Humans have developed quite sensational abilities to detect subtle emotions, facial expressions and tiny cues. Our cavemen ancestors needed to sharpen their senses to survive in the wilderness, surrounded by life-threatening enemies. We now can literally smell fear, project complex feelings with small facial twitches and spot danger within milliseconds.
So, it’s safe to say that our BS detector game is strong as well.
There’s a new creature humans needed to learn to identify within just 70 years (literally no-time in evolutionary terms) and protect themselves from its vicious claws. This creature is referred to in modern times as: an ad. While some of its kind are beautiful, inspiring and friendly, it’s also famous for lurking, using disguises to appear like something it’s not, tricking and even manipulating homosapiens. Our ad radar has shaped up impressively quickly and today almost all humans are able to smell one from far away and build up an impenetrable wall (see: Dead Sea mall kiosks for extreme cases).
“Just advertise more, make it more catchy. Tap into deep mind mechanisms”, chanted together young advertisers eager to make more bucks. And they did. Ads would pop up everywhere, with a jingle that is as memorable as it is obnoxious. We got flooded with emails offering us “the best products” and sales promotions “ending in 24 hours!”.
So. Much. Noise.
When volume became a commodity with $100 software allowing you to send 100k emails, B2C figured that there’s no escape but to tap into the creative human soul and start building brands. “What’s a brand anyway?” asked a stressed out CEO. “Well, it’s an emotional bond the homosapien develops toward a specific company’s offering, associating it with ideas, emotions, mindsets and experiences well beyond its actual products or services” answered the passionate marketer. The answer was satisfactory and branding it was.
Whoa. It was hard and required a lot of work and patience. You couldn’t just buy it like more air time and a mind dummying jingle, but companies that cracked their creative DNA- started dominating categories big-time. You’d walk into a store with 1,000 sneakers and asked the assistant for a specific Nike model. Because it evoked feelings of “being a winner”, even though the shoes were 99% the same as the others.
Branding turned commodities into highly-coveted, at times worshiped trophies to add to your collection. Endorphins, social currency, consumerism. Creating content that tapped into emotions, talked about philosophies, created communities of insiders and outsiders, lovers and haters – was and still is the bomb.
And while the B2C has transformed massively, the B2B world went on a different path. It has crowned a new king in town – the funnel. With rising tech and analytics – we could measure almost everything. And with the ability to measure, predict, calculate and budget- this obsession drove out its harder-to-measure, complex, longer-term and moody sibling – branding.
“Hey, why not optimize the funnel?” said some tech-savvy marketing executive. And optimization happened. Boost conversion, maximize growth, growth hacking, SEO, SEM, good traffic, bad traffic, targeting. B2B started fighting like hyenas in the savannah over leads. With industries saturated like sardine tins it was hard to tell why company A was better than B and C. Leads were chased and were harder to reach. The cure- more funnel optimization, more ad spend, more mass emails, more reach.
Loud merchants shouting “we’re the best”.
B2B got into into a frenzy cycle. Then, with more entrants, and everyone playing the same pie cutting game – some brilliant, wild souls pushed their bosses to try something different. “Let’s get back to what marketing was about, which is to inspire and drive positive change” (they were of the Seth Godin cult). “Let’s produce exciting content and build communities of avid fans!”.
Sounded promising. Yet, their bosses, used to short-term, predictable gains, kept bowing to the funnel, which gave birth to ads disguised as “content”.
“Download our free cheat sheet”- where we tell you why we’re the best and sound like everyone else: end-to-end platforms, AI-fueled Enterprise partners, market leading, award winning.
“Click this link for the full blog post”- where we fill the page with 5 pop-up banners of “book a demo” and trap you to “leave your details here” and be chased for years.
Don’t get me wrong. The funnel king deserves its place, it serves a great purpose. But its sibling, real branding, deserves to share the throne. Yes, branding is notorious for being unpredictable, relies on creatives, is more of a long term investment, but it’s the only way to build a real community without merely depending on the ad spend tap. It’s the only way to tap into human desire and motivation for years to come.
B2B content strategies fail because of their fake intent. If your content’s intent is always self-promotional, if it’s an actual ad in disguise, our advanced homosapien BS radars smell it right away. Heck, I’m sure you can smell it too but you’re in a self-numbing denial for the fear of doing things differently. Don’t hold the same performance numbers for your content strategy, it’s a longer-term, more complex investment. Shoving down your readers’ throats immediate Call-to-Actions will take away the attraction and charm of what you’re doing. Content strategy is not funnel strategy.
Your intent is everything. And when you really want to inspire, move people, teach, guide and help- we know it straight away. We’re grateful and we pay you back with our rightfully-earned attention and proactive interest.
Ask yourself this- what is the real, no BS intent behind your content?
P.S. check out my related video 😁