Last Friday, we launched a kind of meta anti-campaign, intended to gently poke fun at old-school tactics by using the persona of an old-school marketer, a poster child for broadcast techniques and the campaign-centric, one-and-done approach.
The campaign's roots were in the positioning of the event itself—“This is Not Your Father’s B2B”—with its retro graphics and the overall messaging that this is the premier B2B event if you’re a B2B marketer… but not just ANY B2B marketer.
Our old-school marketer hijacked most of the MarketingProfs email list and sent out a rant saying "Why I'm Not Attending the B2B Forum 2012."
The character said he was “disgusted” by the “future” of marketing, as evidenced by “junk tactics” like social media, mobile, content, and search that make up the sessions at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum this October in Boston.
“I don’t need a marketing conference to tell me about the future. After all, the ‘future’ was invented by guys like me simply to sell products. I’m just fine in the present.”
That positioning is a little edgy: implying the B2B Forum is not an event for everyone, but only forward-thinking B2B marketers wanting to embrace the new challenges and opportunities inherent in digital marketing—especially social, content, and search. It was intended to be fun and (like most marketing) to break through the clutter.
Most recipients got the joke. The overwhelming majority, in fact, loved it. If I were a numbers person, I’d estimate that 99.99999% of the receipts would echo comments like these:
- “Thanks for the laugh. Very clever!”
- And my favorite: “You should give your email marketer a raise. That’s probably the only email you ever sent me that I read the entire way through. I usually ignore these kinds of messages.”
Twitter went nuts, with scores of people sharing comments about our email, and we had some wonderful, rich, positive buzz—the kind marketers like us like to revel in—that has made the entire marketing team smile straight into this new week.
But a handful of folks on our list were less impressed.
“I think this email was misleading and extremely unnecessary," one person wrote. "Take me off of your mailing list. Only morons would spend $1,000 to ‘learn’ about social media marketing when they could just as easily spend $40 on a book or look it all up online. You guys are a disgrace.”
Perhaps that goes with the territory. I guess if your marketing pleases everyone, you’re not doing it right. But it also strikes me that some marketers—actually, some people—take themselves entirely too seriously.
“What the hell is wrong with you people?” asked another critic. “You’re not converting people from religion, or saving souls, or even saving lives.”
Precisely. We aren’t doing any of those things. Nor are we dealing with anything remotely sensitive in nature, so why not have a little fun? Why be boring and staid? Why not inject some humor? Why not try to make your audience smile and approach your business with a sense of fun and encouragement and energy? Because from where I sit—and I hope from where you sit, too—business is fun!
We talk about serious techniques and actual business tactics at the B2B Forum. There are some serious smarty-pants there who will share from their profound knowledge of digital tools and strategy. We’ll talk about how to generate leads and nurture them and get business done. In other words, we’ll help you bring the money to your organization.
But at the same time we’ll have some laughs. Not too many, but enough to remind us that B2B marketing is a pretty sweet place to be these days.
I love the following clip from my friend Tim Washer during the closing session of our previous event, this past March in Seattle. Because if you don't believe that B2B marketing can be fun... well, you're just not looking at the data, Tim says. And he knows, because he works at Cisco:
So, remember the data. And join us this October---Tim will be back, too. I hope to see you there and even share a laugh or two.
Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded ClickZ.com, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.