The truth is, people are not
robots and emotion does
play a role in purchasing decisions — even if they're tempered by pragmatism. There's a case, then, for creating initial interest in a B2B brand with an emotive B2B marketing campaign.
An example of this is when Volvo Trucks did in the 'Epic Split' TVC that was created with Jean-Claude van Damme doing the splits between two trucks. If you think about the buying process for purchasing a fleet of trucks, it's a very organised and comparative process.
All of their competitor trucks offer a similar cost / km operating cost; they're all safe and reliable and, if you had to compare them on a spreadsheet, the wins for one brand in a particular column could be outweighed by another, against a different metric. So, there's little to differentiate them, really.
Now if people believe that B2B decision-makers make their purchasing decisions purely
on the basis of this type of spreadsheet comparison, you can make an argument for any of the brands they consider.
That campaign, however, catapulted Volvo into a position as the global leader in the truck manufacturing space, simply because it got people talking
. The company's growth illustrates its impact in the B2B space, while it also garnered significant international consumer interest because, at its heart, it was an innovative and interesting campaign.
It was beautiful, creative and wonderfully cheesy, especially in its way of illustrating one particular selling point of that particular line of trucks. In a lot of ways, that campaign, which is nearly seven years old now, reignited the debate around the case for creativity in B2B marketing.
Another example is State Street's 'Fearless Girl' campaign, which was a B2B campaign launching of a fund that focused investment on companies where the boards were majority controlled by women. It saw them put up a statue of a young girl, facing up to the famous statue of the charging bull on Wall Street.
Confronting that symbol of a male-dominated industry — and to many, a symbol of everything that's wrong with the business world — sparked not just global interest in their fund but also a movement around equality and representation in the corridors of power.
The campaign ticked all the B2B boxes in terms of the scale of the launch of the fund and its subsequent success; but the fact that the statue of the young girl still stands on Bowling Green is also a measure of the enduring success of the campaign beyond the B2B space.
These two campaigns ticked off every hard metric in a B2B campaign. Volvo Trucks weren't the market leaders at that point and Statestreet was not the first investment firm to launch a women-focussed fund.
Despite this, these campaigns delivered massive
success largely because their deep creative execution captured the hearts and minds of the world. Those examples give plenty of room for putting forward the case for B2B creativity in the South African market.
Our B2C marketers are globally-renowned and regularly win international recognition for campaigns, so why don't B2B marketers also? I would argue that there's no shortage of world-class B2B marketing talent here at home.
The problem is actually that they and their work are often forced to work within a defensive-minded decision-making ecosystem. B2B CMO's tend to make decisions that are most easily-justified, which means that they are often the 'safe' option which can be backed up by the numbers.
If they green-light a defensive campaign that works, they are safe. If it doesn't work, they can point to a set of stats that indicate why it should have worked and they're safe, too.
It's difficult to justify a brave decision because there's no set of stats that illustrates how a video of Jean-Claude van Damme doing the splits between two trucks is going to take your company to the number one spot, globally.
There's no data there, other than great creativity and commissioning fantastically creative work takes a gut feeling about the impact it is going to have.
Many CMOs and decision-making units are making safe decisions in a recession because they want to keep their jobs and preserve the jobs of their teams. You tend to see more risks being taken in a thriving economy because there's more opportunity.
The problem is that putting your head above the parapet with the right bold idea, during a tough time, has proven time and time again to be eye-catching and effective. People need creativity when everything else is weighing them down, even B2B people.
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