There’s always been an uneasy truce between creativity and commerce. We accuse financially successful artists of ‘selling out.’ We’re wary of sponsored content and product placement in our favorite TV shows and movies. In general, we think of creativity as an artistic pursuit, unconcerned with the practicalities of the business world. And we think of business as the opposite: Concrete, practical and pragmatic.
But it’s that kind of thinking that leads to astoundingly boring B2B marketing. If we see creativity and business as opposing or unrelated forces, rather than complementary elements, we’re not going to inspire our audience.
Creative B2B marketing isn’t just more fun to create and more fun to consume: It’s directly related to better business results.
Measurable. Business. Results.
And I don’t mean that lightly sprinkling some ‘creativity’ dust on top of a campaign leads to a minor boost. I’m talking about a 10-20x effectiveness multiplier.
Here’s how creativity elevates B2B marketing to win awards AND new customers.
Why creativity is a force multiplier for B2B Marketing
Anecdotally, it’s easy to make a case for creativity. I remember creative ads more clearly than the boring ones. If you engage my emotions—make me laugh, cry, get queasy—I’ll remember your brand. For example, Lamisil’s commercial with the little fungus monster lifting up a toenail and burrowing under it is forever seared into my consciousness.
I’ll spare you an embedded video. Search youtube if you’re morbidly curious.
But we do actually have some hard data to back up the claim. The folks at The B2B Institute at LinkedIn joined forces with a data analysis company called System1 to analyze 1700+ B2B ads. The results: Exceptionally creative ads get 10x the market share compared to the dull or status quo ones.
It’s lovely when the right thing to do (make more creative marketing that inspires, entertains and informs) is also the financially expedient thing to do.
Here’s how we can make that business case for creativity.
Let’s keep it positive: There’s plenty of room for improvement!
I have been thrilled to work during a creative renaissance in B2B marketing. TopRank Marketing has been pushing boundaries with eye-popping comic books, colorful social-first campaigns, and engrossing podcasts.
But as cool as some of these campaigns are, creative campaigns are still more an exception than a norm. The B2B Institute study rated ads on a creativity scale of 1-5 stars.
One half of one percent scored in the 4-5 star range. Over 3/4ths – 77% – scored one star. Those 4-5 star ads saw an average of 2.5% market share growth. The low performers were around .25%.
That’s a 10x difference.
And 99.5% of B2B marketing is missing out.
Creativity lets you live rent-free in your future buyers’ heads
Creative top-of-funnel ads are a direct investment in future income. LinkedIn’s research shows that 95% of your potential audience isn’t currently in the market. It isn’t about convincing them to suddenly enter the market. It’s about holding mental real estate until they’re ready to buy.
We call this concept “mental availability.”
For example, when I think of marketing email automation (as I’m sure we all do multiple times a day), I think of MailChimp. Well, first I think of JailBlimp, and probably FailChip or WhaleSynth, and then I think of MailChimp. Their intensely creative—borderline bizarre—advertising has 100% colonized the space in my brain for automation tools.
It’s easy to see how mental availability through creativity is valuable for brands. The only problem is that our traditional marketing metrics aren’t set up to measure that value.
New metrics for creativity in B2B
How can marketers tell if their ads are creating mental availability? We’re going to have to dig deeper than likes, shares and web traffic (though these metrics can still tell us how our work is resonating in the moment). The B2B Institute recommends four new ways to measure. It may take some outside help to get measurement up and running, but it’s well worth the trouble.
First, how memorable is your content? Did it attract initial attention? Do people still remember it days or weeks later? This metric is called recognition, or “cut-through.”
Second is recall. I’ll confess that when I remembered the toe-gremlin ad, I didn’t remember the brand it was associated with. That’s a major red flag for a marketer. Recall measures whether your brand is actually associated with the memory.
Third, did people actually like the content? I vividly remember the Pepsi commercial where Kendall Jenner gives a flower to the police at a protest… but the association isn’t positive. Likeability measures the sentiment associated with the ad.
Finally, did the content get across a clear message? Clarity measures whether people got the right takeaway from your content. For example, most Gen X-ers remember the “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” ad that featured an egg in a frying pan. But at the time, older folks started buying fewer eggs—they only remembered that eggs and drugs were associated, and so both must be bad.
Recognition, recall, likeability and clarity: Four ways to measure the business impact that creativity has on your marketing. Mastering these metrics can help you make a business case for the kind of elevated, creative, emotionally resonant B2B content that gets results.
TopRank Marketing is in the business of elevating B2B marketing for global enterprise brands. Contact us to join the movement.
Joshua Nite is dedicated to bringing humanity, empathy, and humor to content marketing. His two ironclad rules: Never settle for commodity content, and never write anything you wouldn’t want to read. Great writing takes heart, soul, guts and rhythm. Josh is also the once and future Pundamonium Pun Slam champion, a stand-up comedian and storyteller, and is getting pretty good at electric guitar. His only weakness: Extreme self-consciousness when writing about himself in the third person.