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The case for emotion in a rational world

Pete Atherton, a board director at Inferno, an independent ad agency that runs consumer and B2B campaigns for major blue chip brands including Nokia, Visa and Hiscox, has put down some thoughts on what makes a successful B2B marketing campaign:


B2B Marketing – the case for emotion in a rational world

Whatever business people might claim, the decision making process is invariably emotionally loaded. Whilst purchasing and procurement processes are engineered to remove the emotional element, when price and function are comparable, which is increasingly the case, gut instinct is all we have.  Consequently, just as for traditional consumers, our first priority when targeting businesses leaders, is to place our client’s brands firmly in the decision-makers circle of trust by creating an emotional connection.

However, emotion at home and emotion in the boardroom are two very different creatures. Where business consumers differ in the buying process is by being brutally rational, scrutinizing value and efficiency at every level. Therefore a detailed, accurate and intimate understanding of how the customer’s business works is fundamental to engaging that rationalization. The emotional bond needs to be firmly rooted in a clear value proposition that will showcase the commercial potential of the brand’s difference.  

Targeting the B2B market effectively is complex, requiring insight and precision. There are multiple layers of decision makers to accommodate, from the stakeholder ecosystems, line-of-business specifiers, the approvers, procurement and support staff to the internal and external opinion formers, from the ‘office geek’ to Gizmodo.

Identifying the key audiences is vital, often requiring the integration of multiple channels and messages plugging into the relevant emotional drivers. The CSR head has a different agenda from the finance director. The campaign agility and flexibility should be evident in the approach to each organization. This includes content, including white papers and webinars, right through to the products, services and apps that make up a B2B solution.

To achieve the right balance between emotional and rational B2B marketing:

  1. 1.    Understand clearly how the organisation works, especially the stakeholder ecosystem


  1. 2.    Apply the insight to a core idea that is relevant and motivating to all the high-value audience groups


  1. 3.    Ensure the core idea works as a platform to create an emotional bond


  1. 4.    Unify communications with the hand-off to sales/customer service


  1. 5.    Align multiple channels for maximum return on marketing investment