How to harness the power of emotions to create compelling B2B campaigns

by Mickey Wilson

In business we all have the same aim — to become fabulously famous within our niche for what it is that we do. We want to be thought of as the ‘go-to’ experts… those lucky, lucky, prize-winning bunnies who spring into the minds of our target customers as soon as they have even a whisper of a need for something in our field. This is called ‘Top of Mind Association’ or TOMA.

The big question is how do we achieve TOMA?

There are clearly all kinds of outside influences that could play a part. Publicity. Referrals. Awards. But let’s consider what we have the most control over… our promotional campaigns and our pitches. Without the benefit of vast budgets enabling us to storm the market with an abundance of advertisements and persuasive paraphernalia, how can we be sure that we’re investing what we do have into a campaign that will give us the best chance of success?


By getting all emotional!

The answer is simply that we need to make every communication as memorable as it can be. And to do this we need to think creatively and home in on the heart! People predominantly base purchasing decisions on their feelings and not on logic or reason. Therefore the most effective way to ensure your message is remembered is to trigger some kind of emotional reaction. Done successfully this will create long-lasting, deeply ingrained impressions which spur people into action when the time is right. To highlight just how powerful the potential here is, consider the following… it takes just three seconds for someone to form an emotional reaction, but it takes five times longer for our cognitive brains to assess and assimilate the same information. This is startling when we consider that we only have around eight seconds to make that impact in the first place!

Not yet convinced? Okay let’s look at some more facts… If your campaign focuses on logic alone on average you can expect a 16% increase in profit. This rises to 26% for a campaign which appeals to both the logical and emotional sides of our brain. But if you were to concentrate solely on appealing to your audience’s emotions that percentage jumps up to 31%!

The idea of targeting people’s emotions in branding and marketing certainly isn’t new. B2C advertisers have pulled at our heart strings for years. There are some great examples in the FeelMore50 Hall of Fame. They’ve rated each of the ads with an ‘emotion into action’ score, their philosophy being ‘if you feel nothing, you do nothing’.

This may be true when you market to people, but how about if you sell to other businesses?

Perhaps unsurprisingly B2B companies stubbornly hold onto a more practical stance and plan campaigns centred around facts, stats and industry experience. Many would ask if it’s even possible to use emotional triggers to sell to businesses. Especially when most have strict processes for making purchasing decisions with pre-set criteria for suppliers to meet.

This all involves rational analysis and logical comparisons. Plus, there’s usually more than one decision maker, and several stages of negotiations to complete before a supplier is chosen. Yawn!!! I hear you. But I believe it is possible. Businesses are made up of people too right? In fact, I would go so far as to say that if we don’t, then we are showing up leaving all the magic that could clinch the deal at home.

And here’s why…

In a black and white world where winning a sale can involve layer upon layer of tendering, box ticking, graphs, charts, shortlists, red-tape and restraint… what is it that truly separates you that one or two degrees from your competitors? Very often it’s your story. Your passion.

It’s why you do what you do and your particular slant on it that makes all the difference. This is something that can’t be explained in Excel, or even Powerpoint, but it’s exactly why you are often the best fit for the job. And curiously this hard-to-fathom, intangible quality can be the most powerful differentiator! It’s best described as the ‘gut feel factor’. We have no other words for it. Possibly because the part of our brain that controls our feelings is not responsible for language so any decisions made there are almost impossible to verbalise. And the truth is that facts and stats don’t resonate with our gut!

The only way to communicate with this dominant influencer is through feelings. Sure, we need to back up our pitches with logic and reason. But it is our appeal on an emotional level that will give even B2B customers those ‘good vibes’ which help us to achieve that all-elusive TOMA.

I rely far more on gut instinct than
researching huge amounts of statistics.

Sir Richard Branson

Pointers for Developing Your Own Emotional Campaigns

Balance is everything! As much as advertising and marketing is all about manipulation, you don’t want to be seen as toying with people’s emotions solely in the interests of manipulating a sale. You want to add value to your customers. If your campaigns are crafted with sensitivity and offer an enlightening perspective that your customers wouldn’t necessarily have thought of then you’re onto a winner.

1) Understand Your Customers

You’ve got to know your customers really well to understand what will appeal to their emotions. What motivates them? What really matters to them? Without this understanding your attempts to engage their feelings could fall off a high cliff. If your customers share the same or similar values to you then concentrate on a theme that demonstrates these to forge even deeper connections.

2) Positive Vs Negative Emotions

Research shows that heart-felt ads which are positive and uplifting are more successful and more likely to be shared than those which may be equally powerful but trigger negative emotions. But in some cases it’s essential to stimulate a negative emotion to drive action. For example, a charity may need to make us feel sad in order to ignite the empathy which spurs us to donate. An insurance company may cause us to imagine loss which turns us ice-cold with fear. A political party will want to rouse our anger to compel us to demand change. All of these emotions have their place and each is powerfully persuasive, however, no one wants to stay in a dark place. If you can boost your audience with a positive take-away your campaign will be more effective and the overall lasting impression will be better for your brand.

3) There’s Always a Time and a Place

Many a great ad and fantastic promotion has failed spectacularly simply because of poor timing or ill-conceived placement. Choosing when and where to take your customers on an emotional journey is a vital part of ensuring the success your campaign.

4) The Power of Story-telling

The beauty of appealing to people’s emotions is that you will adopt a story-telling approach. Far more memorable than machine-gunned facts, stories have enormous power to capture and hold our attention. Think along these lines… ‘The reason I started this business…’, ’Here’s why our customers are our best marketeers…’, ‘How we send our clients to sleep every night…’. ‘What happened at 4am on the morning before the deadline…’ You get the picture.

5) Be Relevant and Authentic to the End

We’ve all been captivated by an ad at one time or another only to find when it draws to a close that the advertiser has no link or relevance to what we’ve just watched. Any connection we had to the ad is washed away and we’re left feeling baffled, and perhaps a little cheated. Your campaign needs to be a perfect fit for your business. Your brand and core message should be at it’s heart and even if it’s not obvious at the outset (the ‘aha’ moment is a powerful memory builder in itself!) by the end it should make complete sense to your audience.


Let’s get the fire started…

At Firestarter we create engaging, authentic and highly differentiated brands. Drop us a line here to find out more.