In this article we will:
- Recap the challenges and problems we hear from B2B marketing departments.
- Uncover the main underlying issues and processes that cause them.
- Propose a new way forward towards better marketing asset creation.
The challenge in global marketing asset creation
Here’s what typically happens when global marketing & brand departments in B2B develop assets for upcoming product launches or campaigns:
First, a global department makes a long list of assets based on semi-structured input from markets.
Too often this boils down to overly generic takes such as “we need more video” or “we need sales tools” or “we need content for a webinar”. There is typically no joint planning at this stage, and the requesters of assets have no coherent activation plan as the product or campaign might be 6+ months out in the future.
Then, the creative agency employed produces a “creative concept”.
This is a long-standing practice in agencies that might include long argumentation, a “manifesto”, a tagline and a concept video used to sell the idea in, but that no-one ever uses in the real world. Finally, it involves a very long list of assets for roll-ups, banner ads, social posts, videos, webinars, datasheets, tech specs, brochures etc., loosely based on previous launches and the new input.
Finally, local markets get a “playbook” or “asset pack” and fend for themselves.
They piece together bits and bytes, often using less than 20% of the overall produced asset base, making their own or spending a lot of resources on translation.
The problems with this approach are real and tangible:
- Creative energy is spent on the wrong things
This approach results in concepts and “advertising” pieces that never get used in a B2B context. The agency and creatives may secretly wish they were working on a Consumer product that did TV advertising, so they produce things that look like ads, or over-index on taglines or “creative concepts” with manifestos and reasoning that looks like work, but has no real-world connection.
- Massive waste of time and asset production
Most assets go un-used despite a lot of energy and money spent on both concepting, producing and localizing them.
- No connection between activation and assets
Assets are typically produced without a clear activation idea, plan and commitment. E.g. a creative agency plans and delivers print or banner ads but the actual modern B2B activation plan doesn’t require them.
- One-off asset production
All assets are typically produced in one single go, with no feedback loop or ability to react on what works or doesn’t. Production team moved on to another project before anyone learned anything.
It’s important to note that most often, this doesn’t happen because the individuals, agencies or the marketing team as a whole aren’t capable or competent people. It’s much more fundamental factors at play.
The underlying issues
When marketing asset creation goes awry again and again, it’s because of more fundamental, underlying issues:
Asset-first instead of activation-first thinking
One CMO told us the following:
“In this company we make two things. Product and marketing assets”.
This is a common, but also extremely reductive way of thinking about marketing. Marketing as “those people who make creative things” is such an ingrained way of working and thinking that even very modern B2B marketing teams fall into this mental trap.
This approach may have worked in a world with very few types of activation in Consumer companies (we have a new product… we make a new TV ad and a in-store display) because that was actually how you sold those products. But it fails completely to match how we go to market in a modern B2B context, with many different, very specific channels, less big screen media and a sales-supported go to market.
Marketing creation teams that are disjointed from how B2B products are sold
The folks who make assets, both in-house and on the agency side, typically have a low understanding of the path to market for their product. They think end-user first, but often ignore sellers, ecosystem partners, channel partners, distributors, specifiers etc. – the people who actually make the purchasing decision.
No wonder – they’re often far from the frontline in the company, and more oriented towards the product development part of the organisation, who are also more oriented towards end-users.
This trend has only been exasperated by the desire to centralize asset creation to people who themselves own no activation budget or have very limited interactions with sales or customers.
“Big bang” launch thinking leads to one-off asset productions
Covered in more detail in our publication on Campfire Launches, the whole mental image of especially product launches also derail asset production. The idea of a sudden big bang launch campaign that runs in a certain quarter runs counter to how products are actually sold in B2B.
Instead, they’re often slow burners; building up adoption over time as they replace current solutions over the span of several years.
In fact, commercial teams often take months “post launch” to really learn how to sell a certain solution, what really matters, which propositions resonate at different stages of the funnel etc. But by then, the “asset production” train has left the station months ago, and the creative team moved on to new challenges.
This leaves activation teams making their own assets, making due with what they have, or more commonly – not doing anything at all.
A better way to work with marketing asset creation
There isn’t a simple one-trick change that improves marketing asset creation, rather we see 5 main levers to pull:
Think activation first by making recipes instead of ingredients
The first and most important principle is to move away from delivering “lists of assets” to being much more directive with how assets are supposed to be used.
This requires a real change of mind (and sometimes people) being responsible for creating assets. Instead of coming from a standpoint of assets having value in and of themselves, instead one has to know the market and go-to-market motion much better. It is not enough to “make an e-mail”, it necessarry to know who sends it out, why they do, to whom, at what stage in the journey and where it fits in the larger picture.
Run sales + marketing programs instead of campaigns
To succeed, it’s important that the delivery is a real program with multiple stages and impact across sales and marketing. Again, this requires the marketer to really lean into how products are sold and specifically what assets are needed for what.
The program should always be designed BEFORE any assets are planned. This way, activation drives creation, not asset lists.
Joint planning with flexibility to adapt
Obviously, this approach requires less of a “waterfall” approach to asset creation. Instead, the people who are responsible for activating in the market should be tightly integrated in the planning. They are, after all, the ones delivering the program in the end.
Early involvement of markets, both marketing and sales is crucial here.
Content factory approach
Assets need to be created at dual speed;
One, an on-going, open process. Assets are requested and produced as needed based on learnings from active programs. Truly great marketing departments adopt this “content factory” approach with the ability to continuously deliver great assets when they’re actually needed.
Two, the traditional waterfall approach. Especially when larger product launches play a role for your go-to-market, there is obviously still a need for larger packs of assets produced in one go. But it cannot, and should not be the main driver of asset creation.
New mindset, team setup and maybe different partners
Asset creation in many global marketing departments have worked in a certain way for a long time. New products, new briefs, new asset lists, new deliveries over and over again.
We should not underestimate how different the better way actually is.
Sometimes, it requires not just a different mindset, but different people and different partners.
Marketing asset creation represents both a major area of waste, but also a major opportunity space for B2B marketing departments to improve their overall impact.
By changing the way assets come to life, there is not always a need to spend more money on the overall process, but rather producing less assets that actually get used.
If you’re interested in case examples or sparring for your marketing asset creation, you can reach out to our partners in the field below.