What Cannes Lions 2016 holds for B2B marketers

As the marketing world packs their bags for the 63rd Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, I was reflecting on what I’m most looking forward to from the week.

Of course, the rose and catching a glimpse of Will Smith are high up on my agenda, but beyond the glitz and glamour there are some big topics which I’m looking forward to tackling. And while there is no denying that Cannes is an overwhelmingly B2C brand focused event, there will be plenty for those in the B2B space to learn about in the South of France too. In fact, encouragingly there appeared to be a larger number of B2B brands present last year and I expect this to hold true again in a few weeks' time. Here’s what is on my B2B radar for Cannes this year:

Creativity and B2B aren’t mutually exclusive

While the attendee and media attention will likely fall on the big FMCG and sports brand campaigns, I hope B2B’s continuing creative excellence doesn’t go unnoticed. Last year the likes of Volvo Trucks, Adobe and HP showed the world that B2B marketers get that great creative is still vital.

In fact, with the introduction of the new Digital Craft Lions this year, which will ‘recognise and celebrate the skill and artistry required in omni-channel digital creativity’, I hope to see more B2B brands pick up the gongs as they continue to lead the way in digital excellence.

It’s a good reminder that while it’s important to continue investing in data and automation tools to target the right consumers at the right time, brands and agencies, particularly in the B2B space, can’t afford to sacrifice an inch of creativity. This not only requires attracting and retaining the best creative talent (see below) but ensuring that strategy, planning and creative are working more closely together and singing from the same hymn sheet.

Let’s see who is celebrating in Cannes this year and ask ourselves what we can learn from their campaigns, no matter which sector or industry you work in.

Talent as a differentiator

There are 13 sessions dedicated to ‘people and talent’ during the week, and for good reason. As the industry goes through unprecedented change, all sectors adapt to a new culture of working and the battle for skills continues, talent is an obvious topic for the creative industries to tackle head-on.

Our own data at LinkedIn, for example, shows a significant gap between the availability and demand of skills such as ad tech and marketing automation. Marketing and advertising talent has never been such a key differentiator, and as competition for the best increases, brands and agencies will need to work harder to attract and retain the industry’s stars. For those in the B2B world, who are up against many entrenched and outdated perceptions of the space, the job is even tougher.

So why does this matter to creatives? Because customer facing and talent brands are inextricably linked in today’s real time, always on, transparent world. Agencies and creatives have a job to do in using meaningful content and impactful creative to not only sell more stuff but build stronger talent brands, for themselves and their clients too. So lessons at Cannes will not only be relevant for your end customer but your talent pipeline too.

The role of purpose

Purpose is an increasingly important theme for all brands, and with 15 events dedicated to ‘Creativity and Purpose’, Cannes will be no exception.

For me the blurb for Sunday’s ‘How Purpose Gets Your Mojo Back’ session sums it up perfectly: To succeed today, brands need a purpose. It elevates your viewpoint, changing what you do and why you do it. When you rise above the conventions of the category, it ignites both employees and consumers.

Yet again this is just as relevant for the B2B space as it is B2C. EY has shown us this with the huge success of their “building a better working world” campaign, which demonstrates how a strong sense of purpose can galvanise employees, transform perceptions and increase customer loyalty. For both B2B and B2C brands alike, however, the real challenge is moving from purpose to action. I will be listening with great interest (and with my B2B hat on) to the ‘Beyond Brand Purpose: Moving from Awareness to Activism’ session as the likes of Aline Santos, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing, Unilever discuss how brands can move consumers from passive followers to mobilised activists in emerging and established categories and markets.

So beyond the networking, selling and backlapping, there may be more for B2B brands at this year’s Cannes than you might think.

Henry Clifford-Jones is director LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, UK, DE and ES

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