Memorable Moves: B2B Marketing Creativity Rules

Memorable Moves: B2B Marketing Creativity Rules

The Gist

  • Bold approach. Embracing creativity in B2B marketing leads to higher profits and market share.
  • Brand visibility. Memorable brands capture 90% of sales due to strong pre-purchase awareness.
  • Creative impact. Effective marketing blends novelty with meaningful audience connections.

Marketing is a “creative” industry. But, at the B2B end, it’s frequently accused of lacking creativity — Boring to Business. It’s not an unfounded accusation either. Brands skew toward dull. They play it safe rather than being bold. They overwhelmingly favor risk-averse approaches. B2B marketing creativity often takes a back seat.

Brands skew toward dull. They play it safe rather than being bold.Luciano Mortula-LGM on Adobe Stock Photos

Do Creative Outliers Boost B2B Profits?

There are outliers but they are very much the exception to the rule. The good news is that research from LinkedIn’s B2B Institute suggests these outliers are cashing in on creativity: They earn more profit, see greater return on investment and enjoy a bigger market share. B2B marketing creativity drives these successes.

Related Article: 5 Refreshes to Boost Creative B2B Marketing Strategies

Creativity Key to Brand Visibility

The reality is creativity plays a leading role in brand building. If you consider the 95-5 rule, which states that only around 5% of your audience is in-market to buy at any given quarter, it’s easy to see why. 

This comes into even starker relief with research from Bain and Google, which found that 90% of sales go to brands buyers were already aware of before doing any research. This means brands need to do all they can to be the most memorable in their category, so they can be a natural inclusion when buyers are ready to shortlist suppliers.

Related Article: Mastering B2B Marketing Strategies in a Digital Age

Creativity or Gimmickry in Marketing?

The trouble is that “creativity” means different things to different people. Often, when we see B2B marketing creativity in the real world, it falls into the category of gimmickry.

I don’t mind a gimmick. They’re entertaining, they do well at industry awards, and at best they even shake things up a bit. Take the winner of The Drum’s B2B award category last year: a campaign and lookbook showcasing “50 Shades of Ginger,” with shades named after famous red-headed celebrities, to show off the spectrum of bright, vivid colors that printer maker Roland DG’s TrueVis range can produce.

There’s no doubt the campaign got eyeballs. Millions of them, in fact. It was even featured on daytime television. Consumer reach is no bad thing, but did it make this printer company memorable specifically to its business audience? I hope so, but I wonder.

The thing we all have to remember is this is not (just) art, it’s business. And it’s through focusing on how B2B marketing creativity can be harnessed for significant commercial impact that marketing gets taken seriously by the rest of the organization and achieves standout results.

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Of course, the way we talk about creativity isn’t always helpful. Creativity in marketing tends to sit at the “ooo that’s cool” and “bright shiny new thing” end of the spectrum. This can lead us to value work simply on its novelty value. And, by this yardstick, something can be both super creative and utterly ineffective.

Related Article: The New Priorities of Next-Generation B2B Marketing

The 3 Facets of B2B Marketing Creativity

Instead, I’d argue there are three facets to creativity that matter in marketing:

1. Cut-Through

Yes, this can be down to the novelty and originality of what’s created. It can also be a factor of style, tone and attitude. Fundamentally, the first job for what we create should be to get noticed by the right people. To cut through the noise. To be remembered when it matters.

Back in the day, I worked on the launch of Adobe InDesign. We launched a direct mail campaign delivered as a dossier of corporate espionage-type information (think spy photos and internal memos) in an unbranded A4 brown envelope. This was all to tease the launch and build anticipation before live events and more traditional advertising. And, of course, the beauty of direct snail mail is that you can control exactly who’s receiving it, keeping the focus tightly on your target customer.

2. Connection

Creative work should make a strong connection with its audience. It should be about them and their worlds. About what they care about. The best creative work is based on deep insights into what matters to customers. It forges a link between us and them.

For one of our clients, a software business providing digital solutions for health and safety professionals, we skipped the “look how great we are” promotional stuff and, instead, created a video series featuring experts from the industry talking with each other about the things that matter to them in the real-world. We then surrounded this with content giving our client’s perspective on these issues. By doing so, we connected to customers on a far deeper level.

3. Catalyst

Great B2B marketing creativity should be a catalyst for change. This doesn’t mean that everything should be a quick-hit, direct response, buy-it-now affair. But it should be capable of changing people’s minds, attitudes, pre-dispositions, biases etc. If nothing changes, what’s the point?

Many years ago, Nokia enlisted our help to sell in the (at that time) new vision for the brand. We wrote, designed and printed a hardback book that was delivered to the hotel rooms of Nokia’s senior management team to read before a big get-together to launch the new strategy. This contained stories and illustrations in a mix of styles. The production cost per book was high but it was a compelling and strikingly visual way to get across an important message. The entire book was a manifesto for change, hand delivered to an almost-literally captive audience.

Parting Thoughts on B2B Marketing Creativity

The reality is that those brands that are distinctive and memorable outperform those that aren’t by a significant degree. Achieving this level of standout means taking a creative approach. It means doing something others can’t or won’t.

Is this risky? Far from it. The riskiest thing to do is to be just like everyone else.

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