Why B2B marketers are just like astronauts (kind of)

12th September 2019

July 20th 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Cue much excitement at Pod HQ, with the whole team set to full space-geek mode; tuning into space-based panel discussions, setting push notifications for the NASA social feeds and recounting, for anyone who will listen, our stories of the time we met a real-life astronaut (it was at Birmingham University in February and it was very cool, in case you were wondering).

Ellie and Tony Antonelli

The moon landings were, of course, a fantastic landmark for scientific exploration and the anniversary celebrations reignited a public interest in space, particularly among generations who don’t remember the landings - but if you’ve come here for some marketing insight, you might be wondering where I’m going with this.

‘What does the Apollo programme really have to do with B2B marketing?’ I hear you say. Well, aside from it being the perfect excuse to talk about two of my favourite things in one blog and ignoring the slight difference in scale, there are actually some surprising parallels between the two...

A clear mission

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth" said Kennedy in 1961. Ignoring the assumption it would be a man and not a woman that got to land on the moon (those were different times and so many talented female scientists failed to receive recognition), in setting this goal Kennedy did a brilliant thing: he provided one clear objective to which everyone could work. The most successful brands operate in the same way. By providing a clear, overarching mission, marketers can carefully design a marketing strategy that’s consistent, creative and unflinching in its message. See Ørsted’s mission to create a world that runs entirely on green energy. By providing that simple direction, the company has been able to effectively challenge any activity that detracts from the mission; developing a distinct market territory, voice, brand position and customer value proposition aligned with its own values.

Curiosity

While it might not quite be rocket science, B2B content is by its nature often quite technical. We must make it our mission to be curious. It’s our job to understand the technicalities - by interrogating the experts, conducting research, gathering relevant context and new ideas, and then translating it all into something interesting and useful for our audiences. Curiosity is essential for turning subjects that may be – dare I say it –  a little dry, into genuinely interesting content, campaigns and market-facing materials. Curiosity breeds enthusiasm, and it’s our job to spark that enthusiasm for our clients’ brands.

The importance of impactful visuals

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and some of the most impactful images of Earth came from the Apollo missions. The amazing Blue Marble picture was taken by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972 and Earthrise over the moon came courtesy of Apollo 8 in 1968. Those pictures really captured the imagination of the public, inspiring awe and wonder for the planet we live on. They made us stop and think. Emotive images tap into our basic human nature, so it’s no wonder that this is a tactic regularly employed by successful marketers. Climate change campaigners are amongst the brands that have done this particularly well recently - think WWF’s fish/human hybrid or shadow-tree images. Whether it’s a brand identity or a specific campaign, visuals are crucial to engaging audiences. They are the quickest way to demonstrate what the company is about, differentiating you more quickly than words could ever hope to and ensuring that your messages land exactly where they should (unlike the Mars Rover).

Blue Marble 1972

Perspective

American astronaut William Anders famously said, "We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth". Exploration isn’t just about the wonder and awe we experience from the discovery of new places, it’s also about the different perspective it gives us on the things that have been there all along. As strategic marketers, content creators and writers, it’s crucial that we challenge everything we create - that we step outside our own preconceptions to get a new perspective. Only by doing this can we be sure that messages will resonate with our audience, whether that’s customers, employees, investors or shareholders. Each will have their own perspective, shaped by their own needs and experiences.

What perspective can also give us is humility, and it’s important to remember that even the biggest brands do better when they remain humble - always putting human values before brand-ego. Whilst it pre-dates the Apollo programme, I’m a particular fan of the below quote from Carl Sagan. It’s a stark reminder of the importance of perspective, particularly as we strive to protect our beautiful planet from the effects of climate change:

“Consider again that dot [Earth]. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader’, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” -Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.

 

So yes, you’ll have spotted that this was a too-good-to-miss opportunity to indulge my love of all things space related. But in my job, a bit of geekiness goes a long way. I love the idea that we’re always pushing boundaries; exploring new subjects, angles and opportunities in our quest to come up with exciting new ideas for our clients. The pioneers of space travel have provided a great set of principles to work by and while I haven’t been called on to put together the next NASA campaign (yet), they are principles which certainly work for me *promptly returns to the ISS instagram feed for one more tiny peek*.