Creativity in B2B marketing

Jun 25, 2024
B2B Creativity

Creativity has emerged as a key differentiator for B2B and B2C brands alike, enabling businesses to captivate their audience, forge strong connections, and drive meaningful engagement. B2B brands that are inspiring their audiences have the potential to grow their market share faster and command a premium. No wonder, the power and importance of creativity in B2B marketing communications is now fully recognized by a plethora of industry awards, including the CMA Awards.

Creating a memorable brand requires a shift from focusing on traditional lead generation to a holistic brand building approach. The two goals can complement each other but it does require investment in the creative process — both financially and intellectually. It also requires a shift in corporate culture to foster collaboration, spark innovation and encourage cross-disciplinary thinking. Smart digital-led campaigns need not be big productions but must resonate with target audiences.

Strong brand campaigns often achieve one or more of the following: Capture attention, differentiate from competitors, create an emotional connection, and make a memorable impression.  

Take the 2023 Cannes Lions B2B winner, EART4, as an example. The campaign was created for Brazil’s B3 Stock Exchange and United Nations Global Impact, to encourage businesses to adopt responsible and sustainable policies. As such, the language used in the campaign is the language of investors, governance boards, and C-suite members. The campaign treats planet earth as a business asset that is mismanaged, and the business community has an opportunity to rectify that by taking action.

Simplicity can be the most powerful expression of creativity. One of the challenges for B2B marketers is to elevate the narrative of the impact of an enterprise product or service beyond functionalities. Sometimes the old adage of “Talk to me like I’m a six-year-old” may provide the answer.

Amazon is a household brand. However, few people are likely to have an emotional connection with AWS, the company’s web infrastructure service that powers thousands of online companies and their offerings. Why is it important for a company like AWS to create that emotional connection? A recent CMA blog, also produced by the B2B Council, “Evolving B2B Marketing Strategies” can help shed some light:

Emotional strategies have been shown to be particularly effective in B2B marketing, driving seven times more impact than rational approaches, as highlighted in The B2B Institute’s report, The Five Principles of Growth in B2B Marketing. By understanding the "why" behind purchasing decisions, marketers can create campaigns that address human problems rather than focusing solely on business outcomes. This perspective allows for a more significant consideration of cultural context and its influence on decision-making.

In the example of AWS, we look at the world through the eyes of a young girl, marveling at how her life is positively impacted by technologies, with the conclusion being: “AWS is how.” That emotional tie of curiosity and wonder is what many B2B technology brands covet.

Solving bigger problems

Not all brands are ready to be in a position to address large global issues. However, all brands have the potential to connect with their audiences by being authentic and owning their responsibilities.

For example, as the use of generative AI to enhance creativity proliferates, companies that are responsible for building, enabling or using the technology know they also share the responsibility of setting guidance for the business community and society at large. We are fortunate to have a few members on our Council who are contributing to that work.

B2C marketers often use the term “cultural truth.” The idea is to ensure their marketing messages resonate with their targeted consumers and that the messages are relevant to the moment-in-time based on what is happening in the world. The same framework can be applied to B2B marketers when setting guardrails for creative campaigns.

Authenticity: Is the creative expression true to how the brand is already showing up? If not, is it a strategic shift in its brand position? From the examples above, enterprise companies have the authentic responsibility to address the use of generative AI to protect their clients and the communities in which we live and work.

Empathy: Another point to consider is whether the brand message demonstrates empathy convincingly. The message does not need to be something monumental, but it must be relatable and relevant. A winner of The Drum Awards in 2023 exemplified this well. Roland, an enterprise printing technology company, launched a product campaign in the UK. Instead of a traditional approach focused on functional benefits, Roland pulled together a community of people with red hair. The quasi-consumer campaign approach leverages an emotional truth that “gingers” have been experiencing. Roland used its technology to showcase the power of the new printer to produce and celebrate various shades of red, creating a level of publicity that’s typically seen with CPG companies.

Relevance: Humour can be attention-grabbing and empathy can develop relatability quickly. What makes the AWS example above so emotionally strong is its relevance, and the simplicity in demonstrating that relevance to the world.

Looking ahead, the influence of AI on creative marketing strategies has been transformative, and we are still in the very early stages of its use as a creative marketing tool.

By incorporating AI, marketers can achieve a level of personalization previously unattainable, ensuring that each interaction with their audience is relevant and impactful. Imagine a world where your marketing messages are not just targeted but are personalized to the unique needs and journey of every individual in your audience. This isn't a distant dream; it's the reality AI brings to the table.

Moreover, AI-powered tools can unleash creativity in content creation by suggesting ideas, optimizing content for search engines, and even generating basic drafts of written content.

By automating the more mundane tasks, AI frees up marketers to focus on the strategic and creative aspects of their campaigns, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in creative marketing.

The world of B2B marketing is reaching new heights. Brands who are bold in order to embrace and amplify their authentic voices are poised to quickly and deeply connect with their audiences.

Authors:
Melissa Leonetti, Mastercard Canada
Miglena Nikolova, IBM Canada
Mary Jane Owen, Asset Digital Communications
Eric Tang, Porter Novelli




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