The majority of B2B creatives are “ineffective” according to new research by the LinkedIn B2B Institute and the market research agency System1.
Of the 1,600 B2B ads served to a sample of 6 million people worldwide in the past four years, 75% scored a star or less with System1’s FaceTrace emotional meter.
In this context, a one-star rating means that an ad contributes zero to long-term market share growth. Essentially, an ad rated with a star means that the brand is completely reliant on spending the category rather than capitalizing on the strength of the subject.
None of the 1,600 B2B ads displayed in the study achieved a maximum score of five stars. It was found that five-star ads, characterized by emotion, fluidity, and intensity, help a brand grow an average of 3% over the long term, which supports the excessive share of spending on language and categories.
The principles of a five-star ad defined by System1 are a strong story arc, characters, soundtrack, emotions, and a fluid device that promotes brand awareness. However, the study suggests that B2B advertising lacks many of these elements.
According to the global head start of LinkedIn B2B Institute Jon Lombardo, the inability to see creativity as a key earnings multiplier could result in B2B brands sacrificing their opportunity for long-term, sustainable growth.
“In many cases, marketing in the B2B area is not taken seriously by product, technology or sales because it is not seen as the end of business. If you do this kind of delete [one-star] creatively it just weakens your case, ”he says.
“It’s a bit of a catch 22 because you’re trying to tell very rational people that you have to do very emotional ads, and it’s not very easy.”
Research by the LinkedIn B2B Institute and System 1 shows that 75% of B2B companies are “ineffective”.
Peter Weinberg, global director of the LinkedIn B2B Institute, believes that a major reason B2B brands fail to embrace creativity is the way their organizations are run.
While many B2C companies are considered marketing-oriented, this is rarely the case in the B2B sector, where the focus is usually on product, engineering, or sales orientation.
“Product people in particular are more inclined to this more rational way of communicating where we just need to articulate the benefits and features of the product, and if it’s a great product our customers will of course buy it,” Weinberg explains.
“B2C marketers have the opportunity to act more freely in the creative direction, while B2B marketers have to convince other people in the organization to choose a communication approach that is more frivolous or unusual for them.”
Lombardo agrees that B2B companies “are almost never driven by marketing,” and the prevailing mindset is a right-brained ideology that focuses on rational argument rather than the power of emotion. However, B2B marketers themselves can also underestimate the amount of emotions associated with how we think about our jobs in terms of trust, survival, and even our own identities.
“The irony is that your job is your most emotional experience, but you mustn’t be vulnerable in your job. You mustn’t admit fear in your work. This has an effect on advertising and is therefore always very rational and confident, ”explains Lombardo.
Our attitude towards modern business fuels the misconception that a B2B purchase is a far more rational process than it actually is. B2B marketers may believe that their customers are obsessed with specs, prices, and objective choices, when there is actually emotion involved. In many cases there is a lot at stake, which only exacerbates the emotions.
Much more is at stake in a B2B decision. It is much more expensive for the buyer to make a mistake, which means these are more emotional choices.
Peter Weinberg, LinkedIn B2B Institute
“If you buy a Coke and throw it away was a bad decision, you have lost a dollar. If you choose the wrong cloud computing provider, you can cost the company billions of dollars and lose your job, “says Weinberg.
“If you lose your job in America, you will lose your health insurance and you will not be able to support your family. Much more is at stake in a B2B decision. It is much more expensive for the buyer to make a mistake, which means these are more emotional choices, not less emotional choices. “
He points to market research as another topic. Weinberg argues that B2B brands are more likely to ask customers what they think, not how they are feeling. When asked why they chose a particular cloud computing solution, customers may provide a rational explanation rather than admitting that it was the safe choice and they didn’t want to be fired.
“All of these market research tools and surveys emphasize the extent to which rational processing influences our decisions,” he explains. “Then the marketers do the research and come up with very rational advertising, even though it wasn’t really the reason for the decision and not even really how advertising works.”
To pledge oneself
Lombardo and Weinberg believe this new study will provide B2B marketers with credible data to present to their sales, product, or development teams to help build the advertising business model that will drive future growth.
They refer to the concept of creative engagement, which greatly influences the effectiveness of a campaign. Creative engagement is a term coined by effectiveness experts Peter Field and James Hurman and defined as a measure of the media budget, duration and number of media channels used for a creative campaign. Commitment to the creative goes a long way towards making advertising unforgettable.
“The essential thing is to remember. Money is a function of memory, memory is powered by emotions and the time you run [the creative]”Says Lombardo.
“You have to explain how emotions are rational, and if you can explain how emotions are rational, you can show the finance team or the engineering team how it works.”
Weinberg points out the importance of long-term thinking regarding the multitude of ads produced by both B2B and B2C brands that specifically referred to Covid-19.
What role will effectiveness play in recovery from Covid?
“If you think long-term, you find that it doesn’t even matter if you’ve made a really good coronavirus ad that does very well on emotions and language proficiency because it’s basically a one-off 100 year-old pandemic that will develop immediately becomes obsolete, ”he argues.
“The idea of using engagement as a litmus test of sorts to tell yourself, ‘Could I run the same ad or creative concept for the next 100 years? ‘This is a much better way to make decisions and get repetition values out of your subject. Otherwise, you will have to keep pulling rabbits out of your hat and not build up the repetitive memory structures that you have to update over time. “
Aside from the need to be creative and evoke emotion in order to remain memorable, B2B brands are guilty of underestimating the possibilities of characters, one of the elements that System1 defines as the hallmark of a five-star ad.
Characters are unforgettable, can carry a story over a long period of time, and add something to advertising that consumers can emotionally identify with. Despite the clear advantages, characters rarely appear in B2B advertising.
Weinberg explains that every B2B customer he and Lombardo recommend investing in branding will find “a thousand reasons” why they may not have one, such as that it dilutes the seriousness of their brand or the company doesn’t buy into a “stupid frivolous tactic”.
You need to explain how emotions are rational, and if you can explain how emotions are rational, you can present a very clear case to the finance team.
Jon Lombardo, LinkedIn B2B institute
“In B2C, you wouldn’t even sound insightful if you said you should create a character, everyone has a character. In the B2B area, on the one hand, I was able to literally count the number of brands that have really invested in a brand character, ”says Weinberg.
“There’s Salesforce that did it and Intuit. HPE has had an IT monster for a while, but it’s a very rarely used tactic in B2B and an extremely effective tactic. We see this as an overrated approach to developing better creatives. “
To enforce change and bring the broader business on board with the need for emotional storytelling and left-wing thinking, B2B marketers should drop terminology like “brand purpose” and “brand love” and start speaking the language of money, Weinberg adds.
“Creative will always be the most researched thing a marketer invests in because it looks like ‘handicrafts.’ However, this research shows that creative is the biggest driver of financial performance and is a huge multiplier of earnings.” he adds.
“The data supports you getting more market share growth by doing these things. It really starts with marketers being more commercial. When they talk to Finance and Sales, it is not their opinion, but evidence that if you allow us to build character, we will increase our language proficiency and increase our market share. It connects these marketing inputs with these financial outputs. It starts here. “
The LinkedIn B2B Institute webinar with the full results of the research can be viewed here.