Etched into our memory banks we all have slogans, images and campaigns that made their mark. The ones that talked to us and that will stay with us. “Just do it”, the Levi’s launderette masterpiece, Carlsberg’s amusing “probably the best…” ad series, Bud’s annoyingly sticky “waaaassuuuup”, Ronseal’s “it does what it says on the tin”, Smash’s “for mash get smash” are just a handful that spring to mind. All of which make an impact with day-to-day words and simple language.
But how many business related marketing or advertising campaigns have had the same impact? Like me perhaps you open your work mail or look at your inbox and wonder if at any stage there was a real human being behind the words meant to speak to you. I’m not talking about Nigerian superspam from Prince Fayed W. Bolkiah and his “urgent business proposal”, but about communications from reputable businesses that should really know better. The ones from self-proclaimed market-leaders in delivering some kind of rapid business change, that open along the lines of, “Linsay, talk to us about how to maximise new business opportunities by leveraging key market insight!” (Seriously? Talk to the hand). Bland, faceless and disengaging words that someone somewhere expects get a response to and that couldn’t be further from those consumer campaigns that have made it into your headspace.
Yes, to varying extents many people do adopt some kind of work persona (knowingly or not), and have different roles to play when wearing their professional hat. But at the end of the day it’s a human being that’s wearing it. The same person who’s been exposed to those big, slick consumer advertising campaigns the world over has seen. How is it then that in the B2B world people are guilty of producing such impersonal, bland, stilted communications? With all that competition for our headspace how can it be we’re still insulted at our desks by bland, faceless, flat corporate drivel?
There’s some explanation to be found if we consider the last few decades of B2B Marketing, and perhaps advertising moreso, – both historically accused of not being commercial or figures-focused enough and instead get pinned with “fluffy” and “smoke and mirrors” type labels. As a backlash to being tarred with that brush another style of marketing is now very much in our midst – one spawned from the bottom line and bred to meet sales targets, that nurtures an ROI-hungry species whose sole focus is to generate that lead, pull it through the sales cycle and turn it into bucks. And herein lies the danger – too focused on converting enquiries into the all-important end numbers, and the human beings holding the cheque-book or PO are ignored. A sure fire way to have your audience switch off and tell you to “talk to the hand” so to speak.
Thinking and communicating in terms of a “target audience” – the influencer, the decision-maker, the buyer etc – in such impersonal, pigeon-holed terms is incredibly risky and pretty short-sighted. It can lead to lifeless, stilted communication destined to connect with a buyer persona rather than a real person. To state the painfully obvious, behind all these job titles and buyer personas lies someone who’s probably had a million other similar propositions land on their lap. Someone, who perhaps like me, feels a little piece of them die inside everytime they come into contact with phrases like “paradigm shift “, “thinking outside the box”, “getting buy-in from stakeholders” or “utilising core competencies”.
Wouldn’t it be a blast of fresh air to receive something akin to a “just do it” slogan in your work inbox for a change? Or at least something close. If only more B2B marketers could look for meaningful engagement and strike a chord rather than increasing enquiries and upping conversion rates. The good news is, there’s hope – I’ve seen it.
Last year a business started to talk to me in a remarkable way – so much so that I’m moved to write about them. So touched at their efforts to engage in a personal, smart and straightforward manner that I had to read the legal blurb on their website, to see if they’d carried their phenomenal communication style all the way through to this side of the words they have to share with the world. And they had. (It’s a surprisingly good read too, real cliff-hanger at the end of their cookies policy). Every touchpoint I’ve encountered has dished me up the same compelling experience, making me want to do business with them (which I have). This shining beacon is proof B2B marketing can claim headspace and make its mark. So I’m optimistic (egged on a little by the fact a new year’s just around the corner) that we can expect less of the bland, the faceless and enraging – and more of the sharp, the personable and engaging.