Do it one more time—with feeling

Buyers look for products. That is their job. They want the best overall package at the best possible price. If they excel at their job, then they enter into every phase in a professional and rational way. Product quality, services, terms of delivery, costs—these are all painstakingly analyzed, compared, and checked off. Until they are left with just two or three apparently identical candidates that compare objectively. It is precisely at this point, however, that things become exciting: what tips the balance now? 

The answer is hundreds or even thousands of factors. However, none of these have anything to do with rational thinking, as shown by virtually all findings in the field of brain research. According to this research, we make up to 95 percent of our decisions on the basis of values, experiences, or the desire for reward—and we do this completely subconsciously. These findings are particularly sobering for B2B companies, whose external image focuses predominantly on product features. If companies ignore the indisputably decisive emotions of their target groups, they risk losing the relentless fight for attention. Thus, brand communication must be emotionalized in this area, too. Yet there are many catches and pitfalls to take into account in the process. 

Many brand ambassadors, (too) many voices 

One of the main challenges is the communicative coordination of any employees representing the company as brand ambassadors who communicate directly with customers. They all have their own styles of thought and values. If these stay in the subconscious, every employee represents the company and its brands in his own personal way.  

This may have its appeal, but it hinders successful brand communication. This is because these ambassadors with their own personalities and approaches do not always fulfil customers’ expectations and requirements. Moreover, their spontaneous behavior may even convey values and promises that differ fundamentally from those defined in the brand image. This will lead to a rift between the intended and actual brand impact.  

B2B companies should therefore decide to raise awareness of the subconscious. This step is all the more important because the marketing, sales, and HR departments of a company often have completely different ideas of how the brand is defined and how it should be experienced. It is only when these ideas are discussed, the individual emotional styles of thought understood, and both compared with the goals of brand communication that companies can communicate more smoothly internally and more successfully externally.  

Measuring emotions and identifying optimization potential 

Thanks to methodological approaches, tools can be offered to measure these factors and visualize them extremely accurately. At the same time, these tools identify where the most important potential for the optimization of brand communication lies. Therefore, methodologies such as brandsync®, for example, provide information that is crucial for structured emotional brand management in B2B by differentiating between four emotional styles of thought:  

  • The autonomous type: responds to key stimuli that make him stronger, better, or more successful than others. He is particularly sensitive to facts and figures, rational arguments, and anything that highlights or improves his status. 

  • The excitement-oriented type: responds to key stimuli that promise new things, excitement, and change. He is particularly sensitive to primarily visual messages that indicate creativity, extravagance, and surprise. 

  • The interpersonal type: responds to key stimuli that signal social security and attachment. He is particularly sensitive to messages that emphasize human interaction and are sensitive and supportive. 

  • The safety-oriented type: responds to key stimuli that make life safer, more reliable, and more predictable. He is particularly sensitive to messages that promise control, order, discipline, and structure.  

When the test is applied to employees in sales and marketing, representatives of the target groups, and the specific brand profile, the methodology brings to light important findings. It shows how differently the particular brand story is perceived and thus creates the basis for a common brand understanding. As the same time, it also indicates to what extent defined brand messages actually match the requirements and motives of the target groups.  

Helping decision-makers to make decisions 

A closer look at the interpersonal type shows just how far-reaching an understanding of the emotional styles of thought of the target groups and the resulting range of possibilities for brand profiling is. As mentioned above, the key trigger here is attachment. While the majority of buyers in Europe and the USA have a safety-oriented mindset and place great value on aspects such as control, planning, precision, and organization, the interpersonal type is different. 

For him, it is the effect of his decisions on his own peer group that matters. He only recommends a brand or product if he has had a consistently positive experience with it and if there is a close, trusting relationship with the employees of the supplier. 

Consequently, rational arguments are just as useless as outstanding product features, promises of security, prospects of improved status, or aggressive sales tactics if you want to gain the interpersonal type as a new customer. You are much more likely to be successful with engaging, confidence-inspiring communication carried out face to face wherever possible, such as the formulation of common goals and visions and a realistic representation of potential cooperation without excessive embellishment.

Of course, a face-to-face discussion at a business meeting, trade fair, or another event is only one touchpoint of many that must take place before a final decision is made. This is why appropriate emotional codes for each type have to be communicated at every touchpoint in brand communication. 

This is not an easy task, but it is precisely here where methodological approaches offer a huge advantage. They use the initial analysis of styles of thought and brand profile to underpin the staging of emotional brand experiences that are exactly tailored to the target groups at every touchpoint of the customer journey. It is important to maintain unambiguous brand positioning during this process. 

Clearly, this does not make the work of sales and marketing any easier at all. But this is how things are. The times of a single message, campaign, and idea for everyone have passed.  

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