We often talk about the science of great enterprise B2B marketing.
But the best marketing blends solid fundamentals with a spark of…something more. Intuition. Creativity. Danger. Something that seems like it shouldn’t work – but does.
If marketing is a science, it’s also equally an art. So what can marketers learn from the great masterpieces of contemporary art?
The Blue Seedling team set out to answer this question on a recent company retreat to Beacon, New York. We visited Dia:Beacon: an immersive sanctuary of modern art featuring works by Sol Lewitt, Andy Warhol, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, and more.
We walked away convinced that great B2B marketers, like great artists, understand their audience deeply enough to delight and challenge them – and ultimately change the way they see the world. Here are three takeaways.
(All images courtesy of Dia:Beacon Art Foundation)
Less is more.
We marketers are enthusiastic types. We want to tell you all about our product or service. And we’re eager to impress you with how much research we’ve done into your pain points.
Michael Heizer makes a convincing case that less is more.
In North, East, South, West, the artist pioneers a new kind of “negative” sculpture – by carving area out of the ground rather than building on top of it.
The sculpture is defined by what’s not there. Just like the best marketing is all about what’s not said.
Consider the following homepage from Lemonade (admittedly a B2C brand, but a great source of B2B inspiration).
Why is this genius? Well, the marketing team could have easily said: “You know how you associate insurance with long wait times, stress, and opaque pricing? Forget that.” Or even “Forget everything you think you know about insurance.”
Instead, Lemonade’s marketing team went with the most straightforward possible formulation. Its economy grabs your attention. It stands out in an era of digital excess. Most importantly, it allows the prospect to fill in the blanks with her own imagination – which is more vivid than anything a copywriter could cook up.
Simple is powerful. Simple is evocative.
Harness the power of the unexpected.
Let’s put it out there. A lot of B2B marketing is just plain boring.
Transform your accounts payable workflows. Optimize your revenue drivers. HR, reimagined.
In all the high-minded seriousness of enterprise B2B sales and marketing, it’s easy to forget that we’re talking to actual human beings.
Artist Mario Merz knows better. He’s a master of the unexpected: of drawing audience members in by toying with their expectations.
Many of Merz’s contemporaries restricted themselves to one kind of artistic palette: commercially-available industrial materials or substances from the natural world.
In his multimedia work Vente preistorico dalle montagne gelate (“Prehistoric winds from the frozen mountains”), Merz gleefully mixes things up. A massive bundle of rugged twigs – a symbol of the natural world – is juxtaposed against an LED display highlighting the Fibonacci sequence and a massive, weightlessly-suspended speared cube.
Is this a celebration of the power of nature? Or a piece about the dehumanizing power of technology? Either way, it’s a mashup that commands attention – by bringing together materials from different artistic lexicons in a provocative way.
The best B2B marketing breaks the rules. It recognizes that we instinctively gravitate towards things that are interesting and unexpected. Humor is a great way to do this (and one that we advocate judiciously in marketing content): it disarms us by reminding us that the people selling to us aren’t robots.
Consider this brilliant marketing tactic from Catalyst.io, a customer success platform for SaaS companies. Catalyst created a spoof website, the Unicornian, that sends up the echo chamber of tech startup culture with wickedly funny headlines like “Man declares himself thought leader after LinkedIn post gets 12 likes” and “New study shows the average CEO reads 8 books a minute.”
The Unicornian works because it plays off the expectation that SaaS marketing and sales should be a sterile, personality-less, buzzword-laden exercise in “optimization” and “synergy.”
Similarly, a different B2B brand doing predictive customer analytics for retailers found that marketing and merchandising teams often get into heated disputes about “who their consumer is.”
So they sent bouquets of flowers to the CMO and VP Merchandising at dozens of retail brands – signed from the other. The message? Better data can help bring marketing and merchandising together. The campaign generated dozens of sales opportunities.
Be unexpected, and your audience will lean in for more.
Andy Warhol is the undisputed master of the remix. A work about mass industrial production and consumption? Cue the Campbell’s soup cans. An enigmatic masterpiece about the commoditization of fame? Fire up the Marilyn Monroe portraits.
A major challenge for B2B marketers can be generating enough unique, high-value content to feed the demand generation machine. That’s why the best marketers – like Warhol – thrive by taking a great idea and endlessly remixing it.
Consider Warhol’s work Shadows. It consists of a few abstract patterns, dazzlingly reproduced across a range of colors.
We’re big fans of repackaging content. A customer is willing to join you on a webinar to talk about their results from using your product? Fantastic – right there you’ve got:
The webinar – both live and on-demand
A webinar recap blog post
A case study
An ebook highlighting how other customers can reproduce their success
Gong.io is phenomenal at this. From a single webinar on “deal warnings,” they’re now able to promote multiple types of gated content: the on-demand webinar itself and an ebook with almost exactly the same content.
The bottom line
B2B marketing is the ultimate blend of left and right brain thinking. The best marketers draw inspiration from unlikely sources – proving that some principles of human creativity are just plain universal.
So get out of the office. Appreciate the beauty all around you. And when you’re prepping your next big campaign, leave time for the artistry of exceptional marketing.