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Agencies B2B Marketing

Why aren’t we making more playful B2B work?

By Garrett Brooks, Creative Director



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February 2, 2024 | 7 min read

Playtime! Fun is still neglected in B2B work, says Garrett Brooks of agency Mas. After all, businesses are made up of people – so why not aim to impress them with your playful approach to work.

Brightly colored balls, as in a ball pit

Time for play in B2B? / Greyson Joralemon via Unsplash

I have never, ever, ever had fun at work. Never talked about sports (go Sixers) or TV (go Suits) or music or restaurants or what I did over the weekend. It’s always, as it should be, strictly business. I’ve never once made a funny joke. I have coworkers who will testify to this fact.

Because business time for me is for business. From nine to five, it's just work talk, work thoughts and work work – and I have the timesheets to prove it. I do make an exception for casual Fridays when I might wear a fun graphic tee (and allow for a maximum of three personal questions).

If you are still reading this – hi Mom and assorted LinkedIn connections! – I am not actually that boring. Of course that’s not what work is really like. We do talk about our interests, we laugh, we chat, we gossip… and the most successful companies try to have fun.

So why is B2B marketing (and articles about B2B marketing) so often just goddamn business all the time?

The best B2B moments understand that all the Bs they are trying to reach are also Cs. It’s not like a computer chip, a hamburger and a flea walk into your conference (although that’s a pretty good setup for a joke, with the punchline ‘a byte or a bite’). They are people. Sure, it's important to get your business message across, but it's also paramount that we make space for those human moments – for joy, for exuberance, and for play.

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Play makes messaging memorable…

Just look at Google’s Advertising Week activation in New York last October, packaged as an ‘AI pit stop’. Messaging was delivered through an RFID-enabled mechanic shop, with guests taken through partner case studies, a racing simulator with AI messaging embedded in the tracks, and an epic wind-in-your-hair license photo moment. There was even an actual McLaren F1 car with Google Chrome rims.

Whether you’re like my fellow Mas creative director Arianna (who can tell you this year’s Grand Prix schedule with her eyes closed), or you’re a neophyte like me (my F1 knowledge is limited to ‘fast car go vroom’), this entire installation stopped people in their tracks.

Play and adventure doesn’t get in the way of business messaging. It provides a creative wrapper that enhances the experience and can make it more memorable. Do you think I could write a paragraph about an AI exhibition that just stated the use cases of a platform, potential return on investment, and customer-side implementation strategies? I mean, I could. But it would be worse than the ‘byte or bite’ joke.

Would I ever think of the messaging outside of a work context, like every time now I see a fast car go vroom?

We so often see these splashy and engaging tactics as the purview of B2C activations, which try to cut through in an increasingly chaotic and fragmented media landscape. But, when used in a B2B context, this spirit of play can breath life into our business messaging and generate engagement that leads to genuine results.

…And it can breathe new life into your work

This sense of play and joy need not be confined to experiences and events. Take LinkedIn’s 2023 ‘No One Knows What You Do’ campaign. In it, a confused parent explains that her son works in B2B sales of ‘clouds.’ It’s a cute spot that uses the Dad-est of humor to make the messaging playful, with a play on words (one that admittedly resembles my ‘a byte or a bite’ joke – game respects game).

Ironically, the LinkedIn post about cloud computing shown in the ad is pretty dry. We are getting meta here, not that Meta, but a fake ad within an ad feels oddly postmodern. What if that post had the same energy as the spot? If it had that same sauce, its light playfulness could surely urge someone to stop their infinite scroll. Nevertheless, the playfulness of the 30-second spot gives LinkedIn’s B2B messaging a spark that simply talking about click-through rate or audience targeting would not.

So, whether your B2B work is at a massive owned brand playground or a small informal meeting, a social post or a piece of video content, think about how play plays into making a more memorable experience for your audience. We all have plenty of branded notebooks, so what about giving guests a branded Lego set to, literally, help build a deeper relationship with them? Yes, you could book out a conference room and click through a deck, but what about taking over an iconic multiplex and screening a movie-style trailer to announce an upcoming product feature?

There’s no limit to the different creative wrappers that can bring your B2B messaging to life. And they might even help you have a bit more while you work.

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