If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!

Applauding emotional branding in B2B 

Customers are savvier than ever before, connecting with brands on their own terms through a host of different digital channels. With so many brands clamouring for attention, the window of opportunity to breakthrough and engage with your customers is often minute.

Thankfully there’s a more direct and more powerful way to make a connection, and it’s older than humanity itself.

It’s in our genes

“85% of the decisions we make are made by the unconscious part of the brain” – Martin Lindstrom, Buyology

Humans, like most living creatures, are hardwired with automatic response systems to avoid danger, react to new situations and relate to our fellow species. Even in today’s supposed world of reason, instinct comes first. It’s the brain’s shortcut through the noise.

Since instinct and emotion go hand-in-hand, feelings matter more in our decision making than we’d like to believe. In fact, even when we think we’re making a logical decision, the very point of choice is invariably based on emotion.

This is important in today’s experiential, customer-led marketing environment. You’re no longer telling an audience what’s best; you’re helping them to discover what feels right to them, instinctively.

Let’s get emotional

“Customers buy on emotion and justify with fact” – Paul Cash, MD, Rooster Punk

The idea of appealing to your customers’ emotions, in conjunction with their rational decision-making, is not new in advertising, but we need to revisit these ideas in the wider context of experience.

Classical view puts reason at the core of human decision-making, though current research indicates that rational considerations account for less than a third of choices and behaviours.

Often the rational differentiation between brands is minimal, which leaves emotional engagement as the sole point of leverage. Emphasising emotional drivers may seem obvious in a more customer-facing setting, but is this appropriate in B2B?

Many businesses are good at appealing to functional benefits, for example, creating content that’s easy to understand and highlights financial gains. However, not a lot of companies appeal to the personal values of its audience. But B2B customers are just as human as anyone else.

Get a feel for your audience

“Creativity that generates the right emotional connection, will not only help you stand out, but start to create true customer engagement with your brand” – Darren Bolton, Ogilvy One

So how do we best engage customers on an emotional level? There’s data available to show how they think, but understanding how they feel is another matter. The first step is identifying the emotional drivers that exist in the category you compete in, and using these as a basis to differentiate. Subsequently, everything your business says and does should be designed to support these drivers and convey the appropriate feelings and impressions among your targets.

For example, in the B2B space, communications that impart career-boosting opportunities, peer popularity, improved confidence and pride, commonly outweigh functional interests and are therefore more likely to make more deeper, meaningful connections.

One tried and tested way to make an emotional association is through stories. Humans connect with stories in a natural, intuitive way. What stories can you tell about your company, your brand or your product? Maybe you could reveal the reason why your company started out, what motivates your staff, what customers like about doing business with you, or anything that underscores your values.

How you connect is not just about choosing the right content. Should you use video to highlight your business goals, should you use social media to announce a product issue, should you let customers contact you by phone or email? The way in which your story or essence is conveyed is just as important to the end experience.

Laugh and your customer’s laugh with you

“Don’t panic. It’s OK to be disliked” – Darren Bolton, Ogilvy One

So what emotions to use? It won’t come as a surprise that people respond well to happiness. It is recognised as the main driver for social media sharing. Though sadness is just as useful, particularly for building trust. Similarly, using emotions such as fear (of failure or missing out), guilt and even anger can have an effect on your customer’s behaviour.

Whatever emotional route you choose to go down, it’s important to be bold and committed. It’s true that a bold stance may split opinion, but that’s far better than indifference. At least those who disagree or dislike you are more likely to remember you and talk about you. And besides, those who do relate to what you’re saying and doing are more likely to become your long-term advocates.

Success is emotional

Though rational processes are integral to our thinking, ultimately our final decisions come down to emotions, even in a B2B setting. Companies that can determine the emotional drivers of its audience and use these to create and disseminate a presence that plays on these impulses are more likely to succeed in a world where experience is everything.

This blog features quotes from the 2014 B2B Marketing Conference, London.

Emma Gee

Emma Gee is our Senior Creative Account Manager with a smile! Emma has over 6 years’ experience in the B2B marketing sector, specializing in the IT / Technology industry.