The Case Against B2B Logic (Or How Insights Reduce Boring)

The Case Against B2B Logic (Or How Insights Reduce Boring)
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In this guest post, Enigma Marketing ECD Rob Omodiagbe (pictured below) says the duller the pitch, the greater the demand for good storytelling…

My first boss in advertising had an Emmy. He also had a ready laugh, which he offset with a brusque distain for, well, quite a lot. Today he’s a friend, but back then was the perfect filter for a creative entering the industry late. I owe him, not least because I’ve also adopted his favourite phrase as my own: Make work that moves people.

I’d like to think I’ve managed that once or twice in the subsequent years, even since my recent move to B2B. You see, it is and will always be my belief that people want to be moved. Wonder, fear, relief and joy connect us to the stories we tell and to each other. They make us feel human. Conversations around longer sales cycles, multiple stakeholders, channels, funnels and purchases fuelled by logic have their place, but no one has yet managed to convince me that people suddenly become less human the moment they sit in their office chair.

Presumed logic tells us that we are involved in a numbers game. Data defines media, frequency, message and language because we are speaking to influencers and purchasers who are making pragmatic decisions. They simply require a list of features or moderately well-constructed argument to convince them to buy one expensive widget over another. Well, I’m not buying it. I’d argue that even the most logical decisions are influenced by emotion — whether consciously or otherwise.

I’m not going to launch into a treatise on the subjects of Oxytocin, neurobiology or even neuroeconomics (though all are relevant), but the fact is that people are hard-wired to connect to, be moved by and ultimately remember stories more than hard facts. And given that we spend more time than is good for us staring at immersive, hand-held devices, isn’t it likely that our need for engagement has actually increased?

I did a psychometric test a while ago. It concluded that my analytical brain is more prominent that my creative one — though sadly, neither score was off the charts (I’d like to think that self-assessment tests lead to unreliable results in self-depricating Englishmen). The findings were surprising to some but less so to me, because creative decisions should be sparked by reason and insight. Afterall, understanding an audience and their habits is where creative strategy begins.

Of course, there are many ways to achieve advantage — even where products are increasingly indistinguishable such as in B2B Tech. Price (and other incentives) are one solution, though continually reducing margins is unsustainable and the possibility of being undercut is ever present. Service is clearly another option. If you’re providing people with an experience they can’t get anywhere else, you don’t need advertising. But for everyone else, marketing is key. That means a focus on the bits of data that actually matter, embracing insightful messaging that’s brought to life creatively; being innovative in the choice of platforms for delivery or utilising those platforms in new and unexpected ways; and getting PR and written content singing from that same hymn sheet. The more we adhere to the latest B2B marketing playbook, the easier it is to sell what we do to clients. However, it remains a short walk from ‘more targeted communications’ to simply ‘more communications’ for audiences on the receiving end.

I got my first job in advertising just as agencies stopped making ads. Since then, consumer advertising has been in the entertainment business — where the case for award-winning work positively impacting sales is well established. To my mind, B2B is in the captivate and capture business. Recent surveys have concluded that a majority of business customers now want B2C-like experiences — bigger, top-of-funnel ideas tailored to individuals and courageously told over time, plus smarter, bottom-of-funnel thinking too.

More than selling features and benefits, we are in the business of solving human problems that happen to take place in business environments.

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Rob Omodiagbe

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