Why Cannes 2022 is a shining moment for B2B’s creative journey
Business-to-business marketing has come a long way in recent years, and the category’s most creative campaigns deserve their moment of recognition on the global stage, according to Chief Marketing Officer of software marketplace G2, Amanda Malko. That 'richly deserved' moment, Malko says, is coming to Cannes Lions this year.
The creativity behind B2B marketing campaigns will finally be awarded at this year's Cannes Lions / Adobe Stock
It's time for business-to-business marketing to shine as bright as its business-to-consumer counterparts. This year, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the premier showcase for marketing brilliance, is finally on board. And, as someone who has worked in B2C and B2B, I can tell you this recognition has not arrived a moment too soon.
While it’s true that B2B has somewhat lagged behind B2C marketers with digital, B2B has made strides in catching up. Today, it’s often difficult to tell the two marketing areas apart, which is central to why Cannes has introduced a new B2B category this year.
Called The Creative B2B Lions, an official jury will award 11 winners for marketing disciplines such as cross-channel storytelling, brand experience, innovative content, and other areas between June 20 and June 24.
Indeed, Cannes shows how B2B has gotten on equal footing with the rest of the marketing world. With this shining moment afoot, let’s look at what it means to the industry and the core themes that will emerge from this year’s first-ever Creative B2B Lions.
Delightful storytelling will take center stage
There have been major shifts in B2B brand storytelling in the last decade. Technological advancements have lowered the barriers to entry for B2B businesses and also opened up more avenues for growth.
With this has come increased competition and more investment by B2B marketers in brand—elevating their messaging and marketing to help their businesses rise above individual products.
The best B2B storytelling is memorable, inspirational, or aspirational – or a combination of the three – and these elements will be central to the winning campaigns.
In recent years, memorable B2B examples include Mailchimp making brand films about a singing sandwich, a piñata penitentiary, and a dog made out of kale, as well as Gong’s buzzy Super Bowl ad, which cleverly played on the sound associated with its moniker.
Adobe was inspirational with its Fantastic Voyage campaign a couple of years ago, celebrating the democratization of creativity through social media. And Salesforce recently achieved an aspirational appeal with the #TeamEarth initiative that explored the possibilities of Mars and the Metaverse.
These brands show the diverse ways in which our industry can lean into delightful storytelling, while still staying true to their positioning and product value.
CX matters even more for standout B2B work
While consumer advertising is often about nudging people to casually buy lower-consideration items such as a pack of gum, a meal out, or a pair of socks, B2B buyers more often have to think long and hard about their purchases, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more and will impact their jobs.
Therefore, so much of the post-campaign experience can make or break a B2B marketing campaign’s success. B2B purchase decisions often have a higher bar to climb, most notably understanding how to use the product, the cost and commitment to doing so, or the need to speak to sales or engage in a buying process.
Like e-commerce, if you run a B2B campaign to drive more demand for your products, you must ensure that your website, product, and sales team are ready for the influx and in on the overall campaign experience.
This means ensuring that it’s easy to try and buy—which is easier said than done in B2B—and orchestrating the entire customer journey. In other words, customer experience matters immensely more for B2B.
A winning customer experience requires a lot of data and A/B testing, from the ad creation to the post-campaign experience. Such ideas will be discussed in detail at Cannes this month.
Data drives Lions winners
Among many presentations at the International Festival of Creativity, attendees will take in data-minded events talks such as “The Collision of Brand and Digital Commerce” and “The Anatomy of Effectiveness—How to Maximize Impact.”
Even more, B2B companies are using data to help them understand their customers, find and connect with them, and even design campaign experiences that bring data to life in new ways. Last year, B2B brand Doconomy won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix, while encouraging companies to eliminate data waste that harms the environment.
This year, more B2B brands like Doconomy will be taking home Lions than ever before, pulling from the 11 award categories now dedicated to our space.
They will be richly deserved distinctions that today’s marketers should draw inspiration from, while experienced B2B players should revel in the part they played in getting us here.
Amanda Malko is CMO at G2, a global software marketplace.