Bringing emotion to B2B communication

13 January 2020

Based off our successful Perspectives on B2B Branding report, this article looks at how B2B companies are quietly reinventing the way they communicate, blending factual content with creative impact.

B2B communication is not renowned for being particularly original or exciting. Focusing heavily on product features, it tends to be overly technical and fact-based. This is in stark contrast to B2C companies, where creativity and emotional messaging are the standard triggers to drive customer engagement. The reasons for this vary from sector to sector, but we can single out three: lack of a dedicated communication budget, lack of media experience, and the notion that a “serious” company shouldn’t engage in “frivolous” communication efforts.

We understand that it is no longer just about selling a product, but also about selling the story behind it.

Yann Duscher, Head of Sales & Marketing at Crevoisier

The problem with the third argument is that purchasing decisions are made by people –not companies or machines. And according to a 2013 marketing report by Google, B2B buyers are more emotionally connected to the brands they purchase than the average B2C consumer.
Simply put, the stakes are higher for B2B buyers since their purchases affect not only the wellbeing of their company, but also their own standing – and possibly job – within. This is why, according to Hichem Essaafi, the Head of Client and Digital Innovation for utility company SIG Group, “in a B2B context, approaches based purely on product promotion work less and less.” This view was shared by many of the executives we interviewed. Several of them also highlighted the importance of creativity as a tool to attract and convert customers.

Storytelling is becoming more important – we must give people content.

Timur Tekyeli, Head Branding at SIX

From Boring to Brilliant

In the realm of brand communication, advertising is step one: the spark that sets a potential purchases into motion. The objective – get buyers’ attention. Since buyers are usually category experts, research generally follows or precedes the ad phase. Too many companies try to squeeze product information onto advertisements, making for a murky and dull first impression. Conversely, an engaging, creative advert will stand out to buyers. For instance, take the incredibly successful 2013 video campaign “The Epic Split” by Volvo Trucks. In it, we see action star Jean-Claude Van Damme gradually lowering himself into the splits atop two trucks driving parallel one another. The video both fuels and subverts the macho aesthetic associated with the trucking community, while offering a genuinely captivating show. At the same time, the video visually highlights the excellent manoeuvrability and stability of Volvo trucks, without the need for a full product spec sheet. Another example is Swiss laboratory technology expert BÜCHI, who uses bold and unexpected image combinations to attract attention on social media. Christof Bircher, Business Development & Communication Director at BÜCHI told us that: “getting the attention of our customers is a huge challenge. They are swamped with content, so you absolutely have to stand out.” Büchi recently used a cheetah/chameleon-combo visual to convey the idea of speed and flexibility, promoting their “wild” range of extraction tests. Whether it is with humour or quirky visuals, these examples highlight how a powerful image or symbol can engage and even entertain the viewer without reducing the perceived value of a product or brand.

In a B2B context, approaches based purely on product promotion work less and less.

Hichem Essaafi, Head of Client and Digital Innovation, SIG Group

More recently, the marketing software company Hubspot has been finding inspiration in pop culture references–like their “Mean Tweets” series of videos – and creating viral content to boost their service. This approach resonates well with their “digital native” audience, which is then led on to other product-based videos thanks to the YouTube algorithm . All these examples show how B2B companies can balance quirky, emotional or even humorous content with serious underlying credentials. A genre specific to the B2B sector, and tailored to an audience of buyers desperate for real engagement. The number of B2B companies daring to be different is currently on the rise, showing the world that industrial equipment and heavy machinery can be just as exciting as cars or watches.

The most creative campaigns are the ones driving the biggest leads, and fostering the most engagement.

Christof Bircher, Director of Business Development and Communication at BUCHI Corporation

B2B Branding