The article is written by Simon Wright, Managing Director of Greenwich Design, London
Design in the B2B sector is greatly overshadowed by the high-impact, big budget campaigns of its B2C counterpart, and over the years has gained a reputation for lacking the creativity and quality that the consumer marketing world has in spades. But is this really the case?
There is no reason that design in the B2B world should be of any poorer quality than that of B2C and I am inclined to think that we need to stop thinking of brands in this compartmentalised way. It becomes very much like Jekyll and Hyde syndrome. Whether producing creative for B2B or B2C, there may be some dialling up or down of priorities required, but all communications are deserving of the same quality of execution and thought.
The traditional argument is that B2B marketing teams have smaller budgets to work with. However in my experience, smaller budgets can mean the creative has to work harder and B2B design teams are challenged on a day to day basis to think differently.
Another issue that can hinder B2B design is the business culture itself. For some businesses, marketing is not highly regarded or understood to be an integral function, and is merely seen as a box ticking exercise. As consumers, we understand our love of brands, the fundamental part that they play in our lives and the connections they can make with our conscious and sub conscious thoughts; surely we should be working to replicate this in our businesses?
Whether B2C or B2B, a strong brand and visual identity creates huge value and helps secure future revenue and so, especially in times when budgets and resource are being cut, it is important that businesses leaders understand exactly what a design and marketing campaign can help them achieve. Developing a wider communications and marketing strategy and sharing this with the designers—whether agency or in-house —definitely helps with the creative process. It is much easier to visualise and develop a campaign when it is clear where it fits as part of the bigger picture and when you understand the brand values.
So, what are the rules for creativity with B2B brands? My top tips are as follows:
1) Less is more
So many ineffective B2B campaigns feature busy designs, with text heavy adverts and brochures. It can be hard in the B2B world, where messaging can be complex, to appreciate ‘space’ in design and the value that it brings. A powerful image can say so much more.
2) Be distinctive with imagery
I have seen so many B2B campaigns that use sourced images bought from stock image banks. This can be an attractive option, especially when time and money is sparse. The reality is, is doesn’t often turn out to be a cost effective approach. In the time spent sourcing and retouching images, a set of powerful images can be commissioned which create impact, visually communicate messaging and help build a brand identity that stands out. It is so important to get this right. After spending time and effort designing a campaign there isn’t anything worse than finding a competitor using the same photography.
3) Become a storyteller
It is true that the subject matter for many B2B brands can be very dry and there is only so far you can go to ‘think outside the box’. When coming up with the creative behind a campaign, uncovering the story of a brand and bringing it to life can be one of the most powerful tools in establishing interest in a product and connecting with customers. At Greenwich Design, we recently developed a campaign for a client, manufacturer of sophisticated vacuum products and abatement systems. We created a character, Eddie who told their story, describing the range of everyday products that use the vacuum technology and without which would not function or exist. A powerful and effective campaign proposal which customers could relate to, that simplified a rather complex product. Their story is so inspiring and yet can appear to be so dull—typical when concentrating on product rather than benefit.
4) Invest time —think long term
The sales journey for B2B brands is much longer and more complex than that of B2C. There can be more people involved in the purchasing decision and so campaigns need to be able to convey and communicate different messages to different people throughout the lifecycle. Long-term, strategic planning is required. It can be a slow-burning process and can take time to see results but ultimately, the reputation of the brand has a long term effect so it is important to get this right.
5) Stand out from the crowd
Many B2B organisations spend too much time worrying about competitors and try to replicate their campaigns in the hope of not losing out. Developing a new campaign without any boundaries generates creativity and allows a brand to really stand out and make an impact amongst the masses. Claims of ‘brand leader’ need to be backed up with showing a pioneering approach to communications.
6) Stick with it —challenge is more rewarding
It certainly is a myth that the expertise in design lies in the consumer industry. There is a huge amount of talent working within B2B. In my experience, designing a B2B campaign that delivers results is immensely rewarding. More effort and client buy-in is often required, but I do thrive on the challenge of developing creative that not only meets business objectives but brings business brands to life.
His expertise spans a wide range of disciplines across various design and marketing channels.