2022 put marketing creativity firmly back in the spotlight, with Cannes Lions kicking things off in style by introducing a B2B category.
The Grand Prix for Creative B2B was won by Wunderman Thompson with, ‘Speaking in colour’ for Sherwin Williams – a first-ever AI voice-controlled tool that produces colours based on human inspiration. It helps architects and building designers find colours based on their personal inspiration and memories.
The B2B awards are underpinned using a study conducted by Lions, The B2B Institute (a LinkedIn think tank) and WARC. Together with author James Hurman, these godfathers of industry adapted the existing B2C Creative Effectiveness Ladder to present a bespoke ladder for B2B.
Like the B2C ladder, the B2B ladder is a framework for better understanding the types of effects that marketing generates and the types of creativity that best lead to those effects.
However, creative commitment has a financial cost. How can brands offset this against a looming financial crisis and a strengthening apathy loop?
The B2B Institute wholeheartedly believes that B2B is entering a brand-led revolution and that competing brands must pivot from solution-based to perspective-based marketing.
Their research concluded that for B2B brands to grow, they require a better balance of short-term sales activation and longer-term brand building. The main reason for this is that growth relies on reaching the 95% of audiences that aren’t, ‘in-market’ today. It’s one thing to close existing demand, but B2B brands must create future demand to secure their commercial success long-term. This means focusing on ‘consultancy over closing’.
To create future demand, B2B brands should combine short-term marketing campaigns based on rational reasons to buy, and embrace more emotional marketing techniques to connect deeply with B2B purchasers over the long term.
Campaigns that strengthen brand recognition and recall are key to success. The study highlights examples from BT, Maersk and IBM Global.
How can PR help?
Creative marketing comes in lots of forms, but here are two ways that creative PR specifically can help as we move into the uncertainty of 2023.
The first is that PR is the perfect creative tool for brand-building.
Hyper-rational campaigns that treat audiences like emotionless robots are a thing of the past. Storytelling, emotion, and humour are the building blocks of creativity in public relations. As such, I’d recommend that any marketing campaign which aims to build strong relationships with audiences should take a PR-first approach.
If your PR-generated narratives cut through with a journalist or editor at a Tier 1 trade publication that’s core to your sector or a national newspaper – that’s some robust brand-building content!
The second way is that PR has a higher ROI than other forms of marketing.
In times of economic downturn, it’s tempting to cut the marketing budget. Cutting the budget is a bad idea but making the budget work harder is critical. Brands that continue to invest in maintaining the mental availability – including recognition and recall – of their target audience, are likely to reap the benefits when spending power returns and buyers seek out the brands that feel familiar.
First to figure this out have been consumer brands such as AirBnB whose executives have spoken publicly about their change of direction in marketing during leaner times. These brands are replacing previously popular but expensive short-term, rational performance marketing campaigns – focused on immediate gains – with longer-term brand-building strategies. This includes public relations which is reported to be more affordable.
Don’t switch marketing off. Do switch marketing strategies!
B2B tech brands have a long way to go
Despite the overwhelming evidence that the use of creative marketing is key for the success of B2B brand building, too few B2B tech companies are paying attention.
It may be due to the nature of tech businesses, being more focused on science than art, but the B2B Creative Effectiveness Top 100 list features too few tech companies.
That said, because so few B2B tech companies have switched to creative marketing, there is a huge opportunity for brands.
Wildfire recently ran a creative PR campaign for Bango, which won four coveted B2B PR awards. The campaign was celebrated for its creativity and effectiveness in positioning the challenger brand against the market leader in search advertising.
Although the awards were a fantastic recognition of the team’s efforts, the most impressive thing for me was the client quote, which said, ‘Wildfire created a visual story that cut through the marketing BS. Best ad I’ve ever run!’.
You can read more about our work with Bango in our case study.
To read more on why good messaging and storytelling are critical for brands in 2023, check out this blog.