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  • Writer's pictureRick Julian

Emotional B2B Branding: Are You Crazy?

We consistently remind our clients about the importance of leveraging emotion in their B2B brand communications; beginning at the strategy stage–all the way through creative development. “People think with their hearts first.” and “Make your B2B audience feel something when they interact with your brand.” are mantras we repeat and repeat again, because experience and research demonstrate the value of that approach. Still, words are only words, and sometimes what’s obvious to us isn’t to others. Take this (mythical) client for example:

Dear QV, You guys are always beating the emotional B2B branding drum, and frankly I think you’re full of it. Look, we’re in the industrial heavy equipment manufacturing business–there’s nothing emotional about that–not to us–not to our customers. What do you want us to do, put pictures of puppies on our website? Yeah, that’ll make our customers go “awwww”,  then pick up the phone to order one of our industrial incinerators. We’re men selling steel, smoke, fire and destruction to men, not Barbie dolls to little girls. I think we’ll just keep on selling our products like we always have, while you branding boys are hugging it out in the corner. Signed, Tank Watson, CEO Dragonfire Industries

And there you go. When we say “emotional” we mean “to move people with a feeling.” But, when Mr. Watson heard “emotional”, he interpreted its meaning within a much narrower definition–like the happiness a daughter feels when she sees a puppy, or other primary emotions like sadness or anger. In the right context those emotions could be leveraged by a B2B brand, but thankfully we have many more to choose from. Here’s a list of emotions from Wikipedia. –that’s a very broad vocabulary to work with, and allows you to do some very refined and well-tuned emotionally based branding.

Here’s my response:

Hello Tank, Thanks for your letter. I’m afraid you’ve misinterpreted our definition of “emotional”. Indeed, we wouldn’t recommend using a puppy in your ads–mainly because there’s nothing cute about Dragonfire Incinerators, and as you noted, your customers want to destroy things, not cuddle with them I’d probably recommend you go with “arousal”, as in “the arousal men feel when they destroy things”–that’s the  emotional core of your brand. Here’s a great example from another B2B brand in a comparable industry. I think they crushed their brand messaging with their series of brand films–moving their audience with an emotional feeling (“hell yeah!”) while demonstrating the power and effectiveness of their product. I believe something similar could be very effective for you. Best wishes for your brand, Rick Julian, CEO QUO VADIS

Whew! That turned me on. How about you?

While this was a mythical interaction, I hope it illustrated the broader opportunities for emotional engagement that are possible. For every company, in any industry, there exists a core emotion that is strategically relevant to your marketing goals. Find out what turns your customers on, then layer your brand messages (functions, features, competitive advantages) upon it–it’s a Trojan Horse style strategy that provides high levels of memorable engagement while forging a strong bond with your B2B audience.

Be bold and prosper.

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