In marketing and advertising, it's often part of the culture to push the envelope and take risks. Especially in consumer marketing, it's seen as a way to get your product noticed and, for the agency creatives, perhaps win an award or two.
But is it good business in the world of B2B marketing?
Business-to business advertising can be tough when it comes to pushing the creative envelope and taking risks. The stakes tend to be much higher, from the potential buyer's perspective. We're often selling high-tech products that cost thousands or even millions of dollars. The products may be more complex and too often there's not a lot of real differentiation between what you're selling and what your competition is pushing.
That may be why there's often a lack of creative stretch when it comes to B2B creative. Too often, it's the same words put together differently… a "me too" message. B2B companies tend to sound the same.
The challenge is to keep the messaging unique, but without going too far off the edge and coming across as disingenuous.
What may work for consumer marketing doesn't necessarily translate in the world of B2B marketing. Consumer ads are sometimes intended to shock or entertain, as a way to get and hold attention. In B2B, though, you don't want to shock. B2B creativity is more evolutionary than it is in consumer marketing.
Risk, however, need not be a dirty word in B2B. But it's better to add to that word, and consider "measured risk" when looking to push the B2B creative envelope. Measured risk is calculated and strategic rather than impulsive and emotional.
First, you have to let your brain go a little in order to arrive at the right creative strategy and expression. Begin an assignment as if there are no boundaries and rules. Go big and brave and if you're getting a bit off strategy, pull it back a little. But you're likely to miss the best ideas by playing it safe.
Continually ask the right questions: Are we being clever in the right way? Are we still relevant? Are we offering value to our audience?
As you take your thinking into a new space, remember you're not looking for the shock and wow you might find in a consumer ad campaign. But stretch you must, and you may experience the "ouch" or sense of discomfort that comes with evolving a brand with new ideas.
Those of us doing this for more than ten minutes know that the biggest of “ouches” occur when there’s no alignment on the core parameters and goals. Be careful not to jump into a creative project without first developing a solid brief that aligns all stakeholders on the key goals, measures, messages and the "watch-outs" that combine to create a winning strategy.
Risk-taking requires practice. Like physical exercise, the more you stretch the easier it gets.