B2B isn’t exciting yet, but it’s on its way
The B2B sector has traditionally been considered as a boring industry, one that is less interesting and enticing than its consumer counterpart. But signs of life are growing.
Transmission questions the evolution of the B2B space and offers advice for spicing things up / Weston via Unsplash
‘Less boring’ is a fair way of putting it. B2B has a long way to go before we can call it ‘exciting.’ The potential is there. B2B companies are running out of USPs based on product or service alone, and are starting to lean on their personality and beliefs as key differentiators.
As a result, brands are going to start connecting with customers on a more emotional level. They need to be true to themselves and their reason for being, demonstrating both facets of their branding to their customers through authenticity.
This paves the way for creativity to become a revenue-driving weapon. When briefs are purpose and brand-driven, the scope for delivering those messages gets broader – opening room for interesting and thought-provoking communication.
Consequently, the big question becomes: can agencies, that have cried out for more creativity in B2B, actually deliver? This year’s Cannes Lions had its first-ever B2B focus. And the results showed us we aren’t there yet. I believe that the potential is there, even if those creative muscles haven’t had the chance to flex as of late. I’m optimistic that once our little gray cells are fully engaged again, we’ll start seeing some great work.
When B2B marketers stick their necks out for more ambitious work, what are the rewards?
This is an easy one for me: revenue. For the longest time, we’ve struggled to demonstrate the power of brand marketing over performance marketing through measurement. But now that the risk of neglecting brand is starting to outweigh that of trying, we’re going to start seeing the revenue-driving abilities of truly great brand work.
I still don’t particularly like the rhetoric that being creative and brand-led is ‘brave.’ I admit that, yes, as an individual marketer, putting your head above the parapet and pioneering something different within an organization takes a degree of courage. But I don’t think it’s an act of bravery from a brand as an entity.
For me, it’s simply the right thing to do (for those in your company and your customers) to use your brand’s unique authenticity as a point of differentiation. It can help drive market share, growth and revenue.
A common misconception of creativity is that it’s somehow frivolous. It simply isn’t. It’s deliberate, strategic, smart, engaging, insightful, targeted, memorable and perception-changing. Isn’t that what ALL marketing should be doing anyway? I think it is.
Is it unfair to say it was boring in the first place?
Short answer? No. B2B has, for the longest time, been based far too much on tangible value. Do what a spreadsheet tells you and you’ll be OK. As a result, creative in B2B has become the fulfillment of a communications strategy, instead of a problem-solving exercise.
When you give creatives a problem to solve, rather than a strategy to fulfill, the results are bound to be more than ordinary. And that’s where moments of ingenious creativity are born. They’ve just not had the chance.
We need to move away from briefs asking for “a paid media campaign targeting X, Y and Z on these channels to tell them about benefit A.” Instead, the questions should be framed more like: “We need to use benefit A to engage X, Y and Z. How do we best do that?”
If B2B organizations are to make the most of their creative talent and all the unexpected outcomes it can produce, they need to give them the room to look at problems in creative ways – rather than asking them to be creative with a half-solved problem.
I’m looking forward to seeing what B2B creativity can deliver if brands have more faith to stand in their own authenticity and if they trust in what happens when you allow creatives to solve problems, not just answer briefs.
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Transmission is the world’s largest independent global B2B marketing agency.Find out more