Marketing goes emotional; becoming customers’ No. 1 motivator

By Anthony Casale

Everyone has emotions, even the stereotypical, bottom line, price-only purchasing officer and B2B buyer. It has been proven, however, that identifying and tapping their emotions will win you business, grow your bottom line and make your company their go-to choice.

In fact, much research confirms that B2B buyers are affected more by their emotions than are average consumers. This is marketing’s hidden motivation. And, it’s all about reaching buyers, with the emotional messages your story conveys.

There used to be a saying among corporate buyers that “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” IBM represented security, even as other manufacturers began offering new and better options, no one would be fired for “buying the best?” IBM represented “security.”

Emotions, more powerful motivator

Emotions, such as security, can differentiate and elevate your brand in ways more profound than other marketing strategies costing millions of dollars.

A number of research studies show:

  • More than two-thirds of B2B purchases are driven, directly or indirectly, by personal feelings and values.
  • These emotions often have more impact on the B2B buying decision than cost, or how it affects the employer.
  • Strategies appealing to emotions are 7-times more effective in driving sales than more traditional messaging, according to research from the B2B Institute, a LinkedIn funded think tank.
  • Even the prestigious Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today and Forbes have published articles on the growing importance of emotional marketing.

Emotional connections, customers remember them longer

Other studies show that messages conveyed through emotional connections are more enduring. Buyers remember them longer. Some examples:

  • Airbnb has rebranded itself to create a more emotional connection to its audience. It’s new campaign, “Belong Everywhere” stimulates the powerful emotion of “belonging,” of being part of something.
  • One of FedEx’s most successful campaigns touched on the emotions of fear and security. A commercial showed a young worker searching desperately through a pile of parcels while his angry boss berated him because an important package hadn’t arrived. The message, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
  • The label “Intel Inside” has helped sell millions of computers by conveying confidence and trust.
  • A campaign to increase SUV sales among women showed a nasty, stormy night on a suburban street. Inside the house, a frantic young mother was preparing to take her sick child to the doctor despite the heavy wind and rain. Outside, an SUV was parked in the driveway. The voice over: “What would you rather see in your driveway tonight?”

The emotion of safety is an extremely powerful motivator, particularly among women.

Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs realized that consumer and B2B buyers don’t care how something works; they care but what it does and how it makes them feel. Apple offered great products, but Jobs realized design, innovation and style made people feel “cool,” another emotion. People still wait in long lines to be among the first to buy the next iPhone. Jobs is gone, but Apple is still cool.

Don’t give competitors a head start

Companies and organizations not using emotional marketing strategies are leaving the door wide open for competitors, particularly since the world has been turned upside down by COVID, disruptions in the supply chain, and buyer loyalty not being what it used to be.

smartworks has identified more than a dozen different emotions effective in swaying B2B marketing decisions, including joy, security, safety, trust, anticipation, confidence, aspiration, surprise, and belonging. Pride is another powerful emotional motivator. People want to be connected to a brand that makes them look and feel good.

Marketing messages don’t really create emotion; rather they tap into those feelings humans already carry. The right messages will unlock those emotions.

That’s one reason smartworks has become data-driven; we use research to segment audiences based on emotional motivators, and then create stories that resonate with their feelings. (American Opinion Research, a smartworks company, has developed a new research-based approach to identify, create and convey emotionally-based marketing messages specific to individual customer groups.)

Getting into customers’ minds

We often take a hybrid approach combining qualitative and quantitative research.

QUALITATIVE RESEARCH is about understanding the customer at a very deep level. Buyers tell us in their own words about personal needs, goals, concerns, aspirations and other information that cannot be gathered using traditional research.

QUALITATIVE RESEARCH statistically determines what emotions will motivate specific buyer groups, the messages and how best to convey them.

Remember the story about the young mother with the sick child in a roaring storm. It’s likely millions of women empathized, perhaps imagining themselves in the same situation. At least sales of SUVs went up.

For more information contact Tony Casale at 609-912-6350 or

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