When people think of branding, they often imagine consumer brands like Apple, Coke or Samsung. And for good reason! B2C brands require a comprehensive strategy to keep them at the surface of everyday life and in front of consumers. But it’s not just B2Cs that need a strategic brand identity to succeed – it should be considered critical for B2B success too. In this article, we explore ways in which the B2B brand identity can benefit from emotion.
But first, let’s once and for all debunk the myth that strong branding isn’t as important for B2B as it is for B2C.
B2B vs. B2C
The reason why B2B brands aren’t so heavily exposed is pretty self-explanatory – businesses targeting consumers position themselves as part of society while businesses targeting other businesses have (slightly) more specific markets to tackle, which aren’t as visible to the everyday person. However, just because the target customer is less broad, it doesn’t mean branding isn’t as important.
The assumption many have with B2B branding is that, because it’s business decisions are based entirely on functionality, with very little emotion involved. Branding is about forming an emotional connection and, therefore, should not be necessary in a realm ruled by pragmatism and cost-efficiency, right?
While functionality is an important factor, The B2B purchase decision is a long process. Compared to the quick decisions at play in B2C, it requires several levels of approval and conversations with the seller. Investments are usually much larger and come with a significantly higher level of risk.
All this means that a B2B company needs to be trustworthy and give off an impression of reliability to relevant decision-makers. Ignoring the rules of branding is unlikely to convince potential clients that they are dependable. Because, while B2B and B2C are seen as opposites, one thing stays the same. Like B2C buyers, the B2B ones behind the business buying process are also people. With a strong brand identity and core brand values in place, you can build effective messaging that builds an emotional connection with your ideal clients. And, as demonstrated by research, a meaningful connection at a personal level can only be fostered through emotion.
B2B brand identity and emotion
The more we learn in fields like neuroscience, the more evidence suggests that human decisions are based on emotions, even when we try to remain objective and pragmatic. Only 14% of B2B buyers perceive a difference when it comes to what B2Bs actually offer, but 71% of buyers who see personal value will purchase a product. So, even if two different companies offer exactly the same service, the buyer is far more likely to choose the supplier that they can relate to.
So, since decisions are primarily made based on emotive responses, how can B2B brands make the right impression on prospective clients? This is where emotional branding comes in.
What is emotional branding?
Emotional branding, which we discuss in-depth in this article, is a strategy that goes beyond simply promoting a product or service. Instead, it seeks to evoke specific feelings and emotions in prospective customers. The goal is to make them feel a deep and personal connection to the brand, which can lead to increased brand loyalty, customer retention, and advocacy. Brands do this through compelling narratives, a consistent and authentic brand personality, creating a sense of belonging for their customers or using various emotional triggers like humour, nostalgia, empathy, or inspiration to connect with them.
But, in this notoriously formal space, how can a B2B business use emotional branding?
Emotion in the B2B branding strategy
Strategic use of content
One way to infuse emotion in your strategy is through original content that displays the benefits of your product or service with examples of how you have optimised the productivity of previous clients.
As discussed in this article, content is a wonderful vehicle through which you can reinforce your brand identity. By offering valuable and informative content that aligns with your core values, you can establish your business’s authority and reputation in your industry. This is how you foster loyal customers. So, be it through social media marketing or through case studies and insight articles on your website, you can tell your audience how you have been instrumental in the development of businesses and describe the problems you have solved. These stories help to define your business around the benefits you provide, rather than the product or service.
Creating an “employer brand”
It’s not just your clients you need to think about. Your brand goes beyond just those you sell to – it matters to your employees too. Your brand identity plays a central part in ensuring staff are engaged and happy. The rise of the ‘employer brand’ refers to brands that are great to work for. Salesforce is famously one of the top B2Bs to work for in the world, and its employer brand strategy involves letting its employees lead the charge. They combine real people with real stories and share them on social media. They showcase employee stories to highlight job satisfaction, combined with hints at employee benefits and engagement.
A good employer brand means greater competition from the talent pool as you become the desired company to work for. With more options to choose from, you can have your pick of the best talent available. On the other hand, not many people get excited about working for a brand that doesn’t have an updated website or a brand strategy.
If done right, nothing quite compares with personalised interactions when it comes to forming an emotional connection. In the B2B context, this involves tailoring your communication to cater to the specific needs, preferences, and individual characteristics of your clients or prospective buyers. It goes beyond generic, one-size-fits-all approaches. Rather, it seeks to establish a more human connection.
You can do this by addressing clients by their names in email marketing or direct messaging, remembering their previous interactions and preferences, and crafting messages or offers that are relevant to their unique challenges or goals. Personalisation demonstrates that you value this relationship on an individual level – it shows empathy and a commitment to meeting your client’s distinct needs. Whether it’s through emails, customised product recommendations, or tailored solutions, personalisation in your interactions ultimately fosters trust, loyalty, and a stronger emotional bond between you and your clients. If you are looking for a solution to personalise your communication, then you need to check out our article on MarTech, which discusses relevant tools you can use to automate your targeting.
As we’ve seen, a strategy that leverages emotion in your B2B brand identity is now more important than ever. The misconception that B2B decisions are solely based on functionality falls flat when we consider the complex and lengthy B2B purchase process, where trust and reliability play crucial roles. Emotions, even in this professional space, influence decisions significantly. Thus, emotional branding can make a substantial impact on client relationships, loyalty, and advocacy. By understanding and harnessing the power of emotions, B2B businesses can elevate their brand and thrive in their respective markets.