Oscars 2013: 10 Lessons for B2B Marketers


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oscarsCaptain Kirk (William Shatner) beaming in from Starship Enterprise went into the future to advise the Oscar 2013 award ceremony show host, Seth MacFarlane about what not to do on stage. He showed the next day’s news headlines that went from terrible, to bad, to not that great, to mediocre reviews of Seth as the host this year. And of course, we saw all that Seth was doing “wrong” and “inappropriate”, supposedly in the “future”. It was an entertaining show and definitely, as some will argue, a lot better than the recent, lacklustre (boring, actually) Grammy Awards.

Wouldn’t it be so amazing if this could actually happen? That someone with the power to go into the future could tell us what not to do and show us what might happen if we did? As a race, we humans long to know what the future holds in store for us. From Nostradamus to the Mayans to the prophets in every major world religion, we want to know what’s going to happen. In reality, our best guide can be common sense. There are so many mistakes and failures one can avoid by just being plain and simple, sensible.

As incredible as it may seem, even the most glitzy, glamorous, star-studded night in Hollywood, the annual Academy Awards can teach us some truly valuable common sense lessons.

B2B Marketing…As If You Were on the Oscar Stage

  1. Find a great story. Argo, Life of Pi, Les Miserables, Django Unchained, Lincoln—all of these are great stories and masterfully told or retold. With content marketing having taken its position as one of the most effective B2B marketing techniques, there is no under-estimating the power of a great story. I wrote earlier about Cisco’s successful approach to content marketing in the B2B world, a perfect example of compelling storytelling.
  2. Pick the right cast. If you heard Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar acceptance speech, he said, I actually think if people are knowing my movies 30 or 50 years from now, it’s going to be because of the characters that I created. And I really get only one chance to get it right; I have to cast the right people to make those characters come alive and hopefully live for a long time. And boy, did I do it this time!” Your marketing story has to be acted out and relayed by the “actors” that your target audience will sit up and take notice of. It doesn’t have to be your CEO who must become the public voice of your brand. If your CMO is smart, savvy and has the capability to be a thought leader, cast her or him in the lead role. And the supporting actors are important too. These could be your customer-facing sales people from the field, your help desk support team, your IT manager, or anyone else within the organization who can contribute to your effective storytelling.
  3. Take a risk. The team of Life of Pi when receiving their awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography, said something along the lines of “Sometimes to make a winner you’ve got to take a risk. This movie was the kind of risk worth taking.” In a post about B2B marketing innovation, I talked about how Seth Godin encourages marketers to start something “important, frightening and new”. If we do, we can hope to accomplish some memorable wins.
  4. Be innovative, even in bite-sized chunks. I personally loved the short film, Paperman and was happy it won the Oscar for this category. It is animated, has no dialogues, is mostly black and white (other than a red lipstick mark on a piece of paper); it is short and sweet but immensely entertaining. In the world of marketing, we feel pressured, unnecessarily, to take on major innovations. Ask your best sales people; they are innovative on-the-go because they face prospects every day and they know they cannot risk getting stale and boring. I remember one CEO use to poke fun at one of his sales manager who always handed out his business card each time he met a customer or prospect (even if he had met the person before and may have handed out his business card a few times in the past). But he always wrote down a famous quote on the back of the card just before handing it to the customer. Within a year, the company’s biggest sales wins were brought in by this same sales manager. He was innovative, he stood out and he made sure his prospects always knew where to reach him.
  5. Believe that you will win. Anne Hathaway stunned the Oscar audience with her heartfelt, emotional speech and some very deep words of wisdom. As she thanked the Academy for her Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Les Miserables, you could see that she had thought carefully about her acceptance speech. Unlike many others who choked or raced or were all over the place as they spoke, even though they may have practised what they were going to say on stage. Here’s how she closed her speech, Here’s hoping that someday in the not too distant future the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories and never in real life. Thank you.” Deep, meaningful, memorable and filled with conviction. Your customers can tell a winner; the more you falter in your marketing communications, the less effective your messages will be. The confidence and the belief that you are a winning organization with a winning brand needs to be relayed strongly to your audience.
  6. Don’t trip. And if you do, be quick and smart on the rebound. Embarrassed as she was from falling over her dress, Jennifer Lawrence was poised, even if a little out of breath, as she came up on stage for her Best Actress Award. And to the standing ovation, her humble response was, Thank you. You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell and that’s really embarrassing but thank you.” Then there was the ever-enchanting Meryl Streep who came up to announce the winner for Best Male Actor. She had to tug at her shimmering dress at least 3 times as she walked to the microphone. So instead of keeping folks guessing or assuming that she had a wedgie, she went right out and said, “I’m walking all over my dress.” That’s what smart marketers do too. No one is perfect and everyone is allowed to look silly once in a while. It’s when we try too hard to cover up that we end up looking even more foolish. I recently received a email registration invite for a webinar. Three emails in a row had the wrong registration link but each subsequent email came without any apology or explanation of why the organizers were sending out repeated emails. All they said was, “in case you missed it…!” That is just unacceptable and I ended up not registering for the webinar because I was so annoyed at how silly they were being.
  7. Bring back the classics. Shirley Bassey did her fabulous Goldfinger number and was all dressed in a gold outfit too. The unmistakable Barbra Streisand paid a tribute to her dear friend, composer Marvin Hamlisch as she sang “The Way We Were”. The Academy trotted out these classics from start to finish, William Shatner, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Christopher Plummer…and before you know it, the night was a success. For us marketers there is a lesson to be learned—when you aren’t quite sure what will work and what won’t, it helps to bring back proven tools and techniques that have been known to work.
  8. Stand out, effortlessly. That’s what Adele did with her rendition of the Oscar winning song “Skyfall” from the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. Let me remind of these fundamentals of B2B marketing that can help you stand out even on a stage as grand as the Oscar Awards Ceremony:
    • Don’t pretend to be something/someone you are not.
    • Be the best that you can be—without making it seem forced.
    • Most importantly, CONNECT with your customers and prospects—ENGAGE them with your value proposition.
  9. Be fearless. Did you see that nine-year old powerhouse of a character in Beasts of the Southern Wilderness? Quevenzhané Wallis, the youngest ever Best Actress nominee plays the character of Hushpuppy, a young girl living with her father in an isolated swampland. She didn’t win the Oscar but she won’t be forgotten for a long time. As a matter of fact, we will soon see her in the remake of Annie. We marketers are easily scared; we fear rejection and ridicule and failure. And that fear makes us slip into mediocrity and stay there. Our competitors couldn’t ask for more!
  10. Have at least one whiz bang idea; and you may find it close to home. If you consider each marketing campaign an event in itself, you need to have at least one big idea that will give your campaign the wow factor. Many of us know that already but we mistakenly believe that this big idea must come from some high-profile marketing consultant, that it will cost a lot of money and that we will have to search high and low to come up with the idea. See what the Oscar Awards did…Hollywood and movie making is one of the biggest industries in the United States. The biggest surprise of the night was Jack Nicholson turning the stage over to Michelle Obama speaking from the White House and announcing the Best Picture award for Argo. She is the First Lady, she is known for her fashion statements, she is admired, and she could be beamed right into the ceremony!

We don’t have to aim for awards and nominations in marketing, but if we follow these simple rules of marketing with a good measure of common sense, applause is bound to come. And the audience will vote with their clicks, shares and eyeballs as our stories go viral and enhance our brand value. Do you agree? What are your thoughts? Please email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.

Image used under licence from Shutterstock.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


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