Volkswagen did not have a good time last week.
Let me fill you in.
On March 30th, the 66-year-old Volkswagen of America – the North American subsidiary of the big cheese – announced on its Twitter channel it was changing its name to… Voltswagen.
Why? Something, something “electric driving.”
People thought it was a joke. They said it wasn’t. People insisted it was a joke. They persisted it wasn’t.
Then their share price started to move, whispers of an SEC investigation started to crop up and lo and behold – it actually was a joke this whole time.
Here’s where VW went wrong. They played fast and loose with something that has to handled as delicately as a newborn chick on a building site – their brand.
Generally speaking, if you have a reputation for lying, you should probably steer clear of using it as a marketing tactic. And if you do want to get involved in a little pre-April Fool’s day fun (who doesn’t?) maybe try it with something a little more low-key than your company name?
But here’s the lesson.
There are some things best left alone. But far too often in B2B, you find situations where inertia – that tendency to change nothing – has penetrated marketing like a rot.
What has worked in the past is not guaranteed to work in the future. Yet you see companies all the time invest eye-watering sums in the same event, the same advertising, the same process that they’ve always invested in.
And that’s a big problem.
Why? Because their competitors will adapt their marketing around the shifting tides of B2B buying behaviour, eat your cake and send you the bill to pick up.
So what’s the lesson for B2B marketers from the Voltswagen fiasco?
Don’t mess with your legacy. But don’t rest on your laurels. If something feels stale to you, imagine how it’s perceived by your clients.
Here are six quick-fire ideas on how you can start to give your marketing a facelift.
- If you find yourself talking about the same subjects over and over again, a quick fix can be seeking out some different perspectives within your company. Executives often can talk to broad themes but may struggle to go particularly deep. Grab a virtual coffee with someone ‘on the ground’ in your business and get their take on how the hot button topics of the day. If you’re a global company, take in viewpoints from your international colleagues.
- 75% of B2B advertising contributes zero to the bottom line. That’s because companies focus on the solution that the product provides to the buyer, rather than the emotional benefit they will personally feel from choosing it. A way to solve this is by investing in the creative. When something feels like a lot of work and craft has gone into it, there’s a cognitive bias working in your favour; people instinctively assume it has greater value and importance. It’s easier to communicate that than to rationally get people to appreciate your expertise.
- You see it time and again – B2B brands using social media as a megaphone for their press releases and little else. If you’ve been giving a monologue for a while, take a portion of that time and focus solely on replying to posts from influencers in your industry. Not only will it give you exposure to a wider audience than you can reach organically, but it’ll also help generate new ideas for your content marketing. Remember, social is meant to be social.
- Almost 95% of executives believe that gifting facilitates a deeper personal connection with their clients. Yet the quality of that gift matters. Gift baskets or “corporate swag” – I’m talking branded pens, mugs, tote bags and the like are overplayed. Here are the first things that come to my mind I’d rather send – a personalized pretzel hamper, a Kindle with your company e-book, funky socks, an experience – think glamping – and, dare I say, an NFT?
- Some products just aren’t exciting. Concrete is a good example. Super important in construction, not really that interesting. So, instead of talking about how great your concrete is, show the faces of the people at your company making it. Highlight how progressive your organisation is in fixing the gender gap in construction, the innovation you’re leading in the development of greener building materials or how your CEO fell in love with concrete as a child after seeing a Henry Moore exhibition.
- Not every message has to come from the brand. In fact, there’s ample evidence to suggest that each person working for your company will be connected on average to 10x the number of people than your corporate accounts. Investing in employee advocacy takes work, but drastically grow your reach and open the door to new commercial opportunities. If you want a quick guide on getting started, check out my recent blog post.