Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Case study marketing

We all know B2B is hard for all the reasons that marketing is typically hard: clients tend to err on the rational side (It's business after all), the propositions are complex, and the targets can be hard to reach. Interactive has helped up to a point (rich media makes it easier to demonstrate complex products and digital media can make it easier to target relevant b2b consumers), but most of it is still pretty boring.

So I was intrigued when I came across the latest HP for Business Campaign less because of the Burton association, which is fine as coolio borrowed interest but frankly is starting to feel a little overused as the ur-hip business with charismatic leader.

What I like about it more is use of the old-fashioned case study as content. It's a form that most of us know and use, both as a source of info and to make arguments to clients, so we--as potential b2b customers--have already bought into the format.

Case studies also have the advantage of an existing structure, with information pre-organized into familiar categories: brand identity, customer research, etc so you know your audience will know how--and potentially want--to navigate it. As we used to say in grad school, the audience is already "competent readers" of the form. They might even find it useful.

The weak point, for me, is the connection between Burton and HP. The site suggests that HP can help you build a brand like Burton. But it's a bit of a stretch to claim that Burton built it's brand on pre-formatted letterhead, business cards and stickers.

Nevertheless, whatever the limits of the particular execution, the campaign definitely opens up some new conceptual territory for b2b ads, suggesting other forms of business documentation we might mine for interesting marketing content. In other words, rather than trying to make business look more interesting by pretending it's something it's not, we can start with what is interesting about business in the first place.

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