Here's how 'irrational' customers help your brandBY ROB MEYERSON
Many of our clients include both B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) brands, sometimes described as corporate versus FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods). While much is made of the differences between these types of brands, they share a core objective: to create an emotional connection with the customer.
We all know great consumer brands that do this well. Maybe there’s a soft drink that you associate with joy, or an apparel brand that jumps to mind at the mere mention of the word “sexy” (Coke and Victoria’s Secret, maybe?). These brands and others have worked hard to associate themselves with single-minded, emotional ideas, and there’s no denying the effectiveness of their approach.
But brand managers working with B2B brands often reject the idea that their company or product—maybe an accounting firm or an esoteric scientific research tool—can and should connect with its customers at an emotional level.
Often, they argue that their offering is too big and serious to employ the same techniques that work well for soda and underwear. They argue that their customers make decisions based on facts, not emotion.
What they fail to realize, however, is that businesspeople—even CFOs, engineers, and procurement personnel—are people too. They are the same people that buy consumer brands and they do not—in fact, cannot—instantly turn off their consumer brains.
In other words, we are all irrational. We think wine tastes better when it has a cork, or simply because we’re told it costs a lot.
We prefer things that see more often (the mere exposure effect), see first (the primacy effect), or have seen recently (the recency effect). We ignore inconvenient truths, and we believe familiar lies (the confirmation bias and illusion-of-truth effect, respectively).
Strong brands do not convince people with facts, but create a bias in their own favor by taking advantage of emotions and heuristics—rules of thumb we subconsciously use to simplify complex situations.
For example, Cisco’s brand is tied to the emotional concept of connectivity—not between routers, but between ideas, passions, and people (“the human network”). The Siemens brand is linked to confident expertise. IBM strives to be associated with intelligence.
Of course, these emotional territories should be supported by more quantifiable attributes, and perhaps this kind of support is more important for the average B2B brand than the average B2C brand.
But considering the emotional side of branding is not just an imperative for B2C brands—it’s a business imperative, because it’s a human inevitability that emotions are involved in decision-making.
Branding experts love to talk about helping brands “cut through the clutter”—the hundreds to thousands of brand messages we’re exposed to per day. But the truth is that customers are doing half the work by using their own biases, heuristics, and emotions to filter which messages they’re most receptive to. Smart brand consultants and top brands—in every industry—are finding ways to meet them halfway.
Rob Meyerson, Strategy Director, FutureBrand