Back to Insights

Why B2B should not ignore emotional branding

  • by Anthony Jones
  • 2nd Jun 2017
    • Branding, Strategy

Emotional branding refers to the practice of building brands that appeal directly to a consumer’s emotional state, needs and aspirations. Emotional branding is successful when it triggers an emotional response in the consumer, that is, a desire for the advertised brand (or product) that cannot fully be rationalised. Emotional brands have a significant impact when the consumer experiences a strong and lasting attachment to the brand comparable to a feeling of bonding, companionship or love.


Sounds grand, doesn’t it? But, let’s face it. We work in b2b, so it’s just not that relevant.

Obviously, I’m being facetious. At this point, I’m happy to report that most of us seasoned b2b practitioners recognise that even when we are marketing to a business, we are, in fact, still marketing to people. We refer to this as P2P (peer to peer) marketing.

This is an important recognition and a welcome progression that was long overdue. It means that we can remove a lot of those heavy burdens of clinical, functional, unemotional, fact-based messages that don’t seem to work very well and get closer to what does seem to work extremely well in our sibling arena of B2C. Appealing to our emotions.

Believe it or not, is is generally accepted that the human decision making process is chiefly governed, not by our capacity for logic, but instead by our emotions. We then fortify those decisions with subsequent layers of logical reasoning.

An interesting take on this can be seen in the talk by Simon Sinek during his TED Talk ‘How great leaders inspire action’, in which he explains why some of the most memorable brands, and people, buck the ‘logical’ method of message hierarchy in favour of one that first appeals to the emotions.

He did not come to this idea within a vacuum, however. There is solid research behind it.

Antonio Damasco, a Portuguese-American neuroscientist has done a lot of research into connected studies in this area. On this particular subject, his Somatic marker hypothesis supports the basis of this idea. Follow the link if you are brave enough to read a little more of his scientific research.

This is not an outlier. There are many, many more studies that seem to prove this to be correct. Donald Norman, a cognitive scientist, wrote a book called ‘Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things’, where he explains:

“Emotions are inseparable from and a necessary part of cognition. Everything we do, everything we think is tinged with emotion, much of it subconscious. In turn, our emotions change the way we think, and serve as constant guides to appropriate behaviour, steering us away from the bad, guiding us toward the good.”

The ramifications for this are huge and wide-ranging, but what does it mean for branding in b2b?

“A strong brand acts as an ambassador when companies enter new markets or offer new products. It also shapes corporate strategy, helping to define which initiatives fit within the brand concept and which do not. That’s why the companies that once measured their worth strictly in terms of tangibles such as factories, inventory and cash have realised that a vibrant brand, with its implicit promise of quality, is an equally important asset.”

-BusinessWeek, 2001

Notice anything important about the language used? Brand concept, promise of quality… intangibles associated with our mental model of a brand that is chiefly governed by emotion and then reinforced by logic.

Emotions are a fundamental lens through which we percieve our entire lives and the world we live in, affecting how you feel, how you behave and how you think. Brands that engage their audience in a way which speaks to their emotional states, desires and fears are able to evoke and influence persuasive feelings across the gamut of experience. Creating stronger relationships with, and perceptions of, the brand itself.

Obviously, the brand must deliver upon any opening gambit in it’s courtship with a customer to make this new, positive connection solid and real. And, critically keep delivering. But, if we make a believer of our potential customer, we are that much close to a customer for life. And that’s worth investing in.

Creativity is the answer

“Creativity is overtaking capital as the principal elixir of growth. And creativity, although precious, shares few of the constraints that limit the range and availability of capital and physical goods. In this new business atmosphere, ideas are money. Ideas are, in fact, a new kind of currency altogether — one that is more powerful than money. One single idea — especially if it involves a great brand concept — can change a company’s entire future.”

-Wall Street Journal. “So Long, Supply and Demand”

Or, as the American author, Napoleon Hill put it:

“First comes thought; then organisation of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”

Whether you are defining a brand strategy, implementing brand development or assessing your current brand resonance, it’s time to consider – in the feature film of your brand – should your star be speaking to your customers on an emotional level and let the business of features, proof points and prices be relegated to the script of your supporting cast?

For more brand ideas and insights, check out our Little Book of B2B Brand – free to download here.