What if we put emotion back into the marketing strategies of B2B brands?

With cost pressures putting margins under pressure, now is the time to invest in emotive brand narratives, writes Sabine Leveiller, Marketing Director Europe at Vista.

Sabine Leveiller

Marketing Director Europe Vista


Like everyone, B2B companies are feeling the squeeze with cost pressures due to soaring inflation rates. Faced with a current general increase in costs, just under half of B2B companies are expecting a cost increase of more than 3%, with a quarter of those expecting significantly more. This data, from consultancy firm Simon-Kucher, underlines the growing pressures on margins. 

This challenging economic backdrop is putting marketing budgets under pressure and is pushing companies to reassess the effectiveness of their marketing spend. By moving away from short-term direct customer acquisition strategies and making their marketing narrative more emotive, businesses are able to build the foundations for sustainable growth and improve loyalty.

From direct acquisition to emotional marketing

According to Marketing Week almost 40% of all businesses in Great Britain are B2B, yet most B2B companies today would struggle to say they have embraced marketing and brand-building in the way B2C businesses have. 

The current rate of inflation is inevitably putting direct acquisition strategies – and the question of cost – at the forefront of business directors’ minds.  It’s a gamble which could prove to be risky, and a strategy that some companies are moving away from, instead putting their efforts into emotional marketing and building loyalty. The workplace messaging app Slack recently announced that it is shifting its marketing effort from an ‘always on’ paid effort across a variety of digital platforms to a focus on tentpole events like South by Southwest and Dreamforce, to connect with their audiences in person.

Meanwhile, last year we saw payment and finance system Sage launch its first global marketing campaign designed to reflect the changing needs of SMBs, with a focus on real-life customers who work for small and medium-sized businesses.These tactics have enabled these companies to emotionally connect with their audiences, rather than relying on more traditional or corporate marketing methods, with research showing that an emotional connection between a customer and the organisation is 52% more valuable than a highly satisfied customer. 

When B2B businesses start their own branding journeys

With marketing plans that include television, radio, sponsorship and digital marketing strategies, large companies can now no longer wholly rely on constant exposure to their brand to drive sales or customer acquisition. Instead, brands must deliver authenticity and emotion to strengthen their brand message, or they risk their voice going unheard. Their aim is to humanise their messaging in order to capture the attention of their audience, an audience that is asking more from businesses than they ever have before.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is a great example of this. In a recent campaign it persuaded multiple supermarkets to adopt audio descriptions on their food packaging for blind and partially sighted people. They did this by exposing the public to experiences of sight loss in a supermarket by featuring products in blank and uninformative packaging with fly-on-the-wall cameras catching their reactions. The public’s emotional response to this, exceeded targets and directly triggered business action, with six supermarkets and eight corporate giants now in conversations with the charity about adopting the accessible format.

Smaller B2B companies can still make the most of this marketing trend - to do so, they must offer a unique and immersive experience in order to create a special bond with their customers. 

B2B companies shouldn’t forget to tell the story of their business; who they are and why they started.

Sabine Leveiller, Marketing Director Europe at Vista

Personalisation and design: the key to maximising the power of emotion

This type of strategy doesn’t necessarily require a huge budget. Offering a unique experience means personalising the business-client relationship at every touchpoint. In order to achieve this, B2B companies could use design to strengthen their visual identity. For example, by creating a logo that conveys the values of the company and rolling it out across all marketing media.

In addition, B2B companies shouldn’t forget to tell the story of their business; who they are and why they started. This more personal aspect can help customers to engage emotionally and encourage them to try out smaller, less known companies rather than the already established big brand. There are plenty of ways to share a business story: post a short video on Instagram or TikTok, include a photo on marketing materials or have a dedicated page on a website. 

There are plenty of tools available to help B2B companies personalise: professional image banks, advice blogs for rolling out successful social media strategies, logo creation tools, white-labelled merch production and even Pinterest, which offers a wealth of ideas and inspiration around marketing strategies. Also, VistaPrint Corporate Solutions supports B2B businesses with creating personalised designs and marketing solutions on a larger scale than you would see with a small business. But the principle remains the same across all types of businesses - the most important thing is to define and refine the image you want to project.

While companies often only have a few seconds to convince their customers, one thing is clear: only telling customers about the features of a product is no longer enough. To attract, motivate and retain customers in the current climate, good branding must convey emotion that will motivate choice and create a preference for customers.

Guest Author

Sabine Leveiller

Marketing Director Europe Vista


Sabine is the Marketing Director, Europe at Vista (covering 15 countries among all EU) where she oversees the overall marketing and brand strategy. She joined the company in 2012 where she has held several roles, heading the corporate and marketing strategy for Southern Europe countries and managing successfully the France market team as General Manager. She has more than 20 years of experience in project management, marketing strategy, brand development, along with a deep understanding of eCommerce. Prior to starting at Vista, Sabine developed her career working at Oliver Wyman as Engagement Manager, and Thales as a research engineer.

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