Q&A with Ryan Mannion, VP/Account Dir, on Breaking Through Digital Clutter & March Madness

What is the most interesting or creative B2B marketing campaign that’s caught your eye lately?

I don’t know that many have caught my eye as of late. But I do follow a number of companies who I think are very smart marketers. In the B2B world I often look to see what IBM and GE are doing. They tend to have very big ideas, and they extend those ideas into all areas of their business. That’s what catches my attention. IBM has done that with its Smarter Planet campaign. And right now, GE has a GE Works campaign. They are using many different channels to bring this campaign to life, from their website to Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. They just hosted a #BrilliantBrunch at SXSW to reinforce how brilliant machines will transform the way we work, and they have an entire paper on the Industrial Internet, in which they talk about how human insight with machine intelligence is driving the next wave of innovation. It’s really smart. Really well done.

 

The digital landscape is so fragmented today. What is one thing you feel clients can to do break through?

Make it real! Breaking through digitally is difficult in the B2B space. Most companies say the same thing: “More reliable. Trusted. Proven. Lower total cost-of-ownership.” But they don’t make that tangible. If you say you can reduce their costs, show them how. Provide actual numbers. Develop a calculator so they can apply it to their business. If you say your product is reliable, show a video of how it withstood certain conditions for X period of time. Even better, show it against the competition. This is really hard for many clients to do. But if they invest the time to do it, they will break through the clutter.

 

What do you think is more important: brand or demand gen? Can marketers get the best of both?

Demand generation is a funny phenomenon to me. It’s been getting a lot of buzz, and it’s what business-to-business marketers have always done. There is, however, more technology to collect data and tools to automate marketing. My background is more branding focused, so I will always think brand first. But both are extremely critical. If your brand doesn’t stand for something and it isn’t differentiated, you won’t be able to generate demand. Most of our clients’ products and services compete in a world of relative sameness. That doesn’t mean they don’t have amazing products ? and it doesn’t mean they don’t have some features and functions that truly differentiate a product or service. But if they do have something truly unique, it will get copied very quickly. So your brand has to stand for something. People have to believe it. It has to be relevant to their business. Demand generation is helping with this. There are more tools that allow companies to get more targeted with their communications so they can tell their story to specific audiences. It’s not enough to say you solve problems. It’s that you can solve their problem. It has to be believable.

 

Who is Fluffy’s pick to win March Madness, and what’s her reward for pulling in the big win?

I brought this question onto myself. Fluffy is my cat. It’s a joke around the office (and many places actually) that I have a cat named Fluffy. It’s very manly, I know. But she rocks. I entered her into our Symmetri March Madness pool, as I had maxed out my number of entries. I LOVE March Madness. It’s Christmas in March for me for three straight weekends. The opening weekend should be a national holiday in my opinion. So I am in a number of pools, with a lot of different brackets. And I never win. But it’s fun. Fluffy picked an all Big 10 Final Four with Indiana winning it all…so it seems like she takes after her owner.