A growing number of B2B players are spending their marketing dollars like B2C players. Squarespace, ClickUp, Intuit and Salesforce made waves at Super Bowl LVI in February when they purchased ads reportedly selling for $6m and more.

“Historically, B2B marketing has been rational, serious, and even unemotional. In other words, business has been all business,” says Kevin Frank, Executive Creative Director at LinkedIn. “But businesspeople are people. And it’s time for people to see B2B for everything it can be — creative, bold, imaginative, and memorable. B2B brands power much of the world’s economy, and creativity is an economic multiplier.”

The numbers back this up: LinkedIn’s latest data indicates that over two-thirds (69%) of B2B marketers see B2B purchasing decisions as emotionally-driven as B2C decisions, and 39% of these marketers say they are increasingly focused on tapping into the emotion and humour that make traditional B2C campaigns land. Nearly 90% of marketers acknowledge that brand-building is as important for B2B brands as B2C brands when it comes to ensuring long-term growth.

Entries needed to demonstrate a blend of short-term tactics and long-term brand building strategies that connect with customers, improve brand health and ultimately drive growth.

A number of criteria were considered during judging and (broadly) weighted like this: 30% creative Idea; 20% strategy; 30% execution; 20% results.

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Over the 30 pages of our review, we have selected six shortlisted and winning entries that we believe illustrate the key trends for B2B creativity over the next 12 months, and beyond.

We identified nine themes that showed up through the work:

The winning ideas this year got close to their audience as real people, not job titles. They made the effort to discover what they feel about their life, and thought deeply about how their clients can make it better and more fulfilling. Empathy was the red thread that ran through the best work.

However well executed or strategically correct entries were, they were not shortlisted or awarded. The ones that won through took the conventional way of talking to B2B audiences and turned them on their head, attacked from different directions and felt fresh and new.

B2B is coming round to the idea of using storytelling to forge deeper connections with audiences. In many winners individual executions were freestanding stories in themselves. Others told stories over time, involving audiences in the unfolding drama.

B2B brands are adopting what makes B2C brands so sticky. Not just consistency and commitment to awareness-led media; but also the power of humour to make unexpected connections. As the saying goes - it’s funny because it’s true’.

Hyper-targeting is familiar to most in B2B. This year, we’ve seen hyper-relevant bespoke creativity with unique communications, powered by data, built for just one individual at a time.

The success of purpose-led campaigns over the recent history of Cannes is clear to all. What’s interesting about the B2B shortlisted and winning entries is that the connection with culture is often as focused on the culture of the sector as much as mass-mobilization campaigns.

Only the ideas that have had care and attention lavished on them at every stage and in every respect win through – no short-cuts, no compromises. They don’t necessarily have the biggest budgets behind them – but it certainly helps…

The vast majority of shortlisted or awarded entries were created in response to a specific business problem, or a societal one that the business could help solve. Or, indeed, both.

Many shortlisted and awarded campaigns featured innovative use of technology – some within their execution, others used tech firsts to make the idea happen. Wunderman Thompson’s Grand Prix winner was itself a tech product that answered a specific business need.

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