Emotional connection with brand is important

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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, B-to-B Marketing: Beyond Best Practice to Next Practice, last month in Tampa, Fla.

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 the ISBM conference.

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.

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.

Also, at the conference, ISBM announced a reworked version of its data visualization tool for marketers that now includes integration with Microsoft Excel.

"Systematic marketing decision-making can improve marketing productivity by 5% to 10% with minimal additional costs," said Gary Lilien, distinguished research professor of management science at the Smeal College of Business Administration at Pennsylvania State University and co-founder and reseach director of ISBM. He said the tool's interface had been revamped and simplified based on user feedback.

Marketing Engineering for Excel, an Excel add-in, features eight analytical tools, including market segmentation and targeting, customer lifetime value and conjoint analysis. The software suite also includes a companion book, "Principals of Marketing Engineering," and webinar-based training.

Marketing Engineering for Excel, now in beta, will be available for sale at the end of March. Although final pricing has yet to be finalized, ISBM officials said the tool will cost around $1,000, with discounts for ISBM members.

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

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