In the first interview of our leading B2B marketing professionals’ series, we talk to Marc Mustard, Global Head of Content and Brand at ABB Robotics, a pioneer in robotics, machine automation and digital services.

Marc gives insight into his career, how he came to work in robotics, and how he thinks the robotics industry will change the way we live. He also shares his thoughts on why there is no standard approach to B2B campaigns, and how marketers can be creative, as well as why it’s time to stop thinking of business-to-business/business-to-consumer and time to think of business-to-human.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Marc Mustard – ABB Robotics

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Marc Mustard

Mike: Thanks for listening to Marketing b2b Tech, the podcast from Napier, where you can find out what really works in b2b Marketing today.

Welcome to Marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I’m joined by Marc mustard. Marc is the head of content and brand for ABB for the robotics division. Welcome to the podcast Marc.

So first, I had a look at your LinkedIn, you’ve had a very interesting career history. Do you want to tell people listening about what you’ve done and how you’ve ended up working promoting robotics?

Marc: Yeah, so as was quite a traditional route for a lot of people. Back in the day, I started off as a journalist, trained as a journalist, I was working on my local paper when I was 15/16, had a radio show in my local area when I was 16. And then I went to university to study journalism in Edinburgh. And from there, I worked for a couple of car magazines with a Press Association in the UK, which is the national news agency of the UK. And then I worked for Auto Express magazine. The UK is largest selling weekly car mag.

And then I went to Australia for a while and worked on wheels magazine down there, which is the sort of car magazine of record in Australasia. And then I made the switch into communications. So as I say, quite a well trodden path started off working for SCADA in the UK. And then I worked for a couple of agencies, communications agencies, and also when BMW with many Bentley, and the last car company I worked for was Lotus up until about two years ago, when I moved into robotics.

And, yeah, I’m a car guy, I love cars. But when the opportunity was presented to me to work for the world’s leading robotics company, and the sort of, I don’t know that the relevance of what it is robotics can bring to society and industry, and people’s everyday lives, it really struck a chord with me, you know, selling sports cars to middle age men is fun, and quite easy, a lot of the time. But when you’re talking about, you know, the future of work, the future of healthcare, the future of things like construction, it, it really, it feels really, really relevant, really societally relevant.

And it’s fascinating also, so I think, you know, where we are now versus where we’ll be in sort of 10/15 years time will be night and day. And I think robotics has got a huge part to play in a lot of our lives. And I think it’s going to be majority positive and beneficial to society. So it was kind of an opportunity to do something a different but be that was going to make a proper difference. If you save one life on a construction site, very dangerous places, construction safety, save one life and a construction site by having robots do something rather than humans. That’s great. And people don’t have to do menial, dirty, dangerous doll jobs anymore. They can go and do more uplifting and rewarding things, then there’s a net benefit to society there. So that was kind of the appeal to me. And I’m glad I made the move, because there’s some really, really interesting people at ABB. And it does some really, really cool stuff. And yeah, I’ve always been interested in cool stuff.

Mike: I think certainly, although you’ve moved for some very cool car companies. Moving to robotics is certainly one of the coolest industries in the world. So I can understand that. I was really interested, you sort of said Marketing sportscars is fun. Whereas you kind of said Marketing robotics is about changing the world. Do you think that’s a kind of general reflection of consumer versus b2b Marketing that b2b perhaps has more impact, but maybe it’s a bit less fun?

Marc: Honestly, I find the phrases b2b and b2c, I find them strange and probably a little bit anachronistic these days. I think b2b and b2c made perfect sense when you were talking about different print verticals that you were talking to, right. So if you’re a b2b, b2c, you would be talking to an auto car. And if you were talking b2b, you’d be talking about em or car dealer or whatever, you don’t like much more niche technical publications, whereas I think given the way things have changed, obviously online websites, podcasts, all the different content avenues that are available to you as a company and as a storyteller within a company. I don’t really believe in either of those anymore. I believe in b2b Ah, so business to human and I think you might be an engineer, you might be a production line director in a car company or a distribution plant or a logistics centre or something like that. But you’re a human being you’re a guy or a girl who has a whole life outside of what they do on a day to day basis at work. And what engages people? Well, beautiful pictures, interesting films, interesting people, interesting conversations, detailed depth. We’re in the business of attention, all of us, you guys at Napier, US ABB, you’re in the business of attention. And there are so much out there today that is vying for people’s attention nonstop.

I mean, you know, before we before I joined you today, I’ve got three screens on the go, right? As I’m sure you do. And a lot of people listening to you got three screens, you’ve got seven or eight different forms of different methods of getting in touch with you on Messenger and WhatsApp, etc, etc. So you’re in the business of attention, and how do you get people’s attention? You get people’s attention by engaging them in an engaging way. I’m not sitting here thinking, How do I look at engineers, and it has to be grain facts and details and data points? No, they’re human beings. And they want to see things that uplift them things that are new, interesting, different, a different perspective on something when I first started is going wow, you know, six months ago, I was taking pictures of sports cars going around the coronation beautiful, beautiful blue sky, and you’re doing silly speeds with lots of pops, bangs and whistles coming from these cool sports cars, but actually doing a shoot with some of the our new Cobots in a warehouse in Munich in you know, whenever it was December, that was snowing outside, it was really complex. That was the first time we’d ever done it. That to me was so rewarding, because it was new territory. And we were trying to bring that content to people in a much more engaging, interesting, human way. So yeah, it’s not to diminish anything people do when people are still working car companies. That’s there’s a huge amount of skill involved there. But what appeals to me about working for ABB is that a lot of what we do is being done for the first time, you’re treading virgin territory, trying to think of a new way of expressing yourself and telling that story. So I find that hugely interesting. Yeah. And it’s helped by the fact that it’s all really societally relevant, and the products are excellent. And the company behind all is really clever.

Mike: I’m interested here, do you think that there’s more opportunity almost to be creative in b2b Because a consumer has been driven by creativity for a long time. But at the same time, if you’re Marketing a car, you’re gonna take roughly the same picture of any car, doing roughly the same thing to promote it, whereas b2b, there is no standard way to approach things.

Marc: Yeah, it’s having the, for me, it’s all about your mindset. It’s a mindset thing. So yes, it might be an industrial product, it might be a product, that it might be a thing that builds other things. But that’s not to say that you can’t convey that story and tell that story in a really interesting and engaging way. So is there a new way of bringing the data point? So you know, graphical overlays? Or is there a way of this is too complex to get into a picture. So it’s not a picture of film, it’s a podcast. And then with the podcast medium, you know, we do our own podcast, you’ve got your work, like you’ve got this opportunity to go into detail and tell the story, the rich, the rich, detailed, and the varied story that you’ve got. So it makes you think, sort of laterally quite a lot. I genuinely think that there’s a top and a bottom to this, right. There’s the actual people who buy the stuff, production line directors, board members for engineering and production organiser, there’s probably a handful, 1000 of them around the entire world, right. So why bother? Why don’t we just take them all out for dinner, and make them all our friends, right. But that’s not the point. The point is, those decisions are influenced by other people. And that could be people in procurement. There could be people, it could be their family. It could be anybody. The world is so holistic these days, and there’s so many different influences on all of us. So I kind of think that yes, you want to you want to focus on the people who actually made the decision. But coming up from the bottom here, you’ve got this groundswell of goodwill awareness.

When I worked for Bentley, right, very few of us can afford to buy a Bentley 200,000 pound car, beautiful, handcrafted piece of art. However, what what do you want? Do you want just the people that can afford a Bentley to be positively predisposed to it? Or do you want everybody who sees one drive passed on the road go, oh, that’s a that’s a Continental GT speed that does 209 miles an hour and it’s got 15 hides in the end. You know what I mean? Like, you want that groundswell of positivity and awareness, because that makes all of the other decisions and all the other influences that could affect the people making the key decision at the top, feel positively predisposed to you. So it’s a huge it’s a huge task. It’s basically everything and everybody all of the time, but that’s what I aim for. That’s, I want the guy who is going into the procurement meeting that morning to come downstairs for breakfast. And I want his 13 year old son who’s on YouTube. Good Dad, Dad, have you seen this cool film of this robot painting this car with an artist’s artwork? That is the sort of thing that influences people. And that that’s my mindset. It’s a bit daunting sometimes. But I genuinely think that’s the way we have to go at these things.

Mike: I think it’s fascinating. I mean, one of the things he you seem to be very focused on is improving, I guess, the image of robots, I think, you know, in industry, there’s been a little bit of a focus on all the robots taking people’s jobs. Whereas the things you’re talking about a very different it’s about improving safety, about doing things people couldn’t do without robots. I mean, to me, you seem to be a complete believer in the benefits of automation.

Marc: Absolutely, you don’t shy away from the fact that yes, a lot of jobs will go and be replaced with robots. But a huge, more jobs will be created as a result of the increased use of automation. So welding, people who do rebar on cotton construction sites, people who are involved in the installation of elevator shafts, that those jobs will go. But there’s a really, really strong argument to say that human beings shouldn’t be anywhere near those jobs anyway, because they’re super dangerous. I don’t think I’m being misleading when I say welding is potentially carcinogenic, that’s not something you’d want human beings to be doing really, anyway. So So yes, let’s take people away from those. We say dull, dirty, dangerous jobs, and give them the opportunity, the education, the ability to do something more rewarding, more uplifting, more appropriate for the humanity that only human beings can have. I mean, Samiha ter president, he always talks about, you can’t, you’ll never replace humans in terms of their abilities and the breadth of their talents and their skills.

But at the same time, there are certain things you don’t really want people to be doing anymore, and we shouldn’t as responsible employers and countries. So 100% I believe in it when I talk about it, or sometimes you get bogged down in the day to day of your job and the doing of the doing. But when I talk to people over a coffee or whatever about the potential and the scope for where the next decade will go, yeah, man I get I get really excited because it’s it. Like I said, you’re making a difference. And yeah, I’m just, I’m just a storyteller. I’m not, I’m not inventing the products. I’m not a clever software engineer or robotic engineer.

But I just think that the more people that understand and know about the potential and the benefit, the better it is for everybody. I mean, you look at it, right? I mean, 18 year old kids now leaving school, they don’t want to go work at a construction site. We did a survey last year, they can’t get off people, because nobody wants to do those jobs. Because they’re you’re outside. It’s raining or it’s too sunny. It’s heavy. It’s physically demanding. I mean, I guess they’re fairly well paid, but it’s not something people want to do. So what do you do? Stop building houses? No, of course, you don’t stop building houses. Because we’ve got more and more people, the demand isn’t going away. The ability to fill the demand meet the demand, rather, is diminishing, have to find a solution. It’s not it’s not a case of robots taking jobs, you know, should we shouldn’t we, we have to welding there’s a million almost a million open jobs in America for welding. Nobody wants to no one leaves High School in America where they’ve got Instagram, and they’re looking at all their pals. And it’s all everybody’s Instagram famous and having a great time and living their best life. They’re gonna say, Ah, I really want to be a welder who wants to be a welder? And that’s no harm to welders. It’s an important thing and all the rest of it, but there is a solution.

We need to investigate it. We need to, obviously those jobs need to be replaced the opportunity people need other things to do, but that will come inevitably when? Right Okay, the one the analogy that I love the most is when the car came around when the automobile was first invented that at the tail end of the 1800s into the early part of the 1900s. Yes, there was a point where farriers and people who were involved in horse coachbuilders for horse drawn cars, there was probably this there was probably a point in time where they didn’t know which way was up, and they were there. Well, the sky is falling, and we’re in trouble here. But they didn’t all die of starvation at the side of the road. They went and did other things. They took the skills and the abilities that they had, and they had honed over the years, and they put them to good use elsewhere. coachbuilders being a perfect example they they stopped building coaches to be drawn by horses, and they started building cars. People like Mulliner and all those guys, they diversified and that’s what will happen. I think there’s probably a point where it’s uncomfortable, inevitably, but we’re human beings like We’re the most incredible things ever. As far as I’m concerned, we won’t just perish and starve at the side of the road, we will diversify and figure something else out and go and do that. And that’s exciting to me. Because, yes, you’re looking at the fundamentals, the Keystones, of you know, this job that job dedicated to the automation. But what does that mean? Like? What will that mean for humanity in society? What will it look like when all that other stuff is going on in the background? Who knows? Who knows? And that’s, that’s, that’s exciting.

Mike: I mean, that’s such a positive view. I love that. I’d like to move on to to actually your job now. And I mean, the first thing that strikes me is, you know, having a title like Head of Content and brand for ABB robotics is such a broad row. I mean, how do you decide, you know, when you come in in the morning, how do you pick priorities, how you decide what to focus on?

Marc: I love the idea that they’re like selection of priorities is my choice. The way I look at things is what’s going to make the most impact. We all have a there’s a finite number of hours in the day. There are other things. We all have a life outside of work. There are other things demanding our attention. In my case, a couple of little people that need need me to be around and all the rest of it. So I prioritised by what’s going to make the most difference? What’s the reach of this thing? What’s the potential audience? Which of our key messages is it delivering? Most obviously, because it’s easy to be a busy fool, right? We can all be busy falls, no problem you could fill, especially in the post pandemic world where you look at your calendar each day in between eight and six. It’s just nothing but teams meetings and zoom meetings, where do you do the work around that the actual doing of the do? So I try and prioritise the things that make the most difference? The biggest impact what’s got the longest tail? And it’s hard sometimes, because obviously, there’s a lot of demands, and everybody thinks that their thing is the most important thing. And that’s the same in ABB is it in as it has been in every company I’ve ever worked in, but you do try, you do have to try and put the most focus onto the things that make the biggest impact and move the needle the most for the company.

Mike: I definitely agree. And I think the other challenge or opportunity that people are Marcing have had is the explosion of different channels and the number of new channels we’ve got compared to when I started Marketing 30 years ago. How do you see this kind of proliferation of channels? Are there particular channels you think work better? Or does it depend upon what you’re trying to achieve?

Marc: The analogy I always think of is when I was a journalist, you go and you cover a story. And you’d have to produce two to 1000 words on that story. And you take a photographer with you and get a couple of pictures. A journalist in that position nowadays, they’d have to go and do a story. One for the publication one for the website. They’d have to write a speech, script, sorry. And they’d have to record a video. So their journalist, their presenter, their script writer, the probably writing a number of social media posts as well to go across the different social channels. So somebody who was when I was never a great journalist, I wasn’t a bad writer. But I didn’t work for the New York Times, right? I work for car magazines. But that’s not enough anymore. You’ve got to be the sort of Swiss Army knife of a person that can do all of these different things. And I kind of think, in a less frenetic way, it’s the same for storytellers within a business.

Can you get a coherent film out of this? Note, there’s too much there’s too much information to go in here. You’ve got the product detail, you got the product benefits, you’ve got the specific customer base, you want to talk, right. Okay. It’s not a film, it’s a podcast, if you need to bring in the industry perspective point of view data points, right? Well, that’s not a podcast, because you can’t have five or 10 different speakers, that’s a white paper. So you have all these levers at your disposal, and it quickly becomes apparent I think, when you try and look at it from a storytelling point of view, as in what is the hook here? What is the story? The five wh right, who, what, where, why, when how I live my life by my professional life by that I learned that when I was 16, Badenoch and strathspey Harold in Scotland, when I was working there two days a week. And I always think like that, so, you know, you take those five boxes, which avenue is the best one to pursue here and we’ve got all those different levers is case by case really, white papers are great because you get the detail you get the industry perspective. surveys, we do a lot of surveys. And I think a lot of the time people go, Oh, another survey. But actually, as I said before, a lot of the stuff that we do at ABB robotics is the first time it’s been done. When we did our construction piece last year, no one else was talking about that. There was no there was no industry noise, there was no data to go. And we had to go and get the data. And we spoke to like 1000 construction companies around the world, and they got their got their opinion. And lo and behold, they backed up our story and adds that weight and that heft to it. So surveys, white papers, podcasts, films, obviously, images, infographics are useful when you’re talking about something with a lot of different data points. And you can have different versions of those, obviously, you can have the sort of consumer style ones, you can have the ones that you want to put to the customer. So I find it really exciting. Again, it’s exciting for me, we’ve got this thing, right, how do we approach this and then you got to go away and figure out what the best way of doing it is. And oftentimes, it’s multiple, you have a film you have an infographic may have a survey, whatever. But there’s lots of levers to pull.

Mike: That sounds great. I mean, the range of opportunity, I think the way you’re picking those different channels and use the ones that work best. I think that’s a great approach. I love that.

Marc: I mean, obviously, like, you know, social media is kind of goes without saying, doesn’t it, but you have to pick the channel within that spectrum that works for you best as well. We have a lot of jobs on LinkedIn, understandably, given that we’re sort of large engineering, industrial company with that comes the necessity to build things a certain way. But we’re lucky we’ve got some really interesting people at the top of the business Samiha to Mike’s agora Adric, asone, people like that, who have lots of engaged people following them. And if you know, we can give them the content to post and link to then works really well, because you’ve got this engaged audience, they’ve got a lot of reach, and we’ve got the good content to perfect circle.

Mike: That’s great. I’m interested, we used to obviously be used to be a journalist, and presumably, when you moved into the auto industry, you were actually working with journalists, you knew, now you’ve moved to a new industry, presumably or work with journalists, you don’t know. I mean, how do you see journalists? Are they friends and supporters? Or do you see the relationship between the companies you work for so Marketing people and journalists has been a bit more adversarial?

Marc: I guess like any microcosm of society, you’ve got different types of people, right. So some journalists are very easygoing, and want to get along, and others are quite adversarial. I think a lot of the time, they just want information, and they just want someone to be responsive. But that’s key. The pressures on these guys are huge, right? And it’s always time pressured. The worst thing you can do is say, right, I’ll get back I’ll you know, I’ll be in touch and then not get in touch. This is terrible, right? There’s a basic level of professionalism that I think a lot of PR people struggle with comms people struggle with. And they don’t understand that this story is getting written either way. Right? It’s happening. So you either pony up and come with your side of the story, or, you know what, it’s gonna happen anyway. So I wouldn’t I don’t think it’s adversarial. It’s just like a mutual respect thing. Make sure that you are responsive, and you’re servicing these people correctly. It’s obviously beholden upon you to make sure that your story is being told in the right way. With the right focus should go without saying I guess. But I think the guys that I’ve come in contact with since moving to ABB, they’re very, very knowledgeable. They understand. Quite often these guys will be industrial reporter or you know what, as a huge, that’s a huge beat, right? That’s a massive beat. That could be anything from an Amazon distribution centre to BMWs factory in Munich, or whatever. And they know a huge amount of the detail. They’re familiar with the big, robotic players and the automation players. Yeah, I don’t know. Are they adversarial? Are they nice? They’re just people, right? Some of them are good guys. Some of them are harder, harder work. But I think the thing that unites them all is that if you deal with people on a professional level, and you give them what they need, and what they’re asking for, then that’s a good start, you know?

Mike: Perfect makes a lot of sense. You’ve obviously run a lot of campaigns or quite a wide variety of campaigns. Are there any campaigns that you know, you’re particularly proud of what you feel did particularly well that you’ve run?

Marc: Well, as luck would have it. We just did a campaign around our new pixel paint technology, which is like an inkjet printer head for painting. Cardboard is with like a secondary colour or some form of personalization. And I said to my boss, when it started to become apparent, this was going to be absolutely huge. The biggest thing that we’ve ever done by a long way, the most successful thing we’ve ever done by a long way, bridging the gap but When Trade Tech publications in sort of the mainstream, so BBC, the time, Sunday Times, huge amount of coverage, I’ve never been more proud of anything really professionally, because it was taking this technological story with great benefits to the potential customers and all that kind of stuff. But actually just saying to people, this is what happens when you bring together cutting edge robotic automation and the humanity that only people can bring to something.

So we had two artists, a little chap called advisor Kolkata, who’s the sort of child prodigy abstract painter from from India. And this digital design collective from Dubai called L. You saw, I needed to like Metaverse design, the robot, the basically the premise was the robot could bring that art to life on on the car. And it did both the kids art and digital design collide. And it was just so visual. So striking such a great story. And you kind of hope that these things do well. But when we actually put it out there, and we had all the sales or the stuff or the sales, guys, the social media is going to be part of a podcast, we did infographics, it was just this holistic thing. And it grew arms and legs. It was great.

But the interesting thing was, it was where humanity and technology were that Venn diagram a little bit in the middle. That’s That’s what people are interested in. And that really struck home to me the power of that kind of storytelling. Like I said, I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve done professionally. And I’m glad at work, because it’s a great idea. And it’s a great story. And the technology is superb, you know, and again, looking 1015 years down the line with that. There’s nothing you can’t have on the car. And it’s not a graphic that’s gonna fade and peel off after five years, it’s permanent, the quality is as good as the paint on the car. So the possibilities are endless, really, when that gets fine tuned, and people start figuring out how to build it into the production line. So you could generally ever be in a position where no two cars are ever the same ever again.

Mike: Yeah, I particularly like the way you say that was the intersection between humanity and technology. I think particularly the young Indian artist, I’m gonna saw this campaign. I think a lot of people did. You could see he just thought it was so cool that his picture was going to be on a car. And I think that’s what for me really made the campaign was the fact that you’ve obviously got somebody involved who actually genuinely was really proud and really excited to be involved in what is basically a Marketing campaign. And to me that came through so strongly in the campaign. I thought that was really exciting.

Marc: Yeah, he was just he was just, I mean, you know, he’s eight, right? I’ve got an eight year old, like, I can’t get him to brush his teeth twice a day, let alone produce works of art that sell for hundreds of 1000s of dollars. But he was just really chuffed that it was the first time I’d ever been done. And it was his work that was going on to you know, an LED. So I came at it from a slightly different perspective because it was all about the metaverse and the digital crossover between their their design and putting into robot studio, and then having that transport into the car. So there’s not no human touch at all. Other than the design it is transferred to robot studio. And Robo studio communicates with a robot and it’s laid down on the car and they were just knocked out by that because everything they do is virtual in the metaverse, etc. To have it physically represented was was cool for them solving that. And plus, it’s just cool working with cool people right like interesting people. How do you how often you get to work with a child prodigy? That’s like fender or Steinway working with Mozart or something that it’s incredible. So it was really cool. And there was a lot of people working on it behind the scenes and a few bumps in the road. And obviously, we had COVID at the time, and that makes everything harder. So yeah, that really chuffed and again, that is what gets me out of bed in the morning. The ideas, the thought that goes, okay, yes, this technology is cool. Tick, right tick. The trade media will write about this, the car media will write about this. How do we take it? How do we give this the audience it deserves? You know, that’s the thought process that goes into it. So this one Yeah, I find that so interesting.

Mike: This has been awesome. It’s been it’s been a great conversation. I mean, I’m sure people will have questions and things they’d like to ask you. Is there a way that anyone can get in contact if they want to ask about anything that you’ve talked about? Or maybe even just want a job? Changing the world with robots?

Marc: Yeah, yeah, LinkedIn, obviously all my details are on there. So if anybody wants to drop us a line, be delighted to hear from you always looking for good ideas and good people to be in touch with so absolutely. There’s only one Marc mustard. I think it’s It wasn’t much fun at school having a name to tell you but it’s coming to its own latterly. So MARC and then mustard as in what you have your roast beef and you’ll find me.

Mike: Awesome. Thank you so much for being on the podcast Marc. It’s been great conversation.

Marc: Thanks, Mike. Nice to talk to you.

Mike: Thank you Thanks so much for listening to Marketing b2b Tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at Napier b2b dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.