platform for LinkedIn, also detailed the range of effects B2B marketing can achieve – from lead generation and response triggers on the bottom rungs up to brand-building at the top of the ladder. “The idea is that you want to pull your campaigns as far up that ladder as you can and most marketers tend to be on the first two or three steps of the ladder,” he said.

London Stock Exchange’s brand transformation

This thinking was brought to life by Amie Stankiste, CMO of London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), who described its recent brand campaign to reposition LSEG and drive awareness of the full range of services it provides following its acquisition of data business Refinitiv. She said: “There was a general pent-up demand in the C-suite that was driving this need [brand transformation]. But a business case was put together to show the importance of brand and the long-term investment that brand requires in terms of having that financial impact over time.”

The resulting campaign, part of a broader transformation, injected elements of emotion and humor by making a play on the alternative names it might have considered instead of the new LSEG brand.

“This was an enormous change for LSEG; there had never been an appetite for brand marketing, especially injecting personality and wit,” added Stankiste. “It took a lot of wrangling internally, in many, many meetings, but the CEO was 100% at the table and passionate to make it work.”

In this case, as in so many others in B2B marketing, the risk taken delivered clear rewards. It also demonstrates the importance of C-suite buy-in and making a strong case for brand marketing. Stankiste concluded with advice on how to achieve this: “Build trust and relationships internally, and then use that to take lots of creative risks and take people out of their comfort zones.”

Watch the full discussion on ‘Risk vs Reward: B2B’s Creativity’s C-suite conundrum, here on The Drum TV.

Creative B2B Marketing LinkedIn

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