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Is Your Marketing Being Friend-Zoned?

WRITTEN by: Andy Sharpe |
categories: B2B

Mar 2014


I am no stranger to the concept of being “friend-zoned.” I am now happily and miraculously married, but prior to finding the one… let’s just say my friend-zone card had some holes punched in it. Being a well-intentioned, somewhat geeky guy it was hard to compete with the studly, more confident and popular fellas. Somehow, I think this relates to the B2B marketing world.

We mainly work with small- to medium-sized B2B clients who tend to be a little more conservative and don’t have the resources of larger brands…in a way, they are sort of the underdogs. Often, our clients will say things like, “We want to look like Apple.” Like my non-existent high school dating life, our clients find themselves wishing they could be like the star quarterback that gets all the girls. Smaller companies that do amazing things can feel intimidated by the impressive marketing efforts they see from larger brands. Instead of being themselves and simply telling their story, they overcompensate, try too hard and ultimately… get friend-zoned.

As a designer, my job is to tell visual stories and create solutions. Us creative types are incredibly passionate about what we do. We really hope to be allowed to do beautiful work that will present our clients in a way that stands out (in a good way). In thinking about the design of your marketing materials, simplicity is a key factor in keeping you out of the friend-zone and making your prospects want to take things to the next level.

Don’t Be Too Needy

In marketing your business, there is a tendency to want every bit of information in every marketing piece. Small- and medium-sized businesses run on smaller budgets than large brands, so when they do an ad campaign, brochure, website, etc., they want to cram in every detail about the business and really get a “bang for their buck.” Marketing materials really exist to flirt and cause people to want to pursue a deeper relationship. It is said that content is king…but only when it is the content that people care about. Do 37 partner logos, an overwhelming amount of copy and images of all your products need to be in a single ad or would a simple, targeted, well-thought-out visual and smart message be more effective? Like the guy who sends 400, “What are doing? I miss you,” text messages a day, your marketing efforts can get you friend-zoned.

Keep Some Mystery

Design is driven by a concept and built up of elements. There is a temptation to combine all the different ideas and all of the elements into one piece. Designers come up with multiple design options and elements to choose from, but they are often meant to exist as separate thoughts. These can be great ideas on their own, but often through the process they get combined and Frankensteined until a few good, possible options get combined and turn into one, ugly monster of a final product. Don’t be married to multiple ideas. Strip down and arrive at the one idea that best serves the need. Like a bad episode of Hoarders, marketing efforts become like the stiff, dead cats found under the fifty empty cereal boxes we just can’t bring ourselves to get rid of. Cut the clutter, keep some mystery and don’t use up all the romanticism at once.

Don’t Be Predictable

We all know what is expected in marketing materials. We know what a safe design looks like. When you think of a “brochure” something immediately comes to mind…same with a website or an ad, etc. We know what we can crank out to safely please the CEOs, Presidents, Marketing Directors and all the various other decision makers in the process. Does this safety engage your potential customers or is it just predictable? Does it look like everything else in the industry? Take some risks. Think of a simple, defined story you want to tell about your brand, and be open to telling that story in a totally different way than you have in the past.

Rethink your marketing. Are you too needy and predictable? Be yourself. Tell the stories of your brand in clear, simple, memorable ways and gain relationships. Stay out of the friend-zone.

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