That was the question posed at the most recent gathering of the East Midlands Business Marketing Club (BMC). And, not surprisingly it divided opinion among an audience of passionate agency and client side B2B marketers.
RIP ‘Corporate Video’
First up in the event’s cracking speaker line up was the ever-entertaining Neil Rostance, Partner and Head of Creative at Fat Free Media, a full service creative agency specializing in live action video and animation.
Having made over 2,000 films in his career as a filmmaker and ‘bus driver’, his passion for his work stands out when he talks about what he loves – telling compelling stories. Banning the phrases ‘Corporate video’ and ‘Corporate Communications’ from his agency some time ago, Neil believes that B2B has had a tough times over the years – although, after showing a comical selection of talking heads from the world of 1980s corporate videos, it was clear to see why!
Video killed the customer
Sadly, we haven’t left these style videos behind. Neil explained how B2B hasn’t fundamentally changed – the methods of storytelling are the same, there are just many more channels: “B2B marketing is littered with bias and assumptions. B2B marketers assume the world already cares that it is a good idea, then it bombs. It’s not that it is boring – it is that no-one cares. What holds back real human connection is trying to please their boss, peers but not their audience. The audience are humans and they want meaningful moments.”
Free your mind
Using a clever analogy about what your choice of seat on the bus says about how you want to be seen, Neil (the bus driver) went on to share different mind sets for visual marketing, including treating it like a first date and considering what you would put on your own TV channel for 24 hours. Pro tip:Don’t be a 24 hours news channels!
Be human, not boring
Neil wrapped up by saying “Successful B2B marketing content which captures attention needs to stop talking about what your business does. It needs to prove how much you love what you do and why in a human way. Everyone has a story to tell. B2B marketing is not boring, the bosses are boring. There is an expectation is that most of it will be dross, but it definitely doesn’t need to be.”
B2B is more creative than B2C
Next up, a controversial lead in from Neil Berry, a B2B marketer with a decade of client and agency experience gathered at Capgemini, Fujistu and Affari Media, amongst others. His opening statement suggested that B2B marketing is naturally more creative that B2C, because sometimes it’s painful. Because you are limited by bosses, budget and having to sell the most boring crap. B2B is naturally more creative than B2C as you have to be more exciting.
From greyscale to colour
In a Wizard of Oz themed presentation, Neil discussed ideas, creativity, Account Based Marketing (ABM) and strategies for personalization of direct mail with wow factor.
The phrase “I just don’t have a creative brain” Neil suggested was an excuse and a myth.
He believes B2B has lots of great ideas but sometimes it is the content implementation that lets it down, adding that “If you are not evoking emotion in someone then you will not get the audience to feel anything – if you are not excited about it no-one else will be.”
Using examples of O2’s Digital Dave and HP’s ‘The Fixer and the Wolf’ Netflix series he demonstrated the importance of having heart and courage in marketing campaigns. Neil also advocated that there’s no place like home, emphasizing how important it is to show how you feel about what you are doing to bring a real connection with an audience.
Experiencing Virtual Reality
Throughout the evening, Affari Media’s virtual reality experts showcased its latest project in the world of VR. Providing an interactive demonstration, BMC attendees were able to walk the 10km stretch of Fujitsu’s foyer and facilities, with a 360degree view, while standing still. The project is part of a modular VR experience which gives prospective customers the opportunity to customize environments to see how things could look and feel. New rooms and experiences can be added as required, offering a fully bespoke experience which is far from boring.
No.1 enemy of creativity is fear
Closing the show was brand strategist, author and storyteller Matt Davies who believes B2B is boring, because leaders that do not live brand values make it so. B2B marketing has to be aligned from the top down to make it more meaningful and less boring.
Matt shared three core strategies – Aligning your leadership; Nurturing your people and Embracing Innovation – which he believes that can transform a brand, adding: “It is essential to consider things from the customer experience at every single stage. We are here to serve this customer. Make a statement and be bold about it. People are now buying based on identification that rather than features. What does it make the people that buy from us?
What does buying from us make the customer?”
Create real meaning and authenticity is essential according to Matt, stating that a brand is not a veneer, the truth behind the veneer will show through and the distance between the truth and the veneer will widen, if it doesn’t have genuine meaning.
Tools and techniques for managing your meaning
Storytelling, design thinking and agile strategy were three tools Matt suggested for creating a strong B2B brand and culture. In summary, by making the customer the hero of the story and striving to make their experience better through design, B2B marketing has the opportunity to design with people not for people and be anything but boring.
It seems that we are really all just humans, wanting real, meaningful experiences that we can believe in. We’ve all got examples of how not to do it, some of us may even be guilty of doing the ‘same old’ to shut stakeholders up or get a belligerent boss off our backs, but does B2B really have to be boring or are we just barking up the wrong tree with our approach?
Want to be an even better marketer?
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