Events like the Super Bowl are traditionally the domain of Doritos, Budweiser, and other consumer products. And when B2B businesses do advertise during the game, they’re often targeting small businesses and startups, like in this ad from Wix that ran during the 2015 Super Bowl.
Yet with the rise of inbound marketing, the lines between B2B and B2C marketing have gotten blurry. No longer are you only pitching your product or service; you’re also speaking to your customers’ pain points, their work/life balance, and even their hobbies – such as, for example, watching football.
B2C companies have traditionally been much more comfortable using pop culture in their marketing, often very successfully, but B2B brands have been a little more hesitant. The question is, should we be?
Here are 3 points in favor of jumping into the fray.
1. People are people, whatever business they’re in.
If you’re assuming that your business customers only ever want to hear about ROI, you’re forgetting something important – that they’re human. And like most humans, they live their lives more in the hours outside the office than in it.
At the end of the day, they share most of their motivating challenges, emotions, and interests with B2C customers. There’s no reason that pop culture events should be off limits to B2B businesses, though in some cases the tactics may be different.
Whether you’re marketing to consumers or other businesses, it’s difficult to do so successfully without embracing your mutual human-ness. For B2C businesses, this often means expressing shared values and making an emotional connection with potential and current customers.
Those tactics can also be very successful for B2B marketers, and can act as a point of differentiation from the 1,001 other businesses that do what you do, but are probably less focused on their leads as people.
The most effective way to build an emotional connection is through storytelling, and this tactic is easy for B2B businesses to employ. This year’s GoDaddy Super Bowl ad is an excellent (and surprisingly tasteful, for them) example.
B2B marketers are no strangers to using emotion, it’s just that we’ve become a bit fixated on one in particular: fear. Fear of losing opportunities, money, leads. Fear of being behind the curve, your competitors, trends.
But those tactics can lead to an emotional fatigue of sorts, and I think our customers begin to tune them out. Pop culture events are an opportunity to employ positive emotions, those driving businesses toward success rather than away from failure.
That’s not to say that “heartwarming” and “inspirational” are your only options – humor, celebrity, and provocation are all a part of the Super Bowl ad ethos too. Only you know what’s appropriate for your brand, but consider leveraging these themes in your blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, and other marketing materials surrounding major events.
2. You have more in common than you think.
Say you’re an SaaS (Software as a Service) business. What does the Super Bowl have to do with you? Nothing, right?
Regardless of what business you’re in, you can dig into the data surrounding your chosen event as it relates to your industry. There’s almost certainly something you can use, whether it’s how many buffalo wings are eaten during the Super Bowl (foodservice supplier) to how many “second screens” are used during the game or how many tweets are shared with a certain hashtag (technology and software).
Another tactic is to use the event as an example to your customers about their goals and challenges. For example, I could write a blog post about the challenges of trying to repeat a major success, and tie it in with the Seahawks’ attempt to repeat their 2014 win – or even write a post about failing to replicate a success, both things that my clients could probably relate to.
Finally, you can create a connection by simply sharing your employees’ excitement about the event. If you like your coworkers and don’t have any better plans, you could even host a company Super Bowl party and live-tweet, Instagram, and Facebook the whole thing, keeping track of trending hashtags and topics. Remember the “Dunk in the Dark” tweet in 2013? Now, did you remember that Oreo actually ran a Super Bowl ad that year? Which do you think had better ROI?
3. Remember the larger conversation.
If a company Super Bowl party strikes you as the worst idea ever, don’t forget that the conversation surrounding a major event extends for weeks before and after the event itself.
Moreover, this conversation includes coverage from a wide variety of perspectives: entertainment, news, and economic reporting, as well as teaser advertisements and merchandising, not to mention organic social content. As a B2B company, you can capitalize on any and all of this, as befits your brand.
If you want to create a campaign around the event, the game itself just acts as a center point for a variety of marketing activities. We see this with teaser advertisements prior to the Super Bowl that tie in with a campaign extending long past the game. Alternately, the game can serve as the kickoff for a much larger campaign.
You don’t have to prepare to get in on the Super Bowl fun, though. The conversation after the game is prime territory, too – most people come in to work the next day and talk to coworkers about their favorite plays, or re-watch ads that they enjoyed. Using the tactics above, B2B brands can also join in the post-game (and post-ad) breakdown as well.
Just remember that you need to be a part of the conversation, not an interruption of it, to reap the rewards.
You can watch all of the 2015 Super Bowl commercials here.