Breaking through the clutter means taking a creative chance

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Creating a marketing campaign that stands out from the crowd is essential to a company's growth. That's not earth-shattering news to the savvy marketing professional. However, some b-to-b marketers are having difficulty grasping the concept. In fact, they tend to lag their counterparts in the b-to-c sector when it comes to delivering creative campaigns. ¶ Marketing is about capturing the interest of the intended audience and influencing that audience to buy the product or service being promoted. It seems simple, then, that effectively reaching the end user (business or consumer) requires stepping out of what's expected and delivering something new, different, eye-catching and—dare I suggest—fun. The b-to-c sector embraces this. The consumer expects nothing less, and neither do the marketing teams that create the campaigns. B-to-c marketers are open to every shape, size, color, copy style and technology necessary to develop a cohesive and integrated campaign that reaches out and grabs the consumer. Every aspect of a successful consumer campaign accomplishes this—from ad creative, trade shows, direct mail and public relations to Web 2.0 initiatives. Super Bowl ads serve as great examples of the work of marketers that break through the clutter. At $2.7 million for a 30-second spot, one would certainly hope so. For those without $2.7 million for a single ad, though, there has to be something more. Perhaps creativity is more widely accepted, supported and valued in b-to-c marketing. Maybe bigger budgets lead to more far-flung creative endeavors, while in b-to-b every dollar must count, breeding creative conservatism. Possibly, those in nonmarketing roles have too much sway in the b-to-b world. Whatever the reason, b-to-b campaigns are often lackluster. Take advertising in transportation industry publications for example. The majority of ads feature just what you'd expect: trucks, airplanes, ships, ports and railroads. Straying too far from the mean clearly is an industry taboo here. Would this be acceptable for b-to-c companies touting soft drinks or Internet service? The consumer would be lost and more than likely the brand would be, too. Successful marketing campaigns demand a differentiator. What can you do as a marketing professional to turn this trend around? Take a good, hard look at the competition and gather some data. What are their strategies? Are you seeing similar campaigns and hearing the same messages over and over again? Use the information you glean to arm yourself to think differently. In an operationally driven industry like transportation, the marketing function takes significant input from operations. The critical link in that equation is someone with marketing acumen—someone who stands for broader best practices and presents compelling arguments for jump-starting memorable campaigns. As marketers, that is our job. Now is our opportunity to impart what we know to be true and keep our companies from continuing their legacies of accepting the expected. Thomas Nightingale is VP-communications and CMO at Con-way Inc., a $4.7 billion freight transportation and logistics services company. He can be reached at
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