How B2B Industrial Brands Can Infuse Their Messaging with Empathy 

June 8, 2022 / Marjoram

“Never assume people will understand how your brand can change their lives. Tell them.”

— Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand 

It’s tempting, even natural, to see your brand as the hero of its own brand story. For many ingredient and industrial brands, the hero label is a welcome one. Who wouldn’t want a reputation for coming to the rescue to solve hard problems? 

How B2B Industrial Brands Can Infuse Their Messaging with Empathy

When you’re the hero, everyone knows who you are. Everyone respects what you do. Everyone recognizes your moral authority. And when your brand is the hero, your product is the natural (and only) choice. 

Unfortunately, your customers don’t see it that way. In their eyes, they’re the hero. And, as the wise saying goes, “the customer is always right.” 

Your customers aren’t looking for a savior. They’re looking to solve a problem. What they need is a guide or a wise sidekick to help point the way. 

Instead of playing the hero, your product messaging should be acting as that guide, and your brand that sidekick. You should embrace being Luke Skywalker’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, Bruce Wayne’s Alfred, or Neo’s Morpheus. Why? 

Because heroes trust their guides. And trust is the marketing currency of the information age. 

Empathy-Based Marketing Supplants Traditional Marketing

Too much B2B product marketing today still focuses on the features and special characteristics of a brand’s product and services. That may have worked in the days of network TV news and evening newspapers, but that era is very much behind us. 

Those traditional media channels had captive audiences. This meant advertisers didn’t have to work very hard to reach their target segments, and marketing efforts were more likely to be aimed at creating awareness rather than persuasion. Marketing campaigns were not targeted. They were deployed widely to build brand recognition — and, predictably, focused on the product and brand.  

In the modern, digital age, your customers have considerably more choice in the way they consume information. The internet democratized access to information and exposed consumers to an ad-free media experience (for a while). This changed the rules of the game. 

No longer assured a captive audience, marketers had to drastically adjust their approach. Today, marketers have to work harder to capture attention. As a result, strategies and tactics have shifted to be much more consumer-oriented. As Neil Patel says, “If you want their attention, you’ll need to give them something that traditional marketing strategies can’t: real value.” 

The real value for consumers is the ability to solve their problems. Empowering your customers to fix what’s broken has the potential for tremendous emotional impact. Smart B2B marketers understand the importance of that emotional release and know to apply it as a motivator in their campaigns. 

Marketing with Feeling

We’ve discussed previously the tendencies of B2B industrial product messaging campaigns to focus too much on complicated product details. To be sure, feature-oriented product messaging has its purposes. Logic-based narratives are more effective in the final stages of the selling cycle, but they’re not as effective overall as campaigns built around an emotional appeal

According to research conducted at the University of Southern California, emotion-based advertising campaigns are nearly twice as likely to succeed in their goals (31%) as ads that focus on rational (product feature-oriented) content (16%). Here are a couple more critical takeaways: 

  • Emotional response to an ad has a far greater influence on a consumer’s intent to buy a product than the ad’s content
  • The “likeability” factor is the most predictive measure of an ad’s ability to increase product sales

The most consistently used sentimental themes are centered around pride, love, unique achievement, empathy, loneliness, friendship, and memories. Successful brands use these themes to build emotional ties with their target audience by creating joy or surprise. Another common approach is to creatively communicate that your brand is innovative and ahead of its competitors with a narrative that takes the audience through emotional ups and downs. 

Creating Emotive, Solution-Oriented Messaging for Ingredient Brands

The job of the modern B2B marketer is not just to sell products, it’s to build relationships with your customers. Relationship-building is all about empathy, trust and communication.

You create trust by being helpful, not selling.

You can demonstrate your intention to help by focusing on the customer’s problem—not your product solution.

Understand the Problem from Your Customer’s Perspective

Industrial and ingredient brands are very good at understanding technical problems. They’re even better at creating solutions for those problems. Where they often fall short, however, is in understanding how the problem impacts their customers at the personal level. Solving the problem is important. But you’re rarely the only one with the solution. Brands that understand how their customers view the problem they are solving have a leg up on the competition. 

Know Your Customers 

To grasp the full emotional value of your solution, you have to really understand your customers. The best way to do that is by engaging them in dialogue. Problems are rarely surface-deep. Often, you have to peel back the layers of the onion to reveal the true emotional impact of the issue your customers are facing. Be sure to capture your insights by building out personas for each of your important audience groups. 

Connect Emotion to Customer Pain Points

Product messaging is full of information that product engineers find important. Those technical details do speak to customer pain points but, as we know, an emotional appeal works twice as well as a rational one. Dig deeper into the customer problem to identify specific pain points and identify the emotional impact of each one. 

Lean on Empathy 

In developing your campaign messaging, speak to the customer problem and frame the benefits of solving the pain points. Avoid jargon-filled, technical language and connect to your audience in simple, clear terms. The narrative should be people-centered and not product-oriented. Tide, for example, doesn’t tell you all the ingredients in the detergent bottle — they tell you that no matter what you put in your washing machine, it’s going to come out clean and smell great. 

Embrace Customers With Your B2B Product Messaging

Today, B2B ingredient brands have to be great at speaking directly to consumers. If you’re not prioritizing your customers and tailoring your communication and marketing efforts to their specific needs, you won’t keep their attention for long. Remember, they’re the hero in your product story, not you. Give them the hero treatment.