19 Sep The Secret Behind a Great B2B Marketing Campaign: Let The D…
I run an ad agency, so of course I know Tableau Software. We’re a customer, as is pretty much every agency and marketing department around. In an ad market where data is ascendant, Tableau is a category leader, highly valued by its customers , and just straight out valuable—in June, Salesforce agreed to buy Tableau for $16 billion.
Tableau may have a leading analytics platform, but what caught my attention was its creative.
I first noticed an ad for the 5 Most Influential Data Visualizations Of All Time. I’m a total sucker for B2B tech campaigns that aspire to more than product promotion. Four out of the five featured visualizations, including Charles Minard’s famous chart tracking Napoleon’s march on Moscow, were created before 1860. Tableau was founded in 2003—clearly, these aren’t a product pitch. The second ad I noticed was Data + Music.
I clicked, and spent the next half hour exploring a breakdown of Beatles lyrics and hits by artist, an analysis of Spotify Christmas music, and the greatest metal albums of all time. These and others were pulled from more than 80 music-themed visualizations created by Tableau users who are experts on the topic. Their passion—and playfulness—is magnetic.
I heard this from a SapientNitro conference presentation a few years back: “the most powerful application of data isn’t in measuring marketing, but in driving the creative experience.”
Tableau’s campaign works so well in large part because the data is the creative. A more conceptual creative idea would be a layer of abstraction, veiling the power of the visualizations themselves. Creative aside, the generosity stands out to me. The visualizations and their creators get star billing, which helps to spotlight a user community that is over half a million people. From a marketing strategy perspective, I love the ambition of the campaign, in that it seeks to grow and change an audience rather than speaking to the converted who are already in market.
I knew I wanted to find out more. I reached out to Adriana Gil Miner, SVP of Brand Communications & Events at Tableau. Just so I’m not burying the lede, Data + Music impressed more than me. The campaign drove 300,000 page views. There were several spinoffs, including a webinar with Spotify that attracted more than 6,000 registrants. And like me, people stuck around, spending an average of 2:30 for each visualization. All pretty remarkable in our era of impoverished attention spans.
As you might suspect, the story runs deeper than a couple of cool banner ads. From my conversation with Gil Miner, here are a few principles that make the campaign sing. These principles help separate Tableau from the typical B2B marketer and can help any of us create standout marketing.
Start with a bigger mission. The most effective B2B marketing drives growth and change. It answers the big questions: What are you fighting for? What problem are you fixing on behalf of your buyers and your market? When Tableau says it wants to “change the way the world sees data” on its web site, it is talking about bringing the power of data to all of us. Digital technology and the internet democratized text and video. First, we became bloggers, then YouTubers. Now it’s data’s time. Here’s Gil Miner: “If you think about the complexity of issues we face—say climate change or mass shootings—we can’t understand them if we don’t understand multiple layers of data. Our belief is that to handle the world today, whether it’s at the social or business level, it requires the world to become data literate.” That is a bigger and more expansive mission than just selling an analytics platform to data scientists. This mission gives Tableau permission to market in a way that grows their audience, to expand the front of the funnel. No small thing, in a world where so much of the B2B marketing spend goes to nurture and ABM campaigns that seek to reap current demand, not sow new ground.
Flavor it with your culture. Marketing on mission alone can feel aspirational but a little cold and disconnected. From the beginning, Tableau positioned itself against the big business intelligence platforms. Instead of a heavy and serious “enterprise” tone, Tableau aimed for fun. “One of the tenets of our brand is ‘freakishly friendly’,” says Gil Miner. Friendly is not what you’d expect from a business intelligence company. But given that most non-technical users find data intimidating, friendly is just the ticket if you want to grow a market of business users who see data visualization as accessible and yes, even fun. Here’s Gil Miner: “the purpose of the campaign is to get more people involved with the language of data…we choose topics that are popular and timely. We’ve done sports campaigns around the World Cup. We’ve done Game of Thrones campaigns. Some of these visualizations have been seen millions of times. If we have a data visualization that is seen as much as a cat video, that’s a huge accomplishment.”
Don’t go it alone (or be generous, and people will give back). We’ve all seen lists of corporate values that are interchangeable (excellence? integrity? customer-obsessed?). My bet is you won’t find freakishly friendly anywhere else, nor will you see a lot of B2B technology companies talk about “cultivating love” like Gil Miner does in our conversation. “I say that purposely. We’re in an era of brand identity, so people relate to brands even in B2B markets. People want to be part of a club where they can contribute, they can learn, and they can find people like themselves.” You cultivate love by being generous. Which for Tableau starts with Tableau Public, a free platform where people can author, publish and share visualizations. Like YouTube for data, it’s the largest repository of interactive data stories. Community activity is a little staggering: Tableau Public has more than 750,000 authors that publish over 12,000 new visualizations…