CX: Why emotion is as vital to B2B brands as B2C

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If I asked you for a list brands that might air a commercial during the Super Bowl, you’d probably include a brand like Pepsi, perhaps a Tom Brady-endorsed Foot Locker, or yet another mega consumer brand. Turns out that during the 2017 sporting event, B2B brands produced some of the most-talked-about commercials.

Tom Brady put his celebrity stamp on Intel and the baffling John Malkovich commercial was produced by Squarespace.

The companies behind these campaigns bet that consumers, business decision makers, and football fans are oftentimes the same people. And as the cast of characters in B2B decision making broadens, many football-watching C-Suiters and senior executives will weigh in on decisions that lie outside their domain of expertise, in everything from information technology to aircraft engines.

If you thought B2B was all about features and functionality, think again. The human brain abhors complexity, and this new and diverse crew of influencers and decision makers in B2B are desperately seeking the right signal to simplify decision-making. That signal is brand!

Brand, once relegated to awareness-driving and sales-support roles, is now finding its rightful place in B2B. The complexity of transactions, the often monumental strategic and financial costs of a bad decision, and intricate relationships create conditions that are ripe for branding.

A strong brand is a clear signal of quality and trust (and several other attributes depending on the category) that cuts through the clutter.

Like it or not, B2B just got B2C-ed; the consumerisation in B2B is here to stay. But are B2B brands ready? These brands often stop short of investing seriously in brand equity; Forrester data shows that only 15% of B2B executives consider brand equity to be an important metric. B2B executives take heed: to downplay brand is to undermine the value of your enterprise.

B2B firms can energise their brands by working on emotion and experience.

This requires a realisation of the primacy of emotions in decision making, a plan to deploy emotional activation across all the roles and phases of acquisition and retention, a focus on individual motivation of business actors, and effective storytelling to create friction-free delivery of the brand experience.

By Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. 

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