By James Myers, Head of Strategic Services at OgilvyOne Business


I went to a B2B event last year and we discussed the need for emotion in our marketing. It wasn’t really a debate. A debate normally involves some disagreement. But everyone there believed B2B marketing should be emotional, if we want to engage customers. So, what’s the problem? Actually there are several.

First and foremost, the problem at the event was that everyone there was a marketer. We recognised that whilst emotion is important, the word triggers an emotional reaction amongst finance and sales colleagues, and it’s not a good one.

They assume that anyone who uses the word is a non-commercial, arty marketer. It is all the worse in B2B where the sales culture dominates, as does the belief that all B2B specialist buyers are rational experts who speak only SLAs, functionality and ROCE.

Second, we tend to think that emotional and rational thoughts sit along a sliding scale. I am sure every agency can tell you stories of clients asking them to put more emotion into communications. It’s as though there is an expectation that the creative department have a pump gun for this very purpose.

Third, we assume that emotion is something that resides in communications. So, once you have got through the advertising bit then it’s purely down to rationality, features, negotiation and the jedi mind bending skills of sales.

Let’s take them all in turn.

The first is the easiest. Yes. Emotion is a polarising word. We can’t change that, but we could address the topic slightly differently. Telling sales we need to be liked before customers will interact with us tends to fall on deaf ears. Explaining that we want customers to be intrigued enough to interact, download or experience our brand by saying something simple but interesting is more likely to get an audience. Communication acts as an invitation to find out more, not an hour by hour agenda of the party to follow.

Just don’t say emotion. Or mention the pump gun.

Second, you can have your cake and eat it. Is showing nuns grasping the simplicity of technology (IBM) an emotive message, a rational message or a rational message introduced emotively. You know the answer and you know what works.

Have you seen the Caterpillar film showing the machinery manipulating a massive block of Jenga? The vehicles are nimble, flexible and powerful. It’s just that giant Jenga gets the message across better.

Third, and this is a bit more controversial. We seem to have forgotten that we work in marketing not just communications. There are other ways to add emotion. Perhaps through the UX, or service level agreements. It’s so reliable we are doubling the warranty period for a $1. That’s emotive, it’s also rational. And it’s not an either / or.

There are lots of B2B brands that sell successfully using emotion. That’s probably the next piece to write.


Read more of our Valentine's Day content from OgilvyOne's Brian Jensen on the art of gifting here.

And Ogilvy Change's Dan Bennett explores the psychology of intention here.