Why ‘Hey ya’ and the ‘Secret Lemonade Drinker’ have the secret sauce to successful B2B campaigns

16 January 2022 | 6 min read | News
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

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A recent report that gained much media interest showed that three-quarters (73 per cent) of B2B marketers are finding it much harder to capture the attention of their target audience today compared to 12 months ago. Why is this?

I have the answer (I think), and it comes in four parts.

Many businesses make a mighty hash of their B2B public relations and digital marketing campaigns. They are often short-lived and fail in achieving the campaign objective. Yet done right and corporate campaigns can be more impactful than any advertising or direct sales approach.

Indeed, well-executed campaigns can:

  • Re-shape perceptions people have of the business, which in turn positively influences customer purchasing decisions.
  • This then improves financial performance, and adds to the value of the business’s stock, which in turn piques the interest of potential investors and buyers, if exiting from the business is in the minds of its owners.
  • Furthermore, as the business becomes better known through its ongoing campaigns, employee morale is improved, and external talent is attracted to work there too – no unknown business has ever won one of those ‘Best Employer’ awards!

The importance of this latter outcome cannot be understated, especially with the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ waiting in the wings.

So, what are the four parts I mentioned at the top of this piece as to why B2B campaigns fail to deliver the results that businesses want? It comes down to the following:

  • The campaigns are under-funded, leaving marketing and agency teams under pressure to deliver strategically important campaigns on a shoe-string budget. Or,
  • Campaign thinking is restricted to traditional, tried and test formats through fear of taking risks and being innovative in their communications and marketing. Or,
  • The organisation lacks a true understanding of where their target audience ‘hangs out’ and so they run campaigns that jump on the bandwagon of whatever is currently trending with no real understanding as to why they’re there. And,
  • Impatience overrules strategic thinking.

It is this fourth point that, for me, is an organisation’s greatest faux pas when it comes to their B2B public relations and digital marketing campaigns.

Marketing teams often expect immediate results from their campaigns and when they are not forthcoming, the business pulls the plug – writing them off as having failed. That is a mistake.

From experience, this is usually point at which momentum was gaining. Had the business held in there a wee bit longer they would have seen how the long-term gains to be made would outstrip those to be had in the short term.

Instead, impatience creeps in. The advice is simply to continue running and repeating campaigns. Only when they start to lose their potency should campaigns be discarded. This is what great advertising campaigns do.

Lessons from the advertising industry

Indeed, I spend the first decade of my career (1995-2006) working for a plethora of newspapers and publishing houses and during that time I was always mindful of the words of David Ogilvy.

In his 1983 book, imaginatively titled ‘Ogilvy on Advertising’, Ogilvy states:

“A good advertisement can be though of as a radar sweep, constantly hunting new prospects as they come into the market. Get a good radar, and keep it sweeping.”

Ogilvy was saying that a business’s audiences is constantly moving. The ever-expanding media landscape is seeing a fluid movement of potential customers from one platform to another at a rate of knots.

For example, I would argue that pre-pandemic Twitter was the place to be for B2B marketers and their customers, while LinkedIn was more of a careers site. Today, however, that is not necessarily the case.

“Impatience in B2B public relations and digital marketing is the biggest killer of campaigns.”

Twitter is still a great forum to be part of, especially for PR bods like us given said platform has been found to be the social media of choice for journalists seeking client commentaries and interviews. But LinkedIn has, for me, exploded as a truly social network over the last two years. So, I know that as an agency owner I need to invest more of my online networking time and budget on this platform.

Impatience in B2B public relations and digital marketing is the biggest killer of campaigns. Marketers need to think long-term strategy and take a leaf out of advertising’s book and focus on repeating their messaging over and over.

Not only does this create a sense of familiarity, it also ensures the organisation remains firmly fixed on the radar of those customers they want to attract when they are ready to buy. To illustrate what I mean by this, look at the below:

  • Do you still remember the words to the ‘Secret lemonade drinker’ TV R Whites TV advert from the early 1970s?
  • How about the truly stupendous ‘Tick followed tock, followed tick’ gem from Guinness in 1999? Or,
  • Maybe you’re so familiar with the ‘Shake it like a Polaroid picture’ single by Outkast that you can sing the lyrics backwards even now – 13 years after its initial release?

If the answer is Yes to any of the above it is because you were exposed to the messaging more than a handful of times. This is the key to every B2B campaign too: the intended customer must be able to remember both the business/brand and the message it is sending.

One last thought

In 1958, publisher McGraw-Hill ran an ad campaign that to this day is the most effective I have ever seen that perfectly sums up the need for businesses to remain ever-present in full view of their potential customers. Tell me what you think?

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