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It’s time you learnt how to speak consumer

I was chatting to a friend that works at a brand research agency the other day. It had just won a large fashion client, and he was excited.

“We research people, not fashionistas,” he said, pulling nervously and self-consciously at the open neck of his wrinkled business shirt. “But I think they like that. We’re not there to design clothes, after all. They like the fact we’re from a different world.”

Which got me thinking. How do agencies working with B2C organisations, but on a B2B contract, make sure they keep it light and ‘consumer’ enough for their client?

Fashion’s a good example. If you’ve seen Ugly Betty or The Devil Wears Prada you’ll have a reasonable idea of what it’s like in a high-fashion environment. I’ve been in places like that and those offices, people, and scenarios are real.

The stereotypes are real
To be specific – the offices are made of black glass and white plastic, the people are much taller than you and wear outfits that cost more than your car, and the scene you’ve just walked into involves an argument (that’s bordering on physical violence) about whether Sukiyabshi Jiro or Kinugawa does the best sushi.

Now compare that with the normal environment of a B2B company. Are you imagining David Brent and the offices of Wernham Hogg in Slough? Good, you should be. These media stereotypes didn’t just appear out of thin air – they’re based in truth.

So how could these two words possibly collide? The fashionistas would smell blood (and Next knitwear) a mile off, surely? Meetings could never happen in the supplier’s office for fear of a stiletto getting scraped on the aluminium treadplate of the stairs up from the carpark (shared with the estate agents downstairs). And, most seriously, the ageing coffee percolator dripping away in the corner can’t do a skinny soya macchiato.

B2B meets B2C
Some companies, however, are taking steps to meet their consumer clients in the middle. Take that brand research agency I was speaking to the other day. They designed their pitch as a gorgeous high-end magazine, and presented that in the meeting rather than using a recycled PowerPoint template on a dusty old Dell. That set them apart, and they won the work.

Here’s another example – WGSN is a company that got in touch after I asked people a few issues ago to share their experiences using gifs in their marketing. It is an online fashion forecasting service, so its staff hang out with tall people all the time. The offices are in ultra-trendy Air Street in London’s Soho (I’ve been inside – very swish, and no fear of scraped stilettos). 

And, last Christmas, its tracker of big seasonal fashion trends was done in gorgeous gifs, as a #happygifing advent calendar. Check them out here.

If you look at WGSN’s giffy marketing it’s all about shoes changing colour and flashing lights. Speak to anyone in fashion and you’ll find out quickly that they love shoes changing colour and flashing lights. WGSN is speaking the language of fashion, and I’m sure its clients love it.

Are you a B2B supplier to ultra-trendy firms? How do you make sure you are marketing yourself in a way your clients are going to love?