Who needs more than information? Marketing B2B

Paul Vinogradoff, August 2016

There is a self-fulfilling belief in the large hinterland of firms that don't sell (directly) to consumers that communication equals information, and that nothing else is either wanted or needed. This is to mistake the very nature of communication in a profit-driven environment.

Some years back we were involved in refreshing the brand of a specialist technology firm. Their product was backend systems for pay-TV, including the crucial security algorithms that protect the content in transit. Although the CEO started the initiative for reasons relating to internal culture and motivation, many participants in our work there assumed its focus was purely communication and, further, that this was irrelevant to their commercial needs.

To counter this view we merely pointed to IBM. They are famously the company that ‘no-one gets fired for hiring’ (a fabulous piece of branding that, so far as I know, arose spontaneously). Yet with “Smarter Planet” IBM were starting to look as though the Beatles' Yellow Submarine had docked in their boardroom. Was it time for everyone in business to get a tattoo and wear an emoji wristband? Maybe not. But if such an iconic brand had started to orchestrate its public profile this way it clearly didn't believe communication = information. This was our response, admittedly incomplete, to sceptics. We were politely suggesting they were missing the point. We knew, as indeed proved to be the case, that in time they would see it and be excited by what we made for them. The CEO and other senior managers later confirmed this, and company performance improved measurably as a consequence.

More recently we brought the same underlying philosophy to a campaign we made for NTT DATA UK. Their new Digital arm, which we branded wisetothenew, wanted to communicate its offer to the Insurance sector, of which London is such a major global hub. We thought, there is nothing we can know about Insurance that people in the sector don’t already know and haven’t considered a hundred times more deeply than us. Nevertheless the industry confronts very real problems at the moment and there is a widespread sense that new answers are needed, even if no-one is quite sure what they might be. Our campaign dramatised the potential of the new role of the Internet and smartphones in the lives of both consumers and business customers, and underlined the value of working with a partner for whom this is the whole focus of their expertise. You can see part of the campaign, including the film which launched it, here.

Since Fast Company first appeared as the house journal of a new breed of entrepreneurs, the barriers to communication as both information and entertainment have dropped precipitously, and in the most unlikely places. Who would have expected a US President to make video diaries? Who would have expected a US First Lady to appear in Karaoke Carpool? Official corporate brands, cutesy cat videos and the mad world of Pokémon GO have all collided in a space we now can’t live without, even if most of our lives aren’t lived IN it. Is this good, is this bad? Well, its interesting. More than that. of course, it is simply (and complexly) transformative. And it dissolves boundaries and certainties effortlessly, apparently just by being there.

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  • Who needs more than information? Marketing B2B