As good marketers and their agencies know, there are two essential bits of information copywriters need before starting work:

1.        A description of the people we’re selling to (your audience or market)

2.        What needs to be said to those people (your proposition)

Pretty basic, you say? Well you’d be surprised by a lot of the briefs I’ve received. Yes, marketers usually know what they want to say. But they sometimes need help to simplify it, or express it differently, so that their audience can grasp it easily.

What’s often missing on their briefs, though, is a detailed description of their prospective customers. I wonder why. Are clients investing less in research these days?

The more audience information and insights you give to your copywriter, the better your communications will be. Below is one of the most effective ads I’ve ever written. It was inspired by a market insight, specifically how ale drinkers viewed lager drinkers.

HobgoblinYour copywriter needs good, strong facts and insights about your prospects. What interests them? What do they worry about? What problems are they having? How will your product or service help them? Or what’s stopping them buying from you?

That last question can lead to a breakthrough in the way your brand is perceived. Take the supermarket Lidl. Until about a year or so ago, in the UK, Lidl was always promoting itself as a cheaper alternative to Tesco and Waitrose. That strategy helped it attract price-conscious shoppers away from its more expensive rivals. But, despite Lidl’s low prices, Tesco and Waitrose customers were unlikely to shop there. They didn’t believe Lidl sold quality produce.

Then Lidl embarked on a different strategy to woo them. It started running press ads featuring lobster and fine wines. Recently it has opened deluxe pop-up restaurants so that prospects can sample its products. And just this past Christmas it ran a commercial featuring a group of people enjoying a delicious feast and then being surprised to discover that it all came from Lidl.

One more point about describing your audience: your advertising and marketing will be stronger if you can segment prospects based on their needs or, in B2B, their industries. Then you can tailor your emails or DM to them, or have separate pages on your website that address their specific needs.

Give your copywriter a good, clear picture of your audience, and your communications will work harder.





Think of a consumer ad campaign, current or past, that you like or maybe even love.

Easy, isn’t it?

Now think of a business-to-business one you have similar positive feelings about.

That’s harder, wouldn’t you say?

Apart from IBM campaigns over the years, there are few b2b brands that have made an impression on me.

Every now and again I see outstanding one-off pieces such as a DM pack or a good tactical campaign. But no consistent, long-term brand building. No distinct attitude or big idea.

This is odd, since the people I’ve worked with on b2b projects are as talented, creatively and strategically, as those I’ve met in the consumer marketing world.

What’s going on? Does branding not matter in b2b? Is a certain mindset holding us back? Maybe b2b is just harder to do well than b2c.

A b2b marketer might say, “It’s lead generation and sales that matter to us. We don’t need a brand that makes people feel good.”

I think that view is short-sighted.

Why building a b2b brand matters

If you care about your sales and lead generation, then you should also care about building a brand, whether you do it through lead generation, advertising, content or other forms of marketing.

A distinctive brand helps people remember you.

It has an attitude or thought-provoking idea that sets you apart from your competitors.

It generates goodwill in your prospects.

It helps you sell to them.

Most b2c clients I’ve worked for have been keen to build a strong brand that helps them stand out from their competitors.

Could a b2c approach help you build your b2b brand?

A consumer-marketing creative solution usually involves a big idea that can work across a variety of media for years to come.

One device consumer brands sometimes use is a mascot or spokesperson, such as the meerkat for, or Beyoncé for Pepsi.

How many b2b brands can you think of use a mascot or celebrity spokesperson? I’m not saying a b2b brand must have one to succeed, but I think such devices could help.

Fortunately, some of the more modern b2b tech companies are using mascots or at least mascot-type logos, for example Android (robot), Mailchimp and Evernote (elephant).

I think that’s great, as they add some warmth and help you remember the name.

Do you think such devices lack the gravitas necessary for your audience? Then consider the banking sector, with the Lloyds Bank horse and Investec’s zebra.

If a bank can use a zebra to attract institutional investors, shouldn’t you at least consider using a mascot or spokesperson to connect with your prospects?

IBM: a great creative benchmark for b2b

Another way to build your brand is with an idea that’s relevant to your business and connects with your audience – one like IBM’s Smarter Cities campaign by Ogilvy France (below).

It’s an idea that resonates not only with the business  world but with ordinary people as well.

It helps IBM get talked about.

You don’t need IBM’s big marketing budget to have a big idea.

Small consumer-facing companies frequently build brands on small budgets.

If they can do it, b2b marketers can too.

By doing things differently from your competitors, by touching a nerve or making your audience think, you can start to own a space in your prospects’ minds.

Chances are, decision-makers (remember, they’re people too) will like your company more and want to do business with you.

That’s the value of building a b2b brand.




no junkmail

There’s so much talk about digital these days, you might think traditional (paper) direct mail just crawled away into a corner and died. But, like radio after TV came along, paper DM is still here. If my letterbox and workload are anything to go by, there’s still plenty of DM landing on Britain’s doormats.

I recently received the two pieces shown below, from marketers who I’ve no relationship with. The pieces represent different ends of the creative spectrum, or opposing approaches to selling. And they graphically illustrate the importance of first impressions.

The first, a mail pack from Barclaycard, is, in my view, a total waste of money.  It’s just a standard envelope with a window and a logo. No outer copy, just a message on the back asking me to recycle the envelope and its contents. Which is what I would normally do straight away, without first looking inside.

Why, Barclaycard, should I open your pack?

Barclaycard (Small)Barclaycard isn’t the only big-name marketer to do this. Virgin Media and others have also sent me similar acquisition packs in the past year. Packs with extremely ordinary outer envelopes, without any enticement to open them.

Why do they do this? Unless there’s an appealing offer, a teasing line, or something intriguing in the feel of the pack, such as a bulky shape hidden inside, people aren’t going to open these packs, are they?

Can you imagine an email marketer sending you an email without a subject line? Would you open it? I wouldn’t.

How to warm up a cold direct mail piece (Well done, Bupa)
coffee- Bupa (Small)Fortunately Bupa’s marketer seems to know what they’re doing. They clearly want my business. They get my attention by surprising me with a coffee cup-shaped mailer. But is it relevant? On the verge of dismissing it as a gimmick, I read the message on the outer. Under a Bupa logo it says:


In an instant, I’m hooked. A high quality health insurance brand has given me a clear idea of how affordable it is. Bupa has turned a bit of card from junk mail into something of value. And it’s done that before I’ve even opened the piece. And even if I don’t open it, a memorable idea about Bupa’s value has been planted in my brain.

There’s a basic lesson here. If you want your cold mailing to be effective, start with the outside and make people want to look inside.





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