B2B Isn’t Boring. It’s Brilliant.
May 4, 2021
Editor's Note: Enjoy this special encore post, which was one of readers' favorites so far in 2021. It was originally published on May 4.
B2B Marketers, it’s time to assume your final form. Which stage of the evolution are you at right now?
I’d wager very few B2B marketers still believe B2B is boring by nature. But many of us are still stuck at stage two — it doesn’t have to be boring, implying that it’s okay if it is boring sometimes. A select few have realized that for modern audiences, we can’t be boring anymore. People operate on emotions. They want to be entertained as well as informed.
As the great Tim Washer puts it, “If you think humor doesn’t work for your brand, ask yourself: Will it work for your customers?”
The final stage of our B2B marketing transformation is a subtle but fundamental mindset shift: We need to stop treating B2B as something inherently boring that we can spice up with humor or emotional appeal.
In other words, B2B marketing is fundamentally emotional and fascinating. When we do it right, we shouldn’t be thinking, “Okay, that’s the messaging done. Now to graft on some humor and personality.” When it’s rooted in human stories — conflict, challenge, failure, opportunity, victory — B2B marketing can be brilliant.
Our pocket guide below highlights examples of final-form fascinating B2B marketing.
CISCO Has a Cow about 5G
5G promises to revolutionize business with wired-level speed, buckets of bandwidth, and smart traffic routing to keep things moving fast. In major metropolitan areas, the 5G rollout is well underway. In more rural areas, however, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
To help drive interest in rural trials for 5G, Cisco created the “Me+Moo” campaign. Users could download the Me+Moo app to track IoT sensors on actual, real farm cows. The app showcased the potential of IoT for farming, dairy and ranch work. But it wasn’t just a product demo: Users could monitor a specific cow, join a herd with other users, and compete for leaderboard spots.
The playful approach captured people’s imagination, enticing 11,000 users in the first month and earning media coverage in multiple major outlets.
By combining a product demo with storytelling and an interactive social experience, CISCO created an informative and moo-ving campaign.
Upwork Says “Hey” to Freelance Workers
Using pop culture in B2B marketing can be tricky. If you get it right, you can earn attention and tap into the zeitgeist. Get it wrong, though, and you look like a poser, just another clueless brand trying to hijack a trend.
Upwork hit the sweet spot with their “Hey World” campaign, a cheeky series that name-checked celebrities to offer them some of the company’s many freelance services. For example, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was offered help for his 2020 presidential campaign, and Elon Musk was pitched a personal assistant.
The ads were cheeky without being alienating, visually stunning, and laser-focused on illustrating what Upwork can do for executives. With humor, great art direction and concise copy, these 16-second ads resulted in a 10% increase in Upwork usage in Fortune 500 companies.
Novartis Brings Beauty to Medicinal History
When you think of pharmaceutical companies, “artistic interactive experiences” is probably not what comes to mind. Novartis’ Beautiful Medicine may just change that perception. This microsite is a virtual museum that tells the story of medicine, from ancient remedies to modern medicine.
Animation and video keep the experience entertaining, and Novartis goes light on branding and heavy on storytelling. It’s all about informing the audience — and, not coincidentally, establishing the brand’s connection to the deep natural and traditional roots that gave rise to modern medicine.
It’s worth highlighting the brand voice in this campaign, too. It’s much closer to a nature documentary voice-over than a corporate white paper — aspirational, lively and full of wonder: “This planet we’re lucky enough to have landed on is teaming with life, in all its imaginable and unimaginable forms. We’re all products of nature, splendidly individual but remarkably intertwined.”
By humanizing the process of creating pharmaceuticals, and focusing on story over brand, Novartis proves that fascinating B2B is the best medicine.
Uberflip Gets Creative with Explainers
Nothing would seem more straightforward, more potentially dull, than an explainer video. Its sole function is to tell potential buyers what your product does and how to use it — what could be more strictly functional?
Thankfully, Uberflip saw the potential to be playful while still getting across a wealth of information. It starts with a standard description of Uberflip, heavy on the corporate-speak. But when the listener asks that the presenter “Explain it like I’m 5 years old,” the fun begins. Costume changes, scenery swaps, and a slightly risque misunderstanding all liven up the proceedings.
This video series proves that even the driest content can benefit from a creative, human approach.
Make Fascinating B2B Marketing
The common thread for all of these campaigns is that they’re equally as informative as they are entertaining. They didn’t start with, “How can we make this boring thing interesting enough for people to pay attention?” Rather, the approach is, “What is inherently interesting about this that we can highlight?”
The examples within our pocket guide prove that the next evolution of B2B marketing is finding the engaging, human stories in your product or solution, and sharing them with your audience creatively. Not only does B2B not have to be boring — not only can we not get away with being boring — we must embrace the idea that B2B can be fascinating.