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Marketing with guts: Has the pendulum swung?

Tom Stein, chairman and chief client officer of global B2B agency SteinIAS, contends the “Big Idea” in B2B marketing is making a big comeback.

Just back from the ANA/BMA16 Masters of Marketing Conference in Chicago earlier this month, I’m struck by a trend that seems in forward motion.

Before I get into “trendspotting,” though, let me state how thrilled I am to contribute the first of what I hope will be many posts for B2B Marketing USA, now that that it has made its way to the shores of the U.S. Joel Harrison, James Farmer, Tequia Burt, Bill Furlong and team are providing a much-needed voice for the B2B marketing community here that has been sorely missed since Crain’s BtoB magazine was shuttered in 2013.

Now back to ANA/BMA16…

One of the presenters at the conference was Stein IAS’ executive creative director for EMEA, Reuben Webb. I borrowed the title of this post from Reuben’s presentation called “Marketing With Guts.”

Reuben’s point of view, which our agency holds close, is that in a necessarily data-driven marketing world, intuition (i.e., decisions made “with guts”) can be an extraordinary differentiator. Reuben observes that one’s intuition, in fact, comes from the most sophisticated database of all: the “experiences database” that lives in our heads.

In your own amazingly powerful experiences database are stored all the do’s and don'ts from the meaningful experiences that helped you develop as a well-rounded and successful person. The life experiences. The professional experiences. The cultural experiences. The social experiences. The “wins” experiences. And, yes, the “fails” as well.

For sure, data is one of the great enablers of modern marketing. But informed intuition…smart, bold decision-making…big long ideas that positively provoke…are what realize the greater power of data. After all, ours has become a continuously disruptive, noisy and complex world. It’s not a place for the faint of heart, or for timid ideas.

And so, what I experienced at ANA/BMA16 enables me to intuit that “marketing with guts” is gaining favor.

Linda Boff, GE’s outstanding CMO, described how her team has worked to reinvent how it expresses itself across a multitude of channels, by being at the cutting edge of new and creative platforms. GE’s work is outstanding and visionary. It’s got guts!

Russ Findlay, North American CMO for business insurer Hiscox, showcased how the brand has gained tremendous traction by jettisoning the category’s reflexive lean toward “minimizing risk” with a campaign that “encourages courage.” Talk about marketing with guts!

And Karin Jager, global marketing director for Merck Animal Health, described how its Bravecto brand has disrupted markets globally by moving from the pharma category’s customary conservatism to a place that celebrates the deeply emotional, humanly inherent bonds between people and the pets. Again, courageous marketing born of an intuitive sense of how a brand in our social and diverse world needs to connect.

So, for all the worthy ANA/BMA presentations on “Calculating the ROI of Content Marketing” and “Avoiding Big Analytics Problems,” there were as many or more with titles like “Put People First, Results Will Follow.”

In sum, has the pendulum swung to “Marketing with Guts”? The presentations at ANA/BMA16 suggest it has. In my gut, I know it needs to.