B2B Creativity With Knobs On

A few days ago we were in the pub discussing the finer points of door handle ergonomics. Naturally this got us thinking: how do you measure B2B creativity?

B2B creativity is something to ponder next time you reach out and grasp a door handle. They’re woefully underappreciated but this fairly esoteric subject has the power to change your entire worldview on what constitutes ‘good’ design. Door handles are your first physical interaction with a building, and it is our sense of touch that introduces us to the structure. Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa called the door handle “the handshake of a building”. The weight and texture of the handle guides us across the threshold, giving us our first impression of the architecture.

Our drinking partner (who’s interest in knobs was strictly professional…) explained that in 1922 Walter Gropius designed a handle in line with his Bauhaus philosophy – combining functionality and machine-produced aesthetics. Gropius realised we don’t ‘grip’ a handle; the index finger and thumb lead, then the ball of the hand simply presses down. Accordingly his design included subtle cues that ‘brake’ the thumb and lead the index finger precisely to the inner angle. At the same time, his simple design is visually appealing. It remains one of the most mass-produced items to emerge from the Bauhaus school, and an example is on display in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. That’s good design, function meeting form. And the pub chat *almost* managed to make door handles sound interesting too…

“We were sitting in the pub, discussing the finer points of door handle ergonomics.”

B2B creativity has a similar task – to create appealing work that also serves a very specific purpose. Unlike in B2C communications (which largely rely on encouraging quick, impulsive purchases) B2B marketing has to go a little deeper. It’s not the decision-maker’s own money and a poor purchase could put the business’s performance, not to mention their own job, on the line. Equally, B2B marketers have a much longer chain of command to contend with than their consumer-based cousins. Procurement, finance and a whole gamut of superiors usually all need to approve any large purchase.

Like our Modernist door handle then, B2B creativity needs to serve two purposes. There are of course the aesthetic aspects – sparking interest and capturing imagination. But good B2B creative also needs to function; whether that’s creating brand awareness or providing enough information to nurture those big purchasing decisions. All the while, it needs to remain concise and interesting enough that you don’t instantly turn people off. Clearly we have a tough job (cue violins playing a sad song).

So, next time we find ourselves working on rebranding, content strategies or campaign concepts we need to ask: “what kind of door handle would this creative be?” Would it be the Bauhaus icon – balancing great design and user experience with perfectly serving its intended function?

Or would it be the bargain basement special?


Philip Whiting
Senior Account Manager
Birddog Ltd.

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