Are we finally making progress towards more creative and emotional brand communications in B2B? Well, yes, and no.
The value of an emotional brand to its audience shouldn’t be underestimated. Properly nurtured, it can prove to be a lifelong (and commercially profitable) relationship. I’ve written at length about the affinity of some consumer brand advocates whose loyalty leads them to tattoo the brand logo somewhere on their body – the Nike ‘Swoosh’ remains the most popular. I’ve yet to see a B2B tattoo, but I live in hope.
There’s still a feeling that emotional communication is somehow ‘inappropriate’ to business communications. I think that’s a reasonable concern. As the saying goes, ‘You can’t play with emotions,’ and if the business communication is not authentic, the customer response will be negative. B2B organisations should certainly attempt to be more creative in their brand positioning, but I’m wary about bundling creativity with emotion. From a marketing agency perspective, they’re different.
B2B brands communicate business function most of the time. That’s all that the audience expects and it’s easily understood. But when functional brands try to become ’emosh’, it complicates the relationship. The audience can be left feeling confused and uncomfortable.
B2B communications are process driven – specification, functionality, compliance, due diligence – this is the language of B2B. The vast majority of B2B brands need to communicate effectively in the middle and lower, more detailed tiers of their message hierarchies. That middle territory has very little to do with emotion. It’s all about clarity, simplicity and consistency.
It’s only at the very top of the messaging hierarchy that emotion plays a part and even then the focus for B2B brands should be creativity not emotion. You can be a little bit creative, or a lot. You can be dark suit and pink socks, or you can be a total fashion victim. You can control creativity to suit both the brand and the market. Emotion is a lot harder to achieve and control – it’s all or nothing and that simply isn’t appropriate to most business needs.
Instead of trying to produce an emotional brand, businesses should concentrate on creating a better brand story – structuring the brand to survive, to compete, to thrive in a new digital landscape. Social, video, digital – it’s not about ’emotion’, it’s about messaging and positioning and content – having a creative story to tell in a dynamic way.
Emotional response is a consequence of good creative communications, but it shouldn’t be the goal. If you want me to save the starving children in Africa, talk to me about emotion. If you want me to integrate your technology solution across my enterprise you’d better talk to me about risk, migration, reliability, productivity and efficiencies, because if you tell me how emotional I’m going to feel about your software, I’ll slap you.
It’s called ‘Business to Business’ marketing for a reason. The clue’s in the title.
If you’re still inspired to rush out and apply some ‘B2B ink,’ I’d very much like to see the results…