Is there really any point in aspiring to create sexy marketing in b-to-b? This is, after all, the creative industry where the same stock photograph of a cheetah on the hunt has been used in a vertigo-inducing loop for years to signify the blazing speed of the latest:
b. Genetic sequencer
c. Advertising technology platform
And so on.
Yet, as a research partnership between Google and CEB has demonstrated, there is a lot of emotional energy at play in almost any b-to-b purchasing environment.
Over a series of research projects that touched thousands of b-to-b executives, Google and CEB showed that buyers who see personal value in acquiring a product for their company are three times more likely to buy, and eight times more likely to pay a higher price. The stakes are often pretty high. If you're advocating for or ratifying the choice of a $500,000 piece of manufacturing equipment, the results could propel or stall your career.
By sexy, of course, I'm not talking about physical arousal in the traditional sense, but something that reaches out and excites you, stimulates your interest, and is slickly produced without feeling phony.
Here are a few examples of recent b-to-b marketing campaigns that show how b-to-b can be sexy:
Warm: HPE + The Onion
"Mom, can I set up my own server?" This recent example from Hewlett Packard Enterprise reaches for funny-sexy and almost gets there. Working with CIOs as much as I do, I think it probably induced a few chuckles (the moment when the narrator/author tries to pass off her new book and is ignored is a genuine ha!), but the product placement and call to action from HPE drops in like an anvil toward the end. And knowing how The Onion is out to monetize everything (see its hilarious sister site, Clickhole), I'm sure HPE paid a small fortune for this.
Warmer: GE, "Zazzies"
"I just Zazzied you!" My colleagues may disagree with me on this one, and it does portray a mildly condescending, adult-to-millennial POV, but this spot from a series about the new GE does a very nice job presenting the behemoth as a company that, hey, you might actually want to work (or even code for), fresh out of college. Self-conscious humor does not come easy to the Fortune 50, so the clueless dot-com 2.0 friends of Owen represent a step forward, and the whole series does an admirable job of dramatizing how a geek can feel out of sync among friends.
Hot: Mr. W
Yes, it's a few years old, but boy is it still great. This two-minute mockumentary from Epuron about the ungainly, embarrassingly powerful Mr. W is deeply moving and funny and invites multiple views. And it's so emotionally appealing, you emerge as a stronger advocate of wind power than you ever thought possible. This is some seriously sexy b-to-b marketing. The fact that the spot was backed by the German government makes it even more impressive.
Does sexy sell? The numbers don't lie.
Current YouTube views:
"Telltale Signs Your Child is a Future CIO:" 701
"Mr. W:" 5,287,398
Remember, winning the war in b-to-b is about providing new insight and representing a smart perspective in the midst of constant change -- because b-to-b is always about change. If you can make that argument -- and the benefit to the target -- appealing, illuminating, even sexy, you are already way ahead of the game.