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Emote to promote: How emotional content can help your brand

Recently we’ve seen a succession of brands taking the emotional route to their customers’ hearts (think John Lewis’ or P&G’s recent ads)...

Primarily, these ‘heartstrings’ campaigns were aimed at B2C markets only, but now we’re seeing B2B companies adopting these sorts of strategies too. B2B customers are connected with their emotions… 

In the world of B2B, our copy and creative have tended to be value focused and fact based. It’s calculating and rational because that’s how B2B buyers behave, right? Wrong.

Research from Google and Motista has shown that B2B brands shouldn’t act like robots. They have the potential to be more emotionally connected to their buyers and more loyal, compared to B2C.

“Of the hundreds of B2C brands that Motista has studied, most have emotional connections with between 10% and 40% of consumers. Meanwhile, of the nine B2B brands we studied, seven surpassed the 50% mark.”
(From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands,

Why is this the case?

In the report Google states that this is because B2B buyers are more risk averse. Consumers tend to chop and change – they’re a fickle lot. They can afford to be – many are making purchases on an individual level. With B2B, you invest in choosing a supplier or service provider. There are more external stakeholders, management and your own team to keep happy. Sometimes a great deal is riding on finding the perfect match, so appealing emotionally to a buyer is key to helping them feel safe and alleviating the fears they might be feeling.

The second reason is that the idea of a ‘USP’ is becoming unfashionable. Many brands might be offering the same kind of product as their competitors, and often B2B customers can’t perceive the differences between them. If your USP isn’t compelling enough, what’s left but for your buyer to choose the business that makes them feel the happiest?

Here’s some insight from the Google study:

Customer perceptions of suppliers’ unique benefits
Q: “Do you see a real difference between suppliers and value the difference enough to pay for it?”


Haven’t buyers always been a tiny bit emotional? *sniff*

It’s not a new thing for B2B marketers to tap into emotional copy for their campaigns. There’s been a movement towards emotional copy since the 1980s. Advocates argue that we’re all human, so why not inject a bit of humanity into your copy for business?

However, lots of copywriting experts underline that there’s a big difference between the emotional cues that we create for business, and those which we create for consumers. They argue that you can go ahead and reveal your feelings, but only if they’re the right kind to promote buying behaviours. For consumers, we can run the whole gamut of ‘fluffy/warm’ emotions – love, humour, sadness, joy and anger – but for B2B we should focus on the emotions that concern us while we’re working – fear, loss, reassurance, satisfaction and pride, being the most popular.

But is it really that clear cut? Surely we feel the same kinds of emotions, whether we’re in the office or not.

And that’s what’s spawned…

The rise of storytelling and sharing in B2B

Some marketers are decisively for using these ‘fluffy’ emotions in their B2B campaigns, particularly as social influence has had such a massive impact on B2B over the last five years. Storytelling is now in vogue as a great way to connect your brand with something real, something human, something friendly, sometimes even a little bit funny. There are some brilliant examples of this kind of content working well for brands looking to touch the heart or the funny bone.

Intel’s ‘Look Inside’ campaign uses personal stories to show how Intel has helped consumers do great things – in this case create an early detection method for cancer.

Or Cisco’s ‘circle’ video that tells a cyclical story of the internet of things through a family’s actions – starting with the family cat.

For humour, you can’t beat Marketo’s brilliant Big Marketing Activity Colouring Book featuring ‘30 pages of pure, unadulterated marketing activity fun!’ It’s a throwback to childhood while being informative and funny at the same time.

What not to do…

Tapping into emotions will do wonders for your copy and promotional activities by helping you to elevate your fact-based, dull-as-ditch-water copy into something that people can actually relate to. However, you can go too far in your quest for emotional cues and end up with something really quite horrible, as demonstrated by this great video.

So, just remember the old copywriting adage, “start with the heart, but lead with the brain”. Ensure that your copy has emotion and value, and your B2B customers still want to hear about your benefits, even if you’re trying to make them laugh or cry.