The thing about b-to-b marketing these days is that creativity is no longer limited to the creative department. In the best b-to-b marketing, creativity is present in everything from the strategy to the media buy to the execution.
This year's BtoB's Best Creative awards teems with creativity in all facets of marketing. Take the nontraditional category in this year's awards. American Express OPEN got so creative that it created an entirely new date on the calendar: Small Business Saturday. The company promoted this day, which falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to support its small-business customers. Not only was this idea creative, it worked—delivering double-digit revenue gains for small shop owners that accepted American Express' cards.
The BtoB's Best winners also showed some ingenuity in media buying. The winner in the out-of-home category, Heathrow Express, a train service to the London airport that is faster than either car or the Underground, placed its messaging at a notoriously busy intersection, where it was seen by people in vehicles stopped in traffic, many of them headed to the airport. Another out of home honoree, Juniper Networks, placed its advertising on airplane seat back tray tables and on baggage carousels to reach business travelers.
Creativity, of course, was also evident in the place it's usually seen: in the ads themselves. IBM's commissioning of artist Noma Bar and his brilliant use of negative space to create trompe l'oeil effects was among the finest print work we've ever seen in b-to-b marketing. Same for the photography in the John Deere print campaign, “We're for Loggers.” The photos of the Great North Woods, featuring Deere equipment hard at work, looked like paintings.
Online video has made a new canvas available to many b-to-b creatives whose clients could never afford a TV spot. The online video, “It's a Tight, Tight, Tight World,” for the Fluke 376 Clamp Meter shows a big budget isn't necessary to create compelling online creative for b-to-b products.
And maybe the most creative thing of all was the app created by toolmaker RIDGID for its customers. The app turned a smartphone into an actual working level. Now that's creative and useful at the same time, which is what b-to-b marketing has always been about.