Thursday, 6 November 2014

Emotion - a very dirty word in business

We went to the b2b conference yesterday and we discussed the need for emotion in our marketing. It wasn’t really a debate, everyone believes marketing must be emotive if we want to engage customers. So what’s the problem? Actually there are several and the result is a lot of marketing dross.

First and foremost the problem is everyone at these events are marketers. So whilst we recognised that emotion is important we also know that the word triggers exactly that amongst finance and sales colleagues. ... Anyone suggesting we need emotion in a business context must be a non-commercial, arty marketer who studied geography or history at university. It is all the worse in b2b where sales culture tends to dominate, as does the belief that all b2b buyers are rational experts speaking only xls, features and ROCE.

Second, we tend to discuss emotion and rationality as though they sit along some sort of sliding scale. I am sure every agency can tell you stories of not so junior clients asking them to put more emotion into communications, make it less rational. Unfortunately there is no magical emotive pump gun sitting in the creative department. 

Third, we assume that emotion is something that resides purely in communications. So once you have got through the advertising designed by the geography department then its down to the stuff that really counts rationality, features, negotiation and the jedi mind bending skills of sales.

Lets unravel them in turn. 

The first is the easiest. Yes. Emotion is a dirty word. We cant change that, but we could address the topic slightly differently. Telling sales we need our brand to be liked enough or feel intriguing enough for a consumer to want to interact with us may resonate better.

Communication should act as invitation to find out more, not an hour by hour agenda of the party to follow. Just don't talk about emotion or your colleagues will just mutter history of art or something similar. 
Second, yes you can have your cake and eat it. Is showing nuns grasping the simplicity of technology (IBM) an emotive message, a rational message or a rational message introduced emotively. You know the answer and you know what works. Have you seen the cat film showing the machinery manipulating massive blocks of Jenga? The vehicles are nimble, flexible and powerful. Its just that giant Jenga gets the message across better than say they are ... nimble, flexible and powerful. 

Third, and this is a bit more controversial. We seem to have forgotten that we work in marketing not just communications. There are other ways to add something that is emotionally intriguing. Perhaps through the UX, or call centres, or even service level agreements. Its so reliable we are doubling the warranty period for a $1. That’s emotive, its also rational. And its definitely not either or.

There are lots of b2b brands that sell successfully using emotion. That’s probably the next piece to write. 

Disclaimer. Any mistakes i have made in the past weren't my fault. 


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Just curious about marketing, psychology, economics, business, irrational behaviour, people, models, communications, advertising, market imperfections, b2b marketing. I work in the marketing communications industry for OgilvyOne.