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Positioning B2B Brands Around Personal Value


Positioning B2B Brands Around Personal Value

Behavioral and marketing science have identified that building more mentally available brand associations is the primary purpose of marketing. But it is not the only way to build these associations. Understanding the mental architecture (or prioritization of different decision-making criteria) that influence the decision to purchase is important – as it will determine where to focus your efforts.

That applies to well-known, recognizable brands, like Coca-Cola or Apple, you might think. Those brands have spent billions over many years building strong subconscious associations with their products.

If your business operates in the B2B world, or has a new, less well known, or niche product, you might think that there won’t be any relevant associations with that brand. Or that the decision to purchase is primarily governed by utilitarian, system-2 factors, like relative price (how expensive is it compared to other similar products) or perceived value (what I get for that price), or key product features. Surely here the decision to purchase is more rational?

If you work in a business that requires you to market to other businesses, then you might also think that marketing works in a more rational, linear fashion, because your customers are more rational. That a business decision-maker is deciding on behalf of a business, and it is not their money, so surely they are deciding based on more objective, system-2 criteria?

The evidence suggests otherwise. Most purchase decisions are still made by humans, after all. Research by CEB Global (now Gartner) and Google, among 3,000 B2B decision-makers across 36 brands and 7 categories, found that personal value (i.e. the professional, social, emotional and self-image benefits) was twice as important as business value (i.e. the functional benefits and business outcomes).

“Not only do emotions matter in B2B buying, but they actually matter even more than logic and reason. This finding highlights a potentially untapped opportunity for B2B marketers to reposition brands around personal value,” the research concluded.

Duncan Smith agrees. “If we are working in an industry that’s perceived as more rational, such as B2B instead of B2C,” he says. “Then there is almost an understanding that the people stop behaving as human beings just because they’re making decisions at work and not at home, which is completely ludicrous. And the same in pharmaceuticals, or with doctors.

A number of times we’ve seen very expensive research conducted because people want to ask an oncologist about whether the color blue stands out more than yellow. But it is not an oncologist question. It is a human question.”

Emotions Govern B2B Buying Decisions

One business that understands this well is Turtl, a start-up that applies insights from behavioral science and psychology to create better business publications. In effect, they take the often long, boring, and frequently unread paper documents that businesses create, and turn them into online documents that are more likely to be engaged with and ultimately acted upon. Their platform captures data on who is reading what, and what chapters and topics readers care about, and their clients include businesses like Cisco, Allianz and The Economist. Their company mission is to ‘kill the PDF’.

“What we do is encourage people to think differently about reading and about the reader,” says Nick Mason, Turtl’s founder. “And not everyone wants to read everything. And not everyone wants to read everything in the same order as everyone else. By providing people with more options around what to read, and when to read it and allowing them to explore, that’s what speaks to the intrinsic motivation side of things.

“And what we find with a lot of customers is that they get feedback from people saying: ‘I love the format, I really enjoyed reading it’. There’s a tendency in B2B historically that people think when you put on a suit, it’s all serious, and suddenly you stop being human and you become a machine. But the thing that we play to is the fact that that’s not only not true, but you’re actually more likely to be emotionally influenced than not.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Richard Chataway, President of BVA Nudge Unit UK and excerpted from his book The Behaviour Business, published by Harriman House.

The Blake Project Can Help: Meet the new requirements of emotional competitive advantage in the B2B Brand Positioning Workshop NOW ONLINE

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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