Why do B2B firms presume they have to look and sound a certain way? You have to surprise people, and yourself, says Chris Wilson
There are only so many narrative structures in the world. Vonnegut said six, Booker said seven, some say three, some say more. The point is, coming up with standout stories is hard.
And there are only two levers you can work with: your story and the way you tell it. You can use either one to make yourself stand out. The best brands nail both.
Let’s start with the tale you want to tell. Show your audience who you are, where you’re from, where you’re heading and why. All too often in B2B, these answers play up to industry norms or address audiences as stereotypes. Companies presume they need to look, sound and behave in a certain way. Business-like. Business-speak. Business face. Businessy. By doing this, brands become bland; stories become forgettable.
At Earnest we always say business people are still people, they just happen to be at work. This means we all need to work much harder to understand the fascinating nuances in our audiences: what matters to them, and what doesn’t; what drives them, their hopes, dreams and fears. Trying to appeal to everyone means we appeal to no-one.
The second lever in stories is the way you tell ‘em.
When you use the same formats and channels as everyone else, it’s like putting your latest novel on a shelf with thousands of similar paperbacks. Embossing, de-bossing, foil stamping – none of the tricks work anymore because everyone’s using them.
You’ve got be different. You’ve got to surprise people. Surprise yourself.
Standout storytelling means innovating. Research from Dentsu Aegis says only a quarter of UK CMOs think innovation is their job – or have a budget for it. Why? Because innovation’s seen as risky. Risk? Not my department. Down the hall and left.
We humbly disagree.
We get it. Marketing is under pressure to deliver the numbers, pressure to show progress, pressure to ‘not fail’.
But how do you progress your plot line unless you bring in disruptive dramatic elements every now and then? How do you stand out campaign after campaign, year after year? Because if you don’t do something different, someone else will. Leaving you to fade into the background. There’s the real risk right there.
Turns out safe isn’t safe at all.
Since we started, our mission has always been to chase out the humdrum in B2B marketing. Well here’s the plot twist. A new character. An unlikely hero. The Earnest 10%.
The Earnest 10% is a new way to help B2B brands invest in innovation. You’ll get all the great campaign work you came for – plus we’ll help you invest 10% of your budget into something new, something you’ve never tried before, something your competitors will wish they’d thought of. Something that might go surprisingly well. Something that might even fail – but only to the tune of 10%.
Either way, you learned something. You told your story. You stood out. You were different. Does it make you feel slightly uncomfortable?
Good. Let’s give it a go.
This year’s league table features a record-breaking 95 agencies, and is chock-full of analysis, commentary and interview with the agencies themselves and on the state of the market.