Emotional branding in B2B marketing

E is for…Emotion

A tale of misconception

Think B2C and it’s all about the feels. Think B2B and it’s all about the facts. Right? Well, not so much. Because times have changed. People have changed. And work as we knew it, has most certainly changed. In our post-pandemic era, emotion is the potion. And in true B2B style, here’s a fact to prove it. In 2022, research by The B2B Institute found that, ‘Creating an emotional connection is 7x more effective than rational benefits.’ 

Put simply, creativity that inspires an emotional connection is proven to outperform rational executions. And when you consider the neuroscience and psychology behind decision-making, you begin to wonder why B2B marketers have resisted the persuasive draw of emotion for so long. 

For starters, in Dan Hill’s book – Emotionomics: Leveraging Emotions for Business Success – he explains how the emotional brain processes sensory information in one fifth of the time the cognitive brain takes. This means your prospects feel before they think.

And Harvard Business School’s Gerard Zaltman has shown that 95% of our decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind

Then there’s the research from Google and CEB, which found B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected with their service providers than consumers. Which makes perfect sense, considering the greater investment, the many stakeholders and the longer-term relationships involved. 

So it really is time to smash the common misconception that B2B buyers are only ever rational, methodical and analytical (robotic even).  Because they’re most definitely not just making decisions based on pure logic. The reality is, they’re as human as the next person, with the same worries, challenges, fears, joys and dreams.

B2B is just P2P

At mark-making* we believe being more human is key to sustainable success. Embracing emotion in an overly-rational B2B world, means organisations can cut through the noise, stand out from their competitors, and create extraordinary and enduring attraction. This is a perspective we live and breathe at mm*. 

Purpose is always emotive

Take this work we did for Recognise Bank. They were at the beginning of their journey to build a challenger bank to better serve the needs of UK SMEs. In this highly corporate and undifferentiated market, we knew we had to do something different. Something with heart. And purpose.

Our strategy? Give the Recognise brand a ‘campaigning’ feel, inspired by its founders who had long-suffered the injustices faced by the SME community: 

  1. It makes the biggest contribution to our economy. 
  2. It’s the least well supported.
  3. It has the most untapped potential. 

With all this in mind, we created an emotive story for Recognise, pitching SMEs as the heroes and Recognise as the driver for change.

The power of personality

When you think of a commercial law firm, personality isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But lawyers are people too. And our clients, BrookStreet des Roches, have a personal touch that’s anything but corporate. So we elevated their unique personality to drive differentiation. How? With a distinctive new visual identity based on four-word quatrains (sets of four lines in poetry).

As well as presenting the BSdR name this way, we made sure it lived and breathed throughout the firm and that everything they did could be expressed in this charming and ever so human way.

Real-life perspective, not product proof-points

Here’s a classic example of a well-established technology brand that was heavily product-centric in its messaging. We took Preservica from talking about clever tech and product features to staking its place as a brand who’s all about human connection. Because now they don’t just talk about USPs, they talk about how their business protects our global memory. 

B2B hits the stage at Cannes 

Last year, the official Creative B2B Lions launched for the first time to celebrate game-changing creativity in the sector. And the winners all had one thing in common: Emotional prowess. Which goes to show the true power of emotion is not just the ability to move people, but to move businesses – and industries – forward.

If you haven’t already, check out The Grand Prix winner, ‘Speaking in Colour’ by Wunderman for Sherwin Williams. It combined AI with human emotion to revolutionise the way architects specify products for their projects.

Making CMO’s feel the love

Spotify’s Song for Every CMO is a seminal creative mash-up of all great things – direct marketing, music and full-on flattery. All designed to get leading CMOs to consider the creative potential of Spotify ads. And it worked, leading to the greatest results in Spotify’s advertising history. Not to mention a major shift in the perception of B2B marketing.

Here’s to less head, more heart.

Whether you bring emotion to life through meaningful personalisation, stories, humour, cultural relevance, social change or simply by being more human – there can be little doubt it is the catalyst for brand transformation that every client needs to embrace.

About Alastair

Founder and Creative Director

Ali co-founded mark-making* in 1995 after graduating from Lancaster University in Marketing & Visual Arts. Ali works closely with our clients to help bring clarity to their story, and oversees the wider mm* team to ensure it’s expressed effectively, with authenticity and coherence. Ali regularly speaks on the concept of Magnetic Brands, an approach to creating and building brands that embraces the power of being more human, in pursuit of both profit and positive impact. Ali leads mark-making’s work in helping ambitious organisations of all shapes and sizes build extraordinary and enduring appeal.