The words “inspiring” and “B2B” may not seem like they belong together in the same headline. B2B companies have gotten a bad rap when it comes to marketing campaigns, and that rap isn’t entirely undeserved. Our products and services usually aren’t very sexy, and trying to make them sexy with marketing can be challenging, to say the least.
That said, creative marketers have succeeded in creating inspiring marketing content for their brands. Here are 5 of my favorite B2B marketing campaigns from the last year, and a few key takeaways you can steal (ahem, I mean borrow) from them to make your own content even more powerful.
IBM Watson: Cognitive Computing
IBM is one of the world’s largest multinational technology companies, but one without the flashy consumer appeal of an Apple or Google. However, with the release of their groundbreaking IBM Watson product, new avenues have opened up for more creative visual marketing campaigns.
Why It Works
- They brought in well-known celebrities to add humor and familiar faces to the campaign.
- IBM showcases the wide range of capabilities of the product, and how it works within a multitude of industries.
- By using pop culture references to explain their product, it helps people understand the complex world of cognitive computing.
- The commercials were very short and conveyed the campaign’s message quickly.
- When marketing a complicated and groundbreaking technology, using familiar spokespeople and references to pop-culture can help potential customers feel more comfortable with the technology.
- Instead of telling fictional stories about ideal customers or employees, feature real stories from real people. It’s hard to manufacture stories that feel genuine.
MailChimp: Did you mean…?
MailChimp is one of the world’s leading marketing automation platforms. They work with companies large and small to get their messages in front of the right people, at the right time. MailChimp helps clients engage their customers, grow their audience, and build their brand.
Why It Works
- MailChimp fully understands their brand identity and breaks the rules of traditional storytelling with this fun campaign.
- Knowing that they already had a cult following but wanted to reach a wider audience, they decided to use a variety of digital and physical mediums to target different SMB subcultures as well as the general public.
- They created a series of fictional short-films, hit songs, and fashion trends that played on the confusion surrounding MailChimp’s name. This generated viral public intrigue around the campaign, leading to MailChimp’s online properties gaining over 1 billion impressions.
- With this campaign, MailChimp shows that they live by their company motto: “Being creative and true to yourself is good for business.”
- A cheeky, humorous approach to a marketing campaign can create a viral word-of-mouth buzz rarely achieved through other methods.
- Identify a clear brand voice and depending on the message of your campaign, show the world that your brand does not take itself too seriously.
- Having fun with your messaging and taking risks with your content can lead to incredible results.
GE: The Message
GE has consistently invested in brand storytelling over the past two decades, and they’ve developed a number of award-winning campaigns as a result. One of their newest campaigns is called The Message, a serialized science-fiction podcast that brings together tech and aliens.
Why It Works
- They placed more emphasis on developing an interesting story than tying in their products. Their podcast is a genuinely compelling series and never feels like a gimmick.
- The story appeals to our emotions—and emotional content is twice as effective as purely rational content, according to some studies.
- Serialized content keeps people coming back for more content week after week. The Message debuted in the top 10 on iTunes and remained there for the duration of its run.
- Tell a story that resonates with your audiences while emphasizing the unique and interesting parts of your brand.
- Play around with different content types like podcasts and video. People find interactive content more engaging than traditional content types.
- Experiment with episodic content. Audiences love suspense and will be more inclined to follow up with your brand if they’re invested in a series.
NewsCred: High Fashion, Great Content
NewsCred sells software and services to digital content marketers. In their High Fashion, Great Content microsite, they tap into storytelling, brand campaigns, and fashion—three topics that resonate deeply with their target audience.
Why It Works
- They leveraged the brand power and content from top fashion brands like Chanel, Burberry, Nasty Gal, and Net-a-Porter.
- They tied their content into a current event, launching the site in conjunction with NY Fashion Week.
- They used a rich, interactive format for their microsite that brings each of the featured brands and their stories to life.
- Leverage trending topics or events that are relevant to your industry when launching a campaign.
- Name drop brands you admire in your content—or better yet, get them to partner with you to create your content.
- Use interactivity to enhance your storytelling and engage your viewers.
HP: The Wolf
Being one of the largest software and technology companies in the world, HP is known to break the rules from time to time when it comes to their B2B marketing strategy. With their recent campaign, HP utilizes tactics more akin to the film industry than with cybersecurity software, conveying their messaging perfectly with these video shorts.
Why It Works
- HP Studios used a well-known actor, Christian Slater, in a role similar to that of the hit TV show Mr. Robot for this parody series. This added a level of familiarity to viewers.
- By using a combination of cinematic storytelling with relevant subject matter, they captured their audience’s attention and educated them on the importance of cybersecurity.
- To complement the video ads and short-film series, they created a sleek interactive landing page that provided additional context and information about the video series.
- Leverage elements of pop-culture to make complex and sometimes mundane topics more relevant to the audience.
- Take risks with your content. Don’t be afraid to try something radically different!
- Utilize a variety of digital mediums to market your brand that are not traditionally used in your industry. This can surprise your audience and make them pay more attention to the message.
The Bottom Line
B2B marketing campaigns don’t have to be dry or boring. These 5 examples are just a few ideas of how your brand can entertain, educate, and inspire your audience with great content. See how 350+ of the world’s leading brands are engaging their audience with stimulating visual stories.