Over 20 years ago I worked on my first B2B technology campaign. It was for a new type of computer …………. called…………. a laptop – previously known as portables (if small) or luggables (if big). We had a brief at the agency I worked in to make laptops sexy and desirable to business people.
Laptops were deeply unsexy in 1992, considered functional work tools only and handed out to the poor worker bees so they could slog a bit harder out of hours on the train (how normal that seems now). By contrast, the business technology most coveted by senior execs was a new mobile phone, because it was cool and phones were so hyped.
We did a great job, we produced an award winning campaign for Toshiba Computers that showed laptops, variously in the shape of a jigsaw piece (to fit any IT strategy) or with a cheetah skin case (fast new chip) or as a razor blade (to show cutting edge) etc. These might sound like B2B 101 clichés now, but 20 years ago no-one was talking about technology this way, and it’s testament to the effectiveness of this imagery that, ever since, it’s become standard practice. Big Powerful visuals, combined with a decent spend in the IT and business press, got results, and over the ensuing 5 years laptops became desirable, with Toshiba becoming the ‘must-have’ laptop brand.
Although the B2B industry has now evolved far from this simplistic early imagery, the point remains that for as long as I can remember, even in B2B tech, advertisers have been using the power of emotive images and copy (backed up with rationality to justify the purchase) to persuade buyers.
Of course more complex Enterprise purchases involve more stakeholders with distinct views, but at whatever level of decision-making, people gravitate towards preferred brands because they trust them on an intuitive level. We shortlist brands that we intuitively ‘like’, because we don’t have the ability to do a full assessment of every product and service, we shortlist based on emotion, even if we buy more rationally.
Maybe the issue here is the use of the word ‘emotion’ itself, which is sometimes hard to relate to a business decision. Emotion is a powerfully charged word, that is often misunderstood – substitute ‘intuition’ for ‘emotion’ and somehow it’s easier to understand why it’s so important to getting buyers hooked. Emotion seems weak but intuition is not, even deciding you want to minimise risk is an emotionally charged buying principle in itself, but we position it as rational.
Brand building and emotion in B2B is as strong as in any other market, and it’s time that we stopped asking if emotion has a role when it so clearly does, and started getting deeper in to the subject of how it taps in to purchasing, and how we leverage it in the business psyche.
Does emotion work in B2B? – Of course it does, and it actually always has.