Think creativity doesn’t belong in B2B marketing? Think again. When applied correctly, it’s artistry and creative thinking that make a campaign stand out — regardless of the target audience.
Need proof? This year, in partnership with LinkedIn’s think tank The B2B Institute, the most exciting annual industry award ceremony unveiled a brand new category: The Creative B2B Lions at the International Festival of Creativity at Cannes to celebrate creativity in B2B marketing campaigns.
Having seen a rise in B2B work winning across the Lions, it’s time it finally had its own spotlight on the global creative stage.
“The rudiments of the most effective creative work have not changed,” according to the team at Cannes Lions. “Topicality, building intrigue, consistency, and commitment to a universally appealing brand platform are proven qualities of the most impactful work,” no matter the market.
But above all? “Avoid the comfort of the familiar — intrigue is built by revealing something that’s never been seen before.” And that requires creativity.
Take a look at some common B2B creative marketing misconceptions — and how leading brands are committing to imaginative, unpredictable, and highly engaging campaigns:
Myth: Only B2C Content is Expected to be Fun and Creative
Fact: “Powerful creative can be 10 to 20 times more sales effective than mediocre creative,” according to The B2B Institute.
B2B marketing doesn’t have to be stuffy and impersonal — in fact, it shouldn’t be. Like B2C, the best B2B content connects with us on an emotional as well as rational level. Striking a chord and making us feel something while informing and inspiring action. And in this market, the only way B2B brands can accomplish this and actually stand out from the crowd is to get creative.
Take Apple at Work’s recent success with “Escape from the Office.” The hilarious, high-energy short makes a play at small business, start-up, and entrepreneurial endeavors in the form of a workplace adventure.
With an entertaining script and a likable cast, viewers may hardly notice Apple software and devices sharing the screen in almost every shot — helping to enable and facilitate the team’s processes, workflows, and wins every step of the way. To drive the point home, the film’s credits geniusly break down each gadget and accessory and what it can do for teams of any size.
Expert insight: Imitation is a form of flattery! Cannes Lions says: “Stand out from the crowd by building a product demo on steroids in the form of a nine-minute, laugh-out-loud film as Apple Sunnyvale did for Apple with ‘Escape from the Office,’ an extension of its Apple at Work initiative, which won two Lions including the Grand Prix in Film.”
Myth: B2B Markets Don’t Engage With Creative Content Like Consumers Do
Fact: Oracle’s Happiness Report found that “91% of people globally prefer brands to be funny, yet 95% of business leaders fear using humor in consumer interactions.”
Psst. Here’s a secret. There are people behind the corporations and companies that your marketing team is targeting. B2B audiences are made up of individuals — human beings just like you and me. It’s up to you to deliver creative B2B marketing campaigns that showcase your ability to solve people’s problems in an innovative and memorable way.
With its often artistic and consistently evolving branding and content marketing (as well as an unforgettable name), Mailchimp achieves this like few other B2B companies have been able. In their latest “Guess Less, Sell More” campaign, the absurdist sense of humor we’ve come to expect from the brand comes back to introduce its expanded, user-friendly functionalities.
But how did they get there? “E-mail marketing and growing a business can sometimes feel like a guessing game,” Global Creative Director Jeremy Jones explains. “We liked the creativity around ‘guessing,’ so we spent some time thinking up ideas and activations that could leave people wondering and scratching their heads a little bit. We experimented with puzzles, illusions, creatures and food. All these inputs led us to our ‘guesswork’ creative construct.”
Now, how might that kind of creative process apply to your brand’s unique offer and voice?
Expert insight: “Marketers expect ads targeting them to be engaging, enjoyable and memorable,” Jones wagers. “If we’re marketing a marketing solution to a marketer, then the marketing better be good, because they’ll judge your products based on the ads.”
Myth: There’s Nothing New to Talk About Within Your Industry
Fact: “71% of decision-makers say that half or less than half of the thought-leadership content they read or watch gives them any sort of valuable insights,” according to Edelman and LinkedIn.
The world moves quickly, and new topics crop up across industries day every day — you just need to find ways to tune into the shifts. Beyond keeping a watchful eye on your industry to uncover new topics, bear in mind there’s always a new light you can shine on an old topic. And with so much room for improvement, there’s no reason not to try.
At the intersection between your brand values and ongoing cultural shifts, you’ll find there’s a wealth of opportunities for creativity in B2B marketing. And with the help of original ideas and new talent, if needed, you’ll be able to frame them in a way that’s unique to your unique company.
If marketing is creativity with purpose, Proctor and Gamble’s “Widen the Screen” initiative takes a risk and hits the ball right out of the park. Joining in on an important conversation in a meaningful and valuable way, the spot offers “an expansive content creation, talent development, and partnership platform that celebrates creativity and enables Black creators to share the full richness of the Black experience.”
When you start to think creatively, the possibilities are endless. Humans appreciate a new outlook on an industry or broader, global conversation that will be valuable to them. Using your own and your team’s perspectives on current issues and industry topics, start to think outside the box to confidently shift these topics in an innovative direction.
Expert insight: “The pandemic proved that creativity can help pull a business through a crisis,” according to the Cannes Lions official wrap-up report. “But despite the effects of lockdowns coming to an end in many parts of the world, the rising cost of living is now bringing new challenges. Creativity — which has proved its value so recently — will become more important than ever in the next two to three years.”
[CTA] 💬 Wondering how your brand can push the envelope on creativity within B2B marketing? Watch Episode 2 of studioID’s Into the Funnel.