The B2B Marketing Moral Compass.

I’ve discovered that I have a moral compass after all. It was a bit of a surprise, frankly.

I thought I was a complete and utter B2B marketing hardass, but it turns out I’ve grown a conscience. As part of our brand marketing  content strategy, we cast the net as far and wide as we sensibly can in the hope of influencing and attracting prospective business. We’ve been doing that for a while now – about 30 years – and I’m pleased to report that it’s starting to work. A huge trickle of marketing ‘opportunities’ cross our desks, some of which ultimately result in a new client.

That’s what keeps brand consulting life interesting. It’s a journey that’s taken us into some predictable B2B markets, and inevitably into some unchartered and uncomfortable territory.

Years ago, for example, we had a brush with a dating site. It never went to the second date. We looked at the B2B proposition for, ahem, ‘adult content’ once. That one never firmed up either. More recently we even went once round the dance floor with a tobacco company, but found ourselves a bit out of breath. None converted into business, but if they had, it would have created a dilemma. Do we want this work? Do we have B2B marketing morals? What are they? ‘No harm in taking a look,’ was the recurring refrain. ‘We can always say no…’

Small businesses are constantly faced with decisions relating to what pays the bills verses what’s comfortable or preferable. It’s tempting to take the money and run because it’s a brave move to turn any business away. In any event, we didn’t get the work, so we didn’t actually have to make a conscience decision. Until today.

Today we were approached by a ‘payday loan’ company looking for a rebranding consultant. This is a lender that trains staff very carefully ‘not to take advantage of those struggling with their finances’ – before applying a representative APR of 400%. Four. HUNDRED. Percent.

Before I knew it I was out of my chair, waving my arms, shouting about the oppressed and unfortunate being punished and abused for not being able to make ends meet. I then crystalised my feelings in an erudite and articulate comment along the lines of, “We are NOT working with a scabby bunch of shitbag loan sharks.”

I took comfort from the fact that our Commercial Director, who is in charge of all whip-crackery, didn’t put up his usual fight. When the unsavoury and morally questionable pass by our door, he’s the first one to say, “Let’s just think about this for a moment…” and, “There is, of course, a commercial consideration here…” and other practicalities that involve paying bills. On this occasion all he ventured was, “Well, there’s your blog for this month.” Indeed.

My moral compass has shifted. It has moved from chasing any work from anywhere, to supporting good creative brand marketing (whether it’s our work or not) from dedicated brands hoping to improve more than a bank balance.

We respond to and are inspired by what we think is ‘good’ – even at the expense of other basic needs, like money. That’s where brand values come from, and what gives us knowledge.

Think about what your B2B marketing audience will truly respond to and I suspect you’ll find it’s not what you’re brand marketing is currently communicating.

We can probably help you with that, but first we’ll have to believe you have a base level of corporate goodness to work with. Scabby shitbag loan sharks, please take note.


Scot McKee