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Creativity is the new alpha in B2B: how to win a Cannes Lion

By Reuben Webb | Chief Creative Officer

Stein IAS

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May 3, 2022 | 7 min read

With the recently-announced business-to-business (B2B) award at Cannes and research into creative effectiveness, B2B leaders are thinking more about creativity on their side of the industry. Reuben Webb, chief creative officer at Stein IAS, delves into the findings of four experts – including three tips for winning a Lion.

A lion

Reuben Webb of Stein IAS on creativity, Cannes, and how to win a Lion / Ansie Potgieter via Unsplash

Big things are happening on the B2B creative scene. Lions, organizers of the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, recently announced the first-ever B2B Lions category at this year’s festival and, together with the B2B Institute @ LinkedIn and WARC, released the first-ever B2B Creative Effectiveness Ladder. This points to creative effectiveness as an under-leveraged B2B growth driver. Now more than ever, there’s a significant competitive advantage for B2B brands that invest in creative effectiveness. Those who don’t jeopardize their growth.

With the topic of creativity in B2B more clearly at the forefront of B2B’ers care-abouts, we at Stein IAS recently hosted ‘Creative Effectiveness: The B2B Growth Driver’. This dynamic face-to-face and virtual event featured esteemed speakers from Lions, IBM, LinkedIn, WARC and State Street Global Advisors elucidating why creativity is driving the growth agenda.

Here’s our rundown of some the event’s top takeaways.

Creativity is the new alpha

A panel discussion on what chief creative officers need from the CMO (and vice-versa) to facilitate creative work brought about two key highlights. Firstly, Isla Mackenzie, CMO of UBS Asset Management, proclaimed that “creative is the new alpha”. ‘Alpha’ in financial services describes investment performance against the market or a particular benchmark, so “creative is the new alpha” affirms the competitive advantage for brands of investing in creative effectiveness.

Simon Edward, VP CMO of IBM UK & Ireland, discussed the importance of brands having creative platforms that boast simplicity and longevity. He provided insight into IBM’s recently-launched creative platform, ‘Let’s Create’. Embodying the organization’s purpose to serve as a catalyst to make the world better, ‘Let’s Create’ is an invitation for people and technology to come together to innovate collaboratively, inspire, and help overcome challenges.

3 keys to winning a Lion

B2B awards competitions have revealed a growing appetite for better creativity across channels. The launch of the B2B Lions category is serving as a catalyst for the entire industry. Simon Cook, CEO of Lions, revealed three key denominators of last year’s winning work that can help drive success at this year’s Festival.

First, partnerships. Brands and agencies with strong and long-lasting partnerships win far more Lions than those without. Trust developed over time and shared ambitions are among the reasons why.

Second, simplicity. Simple is hard, particularly in B2B. By communicating just one key message, you’re more likely to communicate effectively. Studies conducted by Millward Brown reportedly revealed that the chance of recall with just one key message is 100%; with two messages it’s 65%, and so on. In communicating just one key message, you’re creating space to ‘play’, and that’s where creativity comes in.

Third, representation dominated the work in competition, with many brands lighting up conversations that were being had over decades in quiet corners and amplifying the views of marginalized groups. More so than ever before, creative work has the power to move culture forward.

Paint me a picture, tell me a story, sing me a song

Mimi Turner, head of EMEA & Latin America at The B2B Institute @ LinkedIn and David Tiltman, VP of Content at WARC, revealed the not-so-surprising findings from The B2B Effectiveness Code, their extensive research on creative and marketing investment by B2B businesses. It reveals that B2B’s lack of creative commitment results in lackluster impact on long-term growth.

Unlike in B2C, in B2B we’re not seeing an even distribution of tactics either in terms of creative strategies or channels of distribution. There’s a stark level of caution in B2B not matched in B2C. B2C is robustly playing in multiple categories in terms of creative strategies and channels of distribution, while B2B brands are over-indexing in creative strategies and under-indexing in channels and tactics, or vice-versa, with diminishing returns.

Too many aren’t currently doing the things that help to “paint a picture, tell a story, or sing a song” as Turner so brilliantly stated. They aren’t using humor, leveraging storytelling, brand characters, music and more.

As Tiltman revealed, a mere 5% of 435 B2B case studies from the WARC and Cannes Lions effectiveness database submitted between 2010 and 2021 ranked in the upper echelons of The B2B Effectiveness Ladder (a hierarchy of the six main types of effects that B2B marketing produces, from least to most commercially impactful, reflecting the objectives and results that are more important to B2B). With the research showing that B2B creative remains dominated by marketing at the least effective end of the spectrum, and so struggling to deliver long-term commercial value, there’s a huge opportunity for B2B brands to gain competitive advantage.

Designed to be used as a continuous improvement tool, it enables the B2B marketing and advertising community to identify and learn from B2B effectiveness best practice, to consistently produce highly-effective creative campaigns and initiatives.

Driving creative effectiveness in B2B really does drive commercial growth. We were heartened to see so many esteemed voices from the B2B community come out in force to discuss the groundswell of creative and effective B2B work.

Agencies and brands alike have long fought the good fight for better creativity across the industry, not for creativity’s sake but for the sake of greater effectiveness to drive commercial growth. It’s exciting to see creative effectiveness rightfully being recognized as the B2B growth driver it is.

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Content by The Drum Network member:

Stein IAS

Stein IAS (www.steinias.com) are the B2B Originals, the first and leading global brand-to-demand agency for B2B enterprises worldwide. Stein IAS drives brand progression and revenue growth through highly original and effective creative ideas combined powered by data, intelligence and disruptive technology. Stein IAS has been named a B2B Agency of the Year by the ANA 10 of the past 13 years––and has won the WARC Effectiveness Award (Gold) for B2B the past two.

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