Just give me the facts? literalism versus symbolism in B2B advertising

van Dessel, Maria & Patti, Charles (2011) Just give me the facts? literalism versus symbolism in B2B advertising. In Advice from the Top : The Expert Guide to B2B Marketing. Dog Ear Publishing, Colorado, USA, pp. 111-119.

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For decades the prevailing idea in B2B marketing has been that buyers are motivated by product/service specifications. Sellers are put on approved supplier lists, invited to respond to RFPs, and are selected on the basis of superior products, at the right price, delivered on time. The history of B2B advertising is filled with the advice “provide product specifications” and your advertising will be noticed, lead to sales inquiries, and eventually result in higher sales. Advertising filled with abstractions might work in the B2C market, but the B2B marketplace is about being literal.

What we know about advertising — and particularly the message component of advertising — is based on a combination of experience, unproven ideas and a bit of social science. Over the years, advertising guidelines produced by the predecessors of BMA (National Industrial Advertising Association, Association of Industrial Advertising, and the Business/Professional Advertising Association) stressed emphasizing product features and tangible benefits. The major publishers of B2B magazines, e.g., McGraw-Hill, Penton Publishing, et al. had similar recommendations. Also, B2B marketing books recommend advertising that focuses on specific product features (Kotler and Pfoertsch, 2006; Lamons, 2005).

In more recent times, abstraction in advertising messages has penetrated the B2B marketplace. Even though such advertising legends as David Ogilvy (1963, 1985) frequently recommended advertising based on hard-core information, we’ve seen the growing use of emotional appeals, including humor, fear, parental affection, etc. Beyond the use of emotion, marketers attempt to build a stronger connection between their brands and buyers through the use of abstraction and symbolism. Below are two examples of B2B advertisements — Figure 1A is high in literalism and Figure 1B is high in symbolism. Which approach — a “left-brain” (literal) or “right brain” (symbolic) is more effective in B2B advertising? Are the advertising message creation guidelines from the history of B2B advertising accurate? Are the foundations of B2B message creation (experience and unproven ideas) sound?

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ID Code: 53347
Item Type: Book Chapter
Keywords: Literalism, Symbolism , B2B Advertising
ISBN: 9781457502194
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > MARKETING (150500)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 Dog Ear Publishing
Deposited On: 29 Aug 2012 00:43
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2012 23:18

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