Arie Brish writes and speaks about the practical challenges and pitfalls in commercializing innovation. cxo360.net
Flowers and jewelry are purely emotional products. They have no functional purpose, and the companies that sell them play on our feelings in order to get us to make a purchase.
But functional products can serve emotional needs as well, satisfying a feeling of pride, a sense of belonging to a group, imitation of trendsetters or the joy of being a trendsetter. Think about the people who stand in line all night to buy the latest smartphone. One reason they do it is that they like to be trendsetters. There’s nothing wrong with that. A functional product, such as a phone, satisfies an emotional purpose.
Most functional products compete on trade-offs between different features and price. Adding an emotional angle to a functional product is a great way to differentiate the product on a totally different level. Many B2C technology products play into such emotional motives. When Nokia pioneered color options for cell phones, it realized that the cell phone had become a fashion accessory in addition to its communication functionality. The legendary “hello” by the first Apple Macintosh in 1984 created an emotional connection with this humanized new computer.
In the technology world, though, many of us operate in the B2B domain. One would think that B2B decision-making is purely logical without any emotions involved. Guess what? The decision-makers in B2B are humans, and thus they might occasionally blend emotional sentiments into their decision-making process.
Some of the emotional considerations in technology B2B are job security, technical curiosity, personal motivations and, believe it or not, greed:
Job security. Back in the days when IBM was the dominant force in the computer world, its selling slogan was “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM,” and it worked. Even when the clone XYZ looked more attractive because of lower cost or better performance/functionality, IT managers were very hesitant to give XYZ a chance because their career was on the line. If they chose XYZ, they could lose their job if it malfunctioned. Buying IBM was a safe job-security choice.
Technical curiosity. Someone might also choose the latest XYZ technology even if their business doesn’t really need it because they want to stay current and on the cutting edge or because XYZ experience will look good on their résumé.
Personal motivations. One of the most successful product launches of my career played that angle extremely well. The decision-makers for this new technology were R&D engineers working for our B2B customers. The message to these engineers was that if they don’t expose themselves to this new technology, they may find themselves obsolete in a few years. It was a very compelling argument and made this product launch a supreme success. There was no dishonesty on our part. We truly believed this new feature was indeed a future trend, and we turned out to be correct. The strategy was in using personal career motivation to fuel our launch campaign.
Greed. Some B2B decision-makers may be swayed by the fact that supplier XYZ offers a professional training course in a five-star resort in Las Vegas or Hawaii. This is a common practice in the B2B technology industry.
Whenever you architect a new technology product or design its marketing campaign, remember to include an emotional angle. Many B2B businesses don’t do that, thus making this approach an excellent differentiation strategy.