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.





Ever heard of Hutchison Whampoa?

It’s not the catchiest name for a brand.

Especially for one that arrived late in the UK mobile phone market.

So when the Hutchison Whampoa company launched a new mobile brand here, they had the good sense not to use their name.

They knew they needed to stand out from the crowd.

So they chose a great brand agency (Wolff Olins) to name and design their brand.

And they picked a top creative advertising agency (WCRS) to make their ads.

The result was Orange.

It was a simple, memorable name that stood out against its existing competitors, Vodafone, Cellnet and Mercury One2One.

It had a warmth that they lacked.

You couldn’t miss Orange’s brilliantly designed high-street shops.

And you were inspired by its optimistic advertising and the endline “The future’s bright, the future’s Orange”.

Within six years Orange became Britain’s leading mobile phone brand.

And that’s because Hutchison Whampoa did what a lot of companies, in my experience, don’t do.

They got the fundamentals right, by choosing a good name, brand design and positioning.

Those made it easier for Hutchison Whampoa to get outstanding, memorable advertising from WCRS.

Fortunately, one of my clients thinks like that marketer.

He’s just chosen a terrific name for his new brand.

To do that, he crowdsourced a load of names, and my creative partner and I contributed a few.

One particular name jumped out (I think it came from someone in his company).

We had to talk our client into choosing it though.

So, what’s so special about this name?

It’s distinctive, it sounds good (quirky) and it taps into a relevant consumer need.

So it will make our job of creating brilliant advertising a lot easier.

Which, in turn, will make it easier for our client to shift stock.

If you have the opportunity to avoid a hard slog launching your brand, why not take it?

Here’s what I’ve learned in my decades spent in advertising and marketing:

Four steps to making your life easier

1. Choose a good name. Use one that’s simple, stands out in your market, and relates to a customer issue (e.g. the name Orange had a warmth that other mobile network brands lacked). A catchy, memorable name makes your life easier. One of my recent favourites is FitFlops, a brand of flip flops that exercise your legs as you walk.

2. Hire a top brand designer. Your name and brand design should work together seamlessly. So choose a designer with an outstanding portfolio of award-winning work.

3. Use a descriptive endline or slogan. Unless your brand name says what you do (e.g. FitFlops) you need a descriptive endline or tagline. This will help your prospects understand right away what business you’re in, or what you’re offering them. A British company I know of launched in the US without making it clear, up front, in their ads at least, what they actually did.

4. Make sure you have a BIG IDEA (one that comes out of your brand)  Choose a creative team or agency with a track record of having created BIG IDEAS. So, how do I define a BIG IDEA? It’s a concept with legs. David Ogilvy defined it well, as an idea you can run for five years before people get tired of it. An art director I knew said it was like an oil well; once you strike the BIG IDEA other ideas will gush out. Even your least creative colleagues will suddenly come to life and start coming up with ways of using the idea. Compare the Market/Meerkat; Old Spice/”The man your man could smell like”; the old red print campaign for The Economist; the Orange campaign – those are just a few BIG IDEAS. Such ideas make your money go further. They make it easy to use different media channels, to create memorable direct marketing and social media campaigns (Compare the Market and Old Spice must have had an easy time attracting followers on Twitter by adapting their BIG IDEAS.)

From this copywriter’s perspective, you marketers have a hard enough job as it is.

So on your next brand launch, why not make your life easier and follow the steps above?



Could a copywriter have saved HMV, Blockbuster and other high street chains from bankruptcy?

January 24, 2013

Creatives don’t think like chartered accountants. Most of us don’t know how to run a big organisation. We don’t know what management consultants know. Even so, we can and do see things that so-called business experts don’t. Coming from outside a client’s business, we have a fresh perspective. We get to know their business and […]

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Can you sell absolutely anything?

December 5, 2012

There have always been niche markets for bizarre things. Believe it or not, some people want to buy wolf urine. Apparently it’s good for warding off deer. Which is why it’s for sale on Amazon. And there are willing buyers for practically everything offered on eBay. One of its customers bought a man’s entire life […]

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New work by Wild Colonial Boys

November 28, 2012

I have a creative partnership with art director Jeff Suthons, called .Wild Colonial Boys, and we’ve recently created a new campaign for brewer Daniel Thwaites’ Wainwright ale. Our work includes print and online advertising, a website and point of sale. Our campaign, like the beer, is inspired by Thwaites’ fellow Lancastrian, the fellwalker and author […]

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Marketer, here’s what to tell your copywriter

October 3, 2012

If you haven’t worked directly with a copywriter before, or would like a better experience the next time you do, you should find the following advice helpful. I just turned down a job. I hated having to do it. My prospective client, an entrepreneur launching a start-up, was a nice enough chap. But his business […]

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What challenger brands could learn from the London Olympics opening ceremony

August 6, 2012

Wasn’t that a brilliant, inventive show Danny Boyle put on for the Olympics? Beijing’s opening ceremony was a tough act to follow in terms of spectacle. And Boyle had a relatively modest budget of £27 million. So he needed to make his money work hard to create a memorable show. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Unless […]

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Great script? Or OK script brilliantly produced?

June 13, 2012

What I learned judging copy at D&AD 2012 – plus some tips if you’re entering next year. If you’re a copywriter, art director or designer, you know that it’s easier to criticise than it is to create. I was reminded of that back in April when, instead of creating, I spent a day in the […]

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Life’s too complicated. Simplify it.

May 30, 2012

Over the past few decades, I’ve noticed a lot of the products, services and offers I write about have become have become increasingly complicated. Take, for example, the average smartphone. If you’re looking to buy one, you need to consider all sorts of things, like speed, screen size, camera and which network tariff to get. […]

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