Emotional connection with brand is important

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Tampa, Fla.—Business marketers must appeal to the hearts, not just the minds of their customers and prospects, even in seemingly unlovable industries such as electronic components and concrete.

The strategic and financial benefits of strong, clear and most of all emotionally appealing brands, were a recurring theme at the Institute for the Study of Business Markets during its two-day conference here.

Every b-to-b company might think it is brand-managed but few really are, said Philip Kotler, S.C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Kotler delivered the opening day keynote at ISBM’s two-day conference B-to-B Marketing: Beyond Best Practice to Next Practice.

Kotler—whose latest book, “B2B Brand Management,” explores these topics in detail—enumerated the advantages of a strong brand, from higher prices and lower customer churn to favorable supplier relationships and lower employee turnover.

Moving from a purely rational value proposition to “rational plus emotional” as part of a brand repositioning contributed directly to increased business, said D. Keith Pigues, VP-marketing at Cemex, a global provider of cement and concrete. In one year, an integrated campaign, emphasizing exciting, customer applications of concrete helped drive sales volume 229% and profit 201%.

John Fleming, principal and chief scientist at the Gallup Organization, continued the day’s theme, quantifying the impact of emotionally resonant encounters, specifically between salespeople and customers. “Satisfying customers is not sufficient,” Fleming said, and will not drive financial performance. He noted that customers measured as “passionate” about a brand deliver two times the profitability of average customers.

Along with customers, employees must be emotionally connected to the brand for the company to achieve top performance, Fleming added.

“The challenge we have as b-to-b marketers is to lead our firms to really understanding the left brain impact of what we do—the emotional contact we have with customers, the emotional impact of our brand, how to measure that and make it better and stronger,” said Ralph Oliva, ISBM’s executive director.

ISBM’s conference attracted about 125 attendees. The next ISBM member meeting will be in State College, Pa, Aug. 22-23.

—Ellis Booker

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