Vaguely Blunt

Bluntness in outbound marketing can be taken too far

Some marketing messages are delivered like a 2×4 head shot. Others come and go like whispered gibberish.

Bluntness in outbound marketing can be taken too farBlunt market messages cannot be mistaken, but lack emotional connections. The more vaporous varieties tend to say nothing, but say it prettily leaving customers delightfully confused. In B2B tech marketing you see attempts at both extremes and failures either way. They bomb because attaching to functional and emotional drivers delivers the best total cognitive attraction possible and short selling either part leads to incomplete customer connections.

Where confusion enters the minds of marketers comes from not understanding their target audience. I had a client once who sold IT infrastructure software, yet decided they wanted an “irreverent” brand. The result was their messaging lacked the requisite blunt force trauma of traditional B2B communications aimed at executives making strategic technology decisions. This client’s failure to understand the typical no nonsense CxO led them to induce a great deal of intentional nonsense into their campaigns.

Conversely, children’s breakfast cereal commercials are entirely devoid of blunt, factual statements.

Your market communications must match your audience, and contain the correct balance of functional and emotional elements to capture their entire attention span, both conscious and unconscious. The more blunt you must be with messaging, the more you rely on branding and symbolism to communicate the emotional side of the pitch. Think of the buyers mind as a bucket, and you have to fill their buckets to exactly 100%. If you need to be 80% factual, then 20% of your communications must carry the emotional aspects of committing to your product. Any less, and the buyer is underwhelmed. Anymore and they are overwhelmed.

Herein is where many B2B tech companies go astray. They either ignore the emotional side entirely, fail to communicate emotional motivations in their product and corporate brands, or do so with the same bluntness as their functional messages. Too little or too much. Marketing communication failures are often caused by missing the target by 5o, not 180o.

Another generalization is that consumers tend to be swayed by emotions more than logic, the opposite of business buyers. Similarly, the lower the cost or other risk, the more emotions can and should be used to drive buying behavior since functional arguments are not required to reduce purchase risks. Packaging pros have known this for ever – attaching emotions to low cost products on the shelf increases sales volume. Gerber doesn’t put pictures of ugly, crying babies on their jars for a reason.

Your goal is to triangulate target buyers before composing your brand, value propositions or messages. Once you have a bead on their buying biases and your product’s risk profile, you can map where in the functional/emotional continuum your typical buyer sits and craft communications accordingly.


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