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The campaign is dead, long live the campaign

Hear that? That distant, mournful bell. That’s the death knell for the B2B campaign. Let’s take a moment to pay our respects, then we can all move on. Our industry has been discussing the demise of B2B campaign for some years now. It’s been rather a lingering death, but now, surely, it’s time to pull the plug.

But hold on. Step away from the kill switch. Because the campaign idea is more important in B2B than ever.

It’s easy to see why the campaign seems to be going the way of the woolly mammoth. The world of inter-business communications is a very different place now.

We believe (although it’s surely an over-simplification) that buyers make some two thirds of their B2B decision journey online. So that’s where we concentrate our activity now.

We have the twin super-powers of flexibility and immediacy. We can react to market events using digital channels to be tactical, current, relevant.

Software can orchestrate our email campaigns in smart and responsive ways.

Monologue has become dialogue. We understand the power of conversation (and especially of listening), and we have the tools that allow us to do it.

We build relationships with customers, and they with us.

And we have seen the Holy Grail, and called it ‘content’. We know that we can and must create things of quality and value that inform or entertain our customers. And we know how much we can achieve when we’re smart enough to do both.

This is progress, and it is a good thing. But where does the campaign come in?

Here’s where.  In the middle.

Because without a campaign idea at its heart, all this fizzing, dynamic, diverse activity is just confetti; ephemera which our audience may consume, but take little of substance away from.

Without a campaign idea, the effects of B2B marketing are piecemeal, not cumulative.

A campaign idea is the glue that binds today’s multifarious B2B marketing activities together. In a few words and an image, a great campaign idea can encapsulate a message, give audiences a handle on a brand, enable them to understand what a business stands for.

In our brave new world of channels and tools with which to target our B2B audiences, both on masse and one-to-one, a strong creative idea is how we keep everything cohesive and on track. It’s our one chance to unify every blog, every email, every thought-piece, every exhibition stand, every YouTube viral and every conference with one coherent, meaningful, inspiring idea.

And one more thing. The really smart campaign ideas are the ones that resonate internally too, with the people inside your business. When your people get behind the idea that your marketing is carrying to your customers, then you’ve really got something to build your business on.

So take a long hard look at your marketing activity, and ask yourself some questions. Does it all fit together? Is there a consistent purpose behind it all? And does that purpose come through? 

If not, think again.

Before you launch into your next two year content plan, commission half a dozen informative animations and construct your automated email campaign … stop. First, make sure you understand the one business problem you’re focused on solving. Define your strategy. Demand that your agency use it to unearth a truly meaningful and campaignable idea.

Then build everything around that.

And as for those reports of the death of the B2B campaign … Mark Twain would understand.


Pete James is Head of B2B Creative at Bray Leino.

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