Understanding the Emotional Side of B2B Technology Branding

The role of return on investment vs. return on emotion in technology branding.
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In this post, we examine the second principle of branding technology firms (the first focused on an important distinction: simplification vs. dumbing down), adapted from our chapter on building long-term value in a system-update world in the Brand Challenge.

What’s the difference between return on investment (ROI) and return on emotion (ROE), and why should B2B technology marketers care?

Let’s begin with ROI: you’re probably more familiar with it. B2B technology products must deliver a return on investment, so the B2B tech brand must convey confidence that the promised value will be delivered. But as technology becomes more and more complex, and technology solutions more and more interconnected, a brand has to work even harder to instill confidence in the promised ROI.

A recent client, a national energy conservation firm, went to market with a message that was built on a simple proposition: its technology-driven process would deliver savings that were guaranteed to exceed its fees. But research showed that customers didn’t understand or even trust how the savings were calculated. In light of this skepticism, what good was the guarantee? The firm was downplaying its own technological prowess – and potential customers failed to appreciate the value of this ROI promise, believing that they could easily achieve the results themselves. But with a new value proposition – reflecting a go-to-market story that repositioned the firm as the technology company they truly are – the firm was able to communicate a powerful and relevant story that converted technology and data from features into powerful support for the company’s ROI promise.

In contrast to B2B, B2C brands must first and foremost deliver a return on emotion. Increasingly, consumers feel a strong personal bond with their technology products: smartphones, tablets, PCs. But ROE is important in B2B technology branding as well. Take this example: recently, a Swiss-based company was looking to break into the US market with its tablet-based presentation platform for global pharmaceutical and financial services companies. The firm’s legacy brand was all about what the product did, and their communications tended towards the jargon of the B2B technology world. Yet research showed that customers loved the product because it enhanced their own brands and inspired confidence in their sales force. Yes, the dazzling tablet-enabled graphics were great, and they loved the analytics the platform provided – the all-important ROI. But what clinched the sale was the emotional connection between the product and the people who would be using it – ROE.

Understanding the role of ROI and ROE in technology branding is crucial to developing brands that will really resonate. Read more about ROI versus ROE in the Brand Challenge.

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