Being dull might not just cost you socially, but also financially. And new research tells us that there’s nothing duller than a B2B brand.

Not the opinion of the team at SLG Agency , but the findings of creative pre-testing testing company System1 (as shared by Jon Evans on his brilliant Uncensored CMO podcast).

System 1 asks audiences to score advertising on a 1-to-5-star basis, with 1-star advertising not only described as poor, but dull, un-memorable and above all else, ineffective. The absolute antithesis of the creative effectiveness message that we’ve been pushing.

The score of B2B advertising that falls into this ‘dull’ category? 78%.

Put another way, that means that 4 out of five 5 B2B campaigns aren’t worth producing in the first place. The activity adds nothing to the brands it should help and pulls budget at a point where, for many brands, there simply isn’t the spare money to waste.

The true cost of the ‘Dull Tax’

That ‘money to waste’ point is crucial. ‘Dull’ campaigns can cut through, but only where you have deep enough pockets to over-compensate with an ‘everywhere, all at once’ media strategy. This might explain WARC ’s forecast that the global advertising spend in 2024 is set to pass $1 trillion for the first time.

The System 1 research, overlayed with data from the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) Databank analysed by Adam Morgan and Peter Field , found that there is something of a ‘dull’ tax for marketers looking to take this route. The average amount that a dull campaign must spend, beyond its interesting counterparts? £15 million.

That’s £15 million MORE to make a dull campaign work as well as less-dull equivalents. That’s one heck of a dull tax to pay…

Break convention, not the bank

Now, while finding £15 million to purchase equivalent Excess Share of Voice (ESOV) outcomes might be beyond most brands, certainly in construction and manufacturing, there is a compelling point to be made here.

The first is that we really need to be working to build our brands as much as we can. That doesn’t mean don’t promote our products and services using performance marketing, but we should absolutely prioritise enhancing and maintaining memory structures by building our brands.

How do we do this? By creating compelling, impactful creative that makes our brands mean something to our audiences. Not only has this been proven to have positive business effects in the long-term (including margin opportunities), it’s also often as impactful on sales as short-term performance campaigns.

Making memory structures

Secondly, memorable doesn’t mean ‘wacky’ or ‘frivolous. It also doesn’t mean your brand needs a ‘tear-jerker’ John Lewis-style advert either. It means think about what is appropriate for your audience to ‘feel’, and then work to create a means of delivering this emotion in a way that feels appropriate for your brand.

A great way to think of this is to assess whether your brand needs to hit the audiences’ head, heart, or funny bone.

Don’t forget; your distinctive brand assets are the things to build and protect, and that you need the long and the short to win.

Do that, and deliver your message in a way that matters, and you won’t need to pay the ‘Dull Tax’.

Make sure you check out the most recent Uncensored CMO episode that provided the inspiration for this piece. There’s a tonne of other brilliant ideas in there, and it sounds like there’s a lot more exciting ideas to come on the subject.

And keep your eyes peeled (and whatever the aural/ears equivalent is) for Adam Morgan’s ‘The Challenger Project’ podcast, which explores how brilliant communicators make the driest subjects fascinating. The synopses and guests shared so far look amazing.

Managing Director