The idea of corporate identity is changing constantly. Today, every business needs to build an emotional bond with its customers. In other words, being a “lovemark” is no longer limited to B2C companies. B2B businesses can also become lovemarks that are admired by loyal customers. That is if B2B marketing focuses more on feelings, of course. After all, decision makers in B2B buyers are also humans – not robots!
When the concept of “lovemark” emerged in early 2000s, the first examples were B2C brands that maintained strong bonds with consumers. They were not only loved, but also admired, followed, and highly recommended by loyal fans. However, emotional bonds with customers cannot and should not be limited to B2C alone. Recently, B2B companies have also realized this opportunity and started to build their communication strategies on feelings. This worked well especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to prevail in the coming years. Why? Simply because B2B can no longer afford to forget that its customers are humans, too. And when we talk about humans, we know that decisions are never made solely on figures and SWATs.
How Does the Brain Decide?
Let’s stick to science while trying to understand the decision-making process. According to neuroscientists, the frontal lobe of the human brain is where the decisions are made. But that’s not all! Emotions are also controlled in the same part. So, decisions and emotions are originating from the same specific area. This already gives a clue about why we should incorporate feelings into B2B marketing, right?
Let’s go into some details. Frontal lobe is not a monolithic area, but includes various sections, such as the prefrontal cortex. This cortex covers the front part of the frontal lobe and controls temporary (short-term) memory. And when the cortex communicates with hippocampus, long-term memory is also involved in the process, and we make decisions. Now, who can ever claim that our short- and long-term memory is devoid of emotions? As far as research indicates, feelings play a certain role in the formation and term of memories.
It all boils down to a scientific fact: Decision-making is not an entirely rational and analytical process. It involves feelings. Even in B2B marketing!
Learnings from the Pandemic
In addition to science, we have also learned a lot about B2B marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic, which proved that every business is vulnerable and that a major way to regain strength is to focus on feelings.
In an environment where every country and person felt threatened and weak due to issues related to health, losses, social problems, isolation, and economic fluctuations, B2B businesses that took feelings into consideration quickly became lovemarks. Through messages underlining solidarity, unitedness, and compassion, they have been recognized as responsible and caring brands – something previously more common in B2C.
How to Understand Emotions
B2B Institute says that when a B2B company adopts marketing strategies that appeal to emotions in addition to rational thinking, it increases its chance of long-term sales 7-fold. The reason is simple: Your brand can achieve short-term success through rational process, but it is the emotional side that enables constant response.
Yet there is an issue to be solved there: Feelings are not concrete materials that we can see with the naked eye. Therefore, every B2B business needs to have empathy and insights to understand what its customers need, long for, or desire. According to Forbes, “people like to feel as if someone understands their problems.” However, this is not only about problem-solving, but also about understanding expectations, disappointments, dreams, and abstract goals.
Famous psychologist Robert Plutchik said in 1980 that there are 8 primary bipolar emotions:
- Joy vs Sadness
- Anger vs Fear
- Trust vs Disgust
- Anticipation vs Surprise
Obviously, there are many other feelings that are either combination of these 4 pairs or that are connected to them. However, even these core emotions are enough to have an idea on how to appeal to B2B target audiences.
Remember the height of the pandemic all over the world? Those days were filled with a mixture of fear, anger, sadness, but also anticipation and need for trust. And any B2B ad or content that addressed those feelings succeeded in attracting the attention of audiences. In times of crises, people need reassurance that everything is going to be all right. That is a message that all business can convey, including B2B.
How to Balance the Tone
Obviously, brands should not invest solely on emotional content and ads. Otherwise, they can reinforce their position in terms of recognition, but cannot succeed in converting this recognition into sales.
It is a well-known fact that emotional messages help businesses in building brand awareness in the long-term. However, you need short-term messages as well to generate leads. According to a Les Binet and Peter Field study for B2B Institute, the ideal proportion is 46/54 – 46 percent representing brand awareness campaigns and 54 percent representing activation marketing. And the question of which comes first remains.
The IPA data says the short-term impact of rational messaging campaigns is almost twice as much as that of emotional messaging. However, rational messaging does not mean much if a business does not have recognition as a trusted brand. So it is best when both strategies go hand in hand.
Long Story Short
Creativity, emotional messages, expression of compassion, and colors are not limited to B2C marketing alone. There is room for feelings in B2B, as well. With the right tone and message, any B2B company can become a “lovemark” for its target audience. Here is a list of tips for success:
- Always take feelings into consideration when creating your marketing personas.
- Read the room as well as you can.
- Not only listen, but also “hear” your target audience.
- Respond to their expectations and feelings.
- Generate campaigns that create a positive feeling about your brand.
- Aim for becoming a trademark of trust and compassion.
- Support emotional messages with activation campaigns that generate leads.