Lisa Merriam

B2B Business Branding: The Emotion Quotient

“Business-to-business brands aren’t emotional,” claims a chief marketing officer at a major B2B company. “Our product is driven by rational considerations.”

We did a project last year that involved interviewing business decision makers. When queried on companies that helped them or hurt them, the answers began with, “I absolutely love Company X” or “I hate Company Y.”

It doesn’t get more emotional that love and hate.

The best business brands have an emotional component. Yet, too many business-to-business leaders ignore the emotion to focus on rational concepts like features, performance and price. While the rational side of business decisions is important, to ignore emotions is to miss a huge opportunity. People are people, in the office as much as at home. Because people are innately emotional, your business branding needs an emotional component.

Business Branding: Three Dimensions

Think of business decisions as having three dimensions. First is the evaluation of the product or service in terms of features and benefits. Second is what is gained in terms of time and money verses the cost of acquisition. Third is how the customer feels, the emotional impact of the purchase.


Customers want to feel they have made a smart decision. They might want a sense of security and control, to trust you for integrity. They want to take pride in associating with a leader or an innovator. They want to love doing business with you.


Consider These Stories of B2B Emotional Brands

  • Google tops the employers of choice list (Universum, 2007) not because it pays the highest salaries, but because it is felt to be ethical, innovative and young—Google is cool in a way that MSN will never be.
  • If you are in the market for oil field services, which company are you going to feel better about hiring (features, benefits, pricing, and terms all being equal): Halliburton with its reputation of sweetheart deals and overcharging taxpayers or Schlumberger which is relatively free of negative associations. Would you rather buy a sprinkler system from scandal-ridden Tyco or thoroughly reputable Groeniger?
  • When people speak of Goldman Sachs, they talk about its aura, its allure, its mystique. You don’t hear those words associated with Merrill Lynch or Charles Schwab. No wonder it ranks #1 in both prestige and revenue.

If Your B2B Brand Has NO Emotion, You Have a Commodity

In today’s cluttered and commoditized world, talking on a purely rational level is a losing proposition. The facts and figures of your offer are too easily duplicated and gets lost in noise of the marketplace. The effect of a purely rational message is to create parity in the marketplace that gets lost in the clutter.

It is the emotion of your brand that sets you apart. It makes the difference in whether your sales people have their calls returned, whether you recruit, motivate, and retain top talent, whether you earn a premium on your stock price, whether you earn a profit margin. Or not.

More on B2B Business Brands:

Business Branding: Toward A More Effective B2B Brand Approach
B2B Business Branding: The Emotion Quotient
Business Brands vs. Consumer Brands: Differences and Implications
B2B Brand — The Importance of the Sales Force
B2B Brand Case: Rebranding Proxios