Members of the jury for The Drum Awards for B2B talk us through the main themes that emerged from this year’s entries, including humor, craft and offline tactics.
This week (November 9 and 10), The Drum is hosting B2B World Fest – two action-packed days during which our pop-up TV studio will be broadcasting the brightest minds in B2B directly to a global audience.
And then next month, as part of our week-long awards festival running from December 5-9, we will be celebrating the companies and people around the world who bring creativity to B2B marketing at The Drum Awards for B2B.
To get us in the mood for all this B2B brilliance, we headed along to the judging room to ask our expert jurors for their thoughts on this year’s entries.
Katie Streten, head of creative strategy, WRG
Judging the entries for this year’s B2B awards has been fascinating. Craft, results and innovation are hygiene factors for any shortlisted entry, but in the categories I was involved in I saw three interesting trends.
Firstly, I was surprised and pleased to see more humor and informality. This can be hard to do when trying to convey business-critical information, but by playing with our expectations and looking at things in a more light-hearted way, B2B work is responding to our renewed need to find the funny in life and is delivering strong results.
The second thing I observed was a focus on immersion. Entries used experiences to help drive home practical value or impactful messages, making them personally relatable. This has been in both digital and physical campaigns. Experience is where the truth of a brand lies, so I was delighted to see this approach being used.
Finally, in the DE&I category, it was great to see a commitment to the long term. Not just rainbow flags but year-on-year approaches and addressing crucial issues at the source with creative and thoughtful schemes.
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Palmer Houchins, vice-president of brand marketing and communications, G2
B2B doesn’t have to mean boring. The best campaigns I saw during the judging process were more akin to what we’d expect from B2C campaigns. For example, I reviewed a rebranding campaign that felt like something that might be done for a consumer rebrand. It was smart, sharp and loaded with all sorts of creative assets.
Even some of the sports sponsorships/partnerships I reviewed were very deliberate about carving out a B2B lane in what was effectively a consumer activation. Whether it was auto racing or golf, thoughtful communications strategies and architectures drove very effective campaign execution.
Another clear takeaway for me was that storytelling still reigns supreme. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C brand, start with a story. One campaign in this category was essentially a well-done documentary. It told a very personal story that made it easy to grasp its mission quickly – providing an effective way to clearly communicate the value of what a partnership with this company would look like.
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Andrea Clatworthy, global head of account-based marketing, Fujitsu
What I enjoyed most was reading the range of diverse submissions and it is a credit to our awesome profession that we produce such quality work.
An alarming trend was a general lack of business impact results from rather too many of the entries that I reviewed. There were plenty of what I call vanity metrics, like impressions and clicks, but seriously, which sales leader is interested in that? In B2B, if marketing and sales are not talking the same language, then there will be a credibility issue.
It was good to see a resurgence of offline tactics, which are powerful when part of an integrated campaign and even more powerful when we remember that our buyers and decision-makers are humans, so a healthy dose of well-considered emotion is great.
And finally, it was really encouraging to see the odd spattering of in-the-moment short term well-targeted campaigns with a limited set of tactics, perhaps because that’s all that budget can cover, or in response to a business need. Long-integrated programs are, according to common wisdom, better for sustained business results, but not all organizations can resource them.
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Cos Mingides, founding partner, True/BBN
B2B is going through somewhat of a renaissance with all the influential research that has come out of the B2B Institute over the last three years. It’s clear that brands are paying attention to the power of brand building and the use of emotion.
In sectors that many would typically associate with being quite dry categories, such as networking systems or cloud computing, there were so many entertaining campaigns with fantastic examples of humor being used as a lead emotion – something that was extremely refreshing to see.
The biggest thing that stood out for me wasn’t just the ideas getting bolder and more inventive, but also the craft of the work noticeably stepping up a gear. The level of investment that went into making great ideas shine with much higher production values than in previous years really made an impact.
Brilliant creative ideas can die very quickly without the proper execution behind them and it’s clear the leading brands in the category are realizing that. The results of these campaigns also speak for themselves and serve as further evidence of the power of creativity in driving strong commercial outcomes in B2B.
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Matt Sutton, global chief revenue officer, TrafficGuard
As you’d, the overall quality of content created for each medium was extremely high. While often being very targeted with beautiful content is key, what really impressed me was work that was able to stand out in one medium and then transcended that medium and specific content application to take a life of its own across multiple channels – often traveling across what we often think of as traditional mediums to newer mediums.
For example, content created for print and brought to life in an event with a short form, influencer-led activation and then with OOH applications. Some of this work also transcended borders all at the same time to be truly global in scale; given how businesses are more than ever crossing borders and the mediums are so fragmented now, I see this kind of work from agencies as being critical for reaching consumers.
Another thing that got my attention was work done on a budget with outsized impact; like it or not (not!) we are entering a recession and often the first thing that gets cut back is above-the-line marketing budgets. However, great content that ’does a lot with a little’ rather than simply buying eyeballs is going to be a key asset for businesses over the next 12-18 months. Great content will never go out of fashion. If it resonates and moves hearts and minds, it will move wallets too.