Today’s energy industry is dynamic. Amidst fluctuating economies, those operating in the oil and gas sector are having to focus more on business, and less on consumers. What smart businesses recognize, though, is that behind every coalition, partnership, and purchase, are people. Connecting with consumers and clients in both a B2B and B2C context is more important now than ever, and while there may be confusion about where exactly to concentrate your efforts and resources for maximum results, all hope is not lost.
The best way to connect with customers before, during, and after purchase and brand adoption, is on an emotional level. While this may seem like a lofty concept, particularly in an industry inundated with challenges and regulations, do not underestimate the power of having a strong emotional connection between a consumer, organization, partner, and your brand. It’s true that logic always plays a part, but emotion is what sparks curiosity, captures and maintains interest, and compels action. More factual criteria, like the features and benefits of a product or service, are most powerful before a consumer takes a final leap to a decision. But, both at the beginning and end of the decision-making process, emotion is key. As Jamie Anderson of Digitalistmag.com explains, “While the main goal is to expand the business, only the most successful brands appeal to the heart, not the mind”.
Use Emotion to Tell Your Brand Story
Your brand story defines who you are, both as a business and as an industry thought-leader. It is a carefully cultivated identity and story, crafted through words, actions, and authenticity. It describes your vision as a business, and identifies what separates you from your competition.
Research shows that, while any decision you make to engage with a company will be based on both emotional and rational thoughts, a brand should be grounded in a story which resonates with your audience on an emotional level. Emotional decisions are fast and often subconscious, while rational decisions are laboured and intensely conscious. We can distance ourselves from emotions and seek to exclude them using logical tools and methods of analysis, but ultimately, we can only minimize their effects.
In fact, it’s the emotional aspect of decision-making that first captures our interest as consumers. It enables us to purchase, and maintains our attachment. When buying a car, for example, rational aspects include the engine, number of seats, mileage, top speed, and many other factors. Emotional aspects are more intangible and numerous. They could include how the car makes you feel (accepted, rebellious, safe, etc.), expected experiences (fun family moments, mountain adventures, or bond-building road trips), and the personality you ascribe to the brand (cool or popular, for example).
First Impressions are Key
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. When it comes to forging relationships with your brand, first impressions are important, as although we often evaluate options analytically, the process is often biased by an emotional front-runner. Through bias, we tell a rational story to substantiate early impressions. The entire process is coloured by an initial more emotional impression that is communicated by elements of the product or service’s brand.
When it comes down to it, your brand needs to leave a lasting impression in the consumers mind. As per Digitalistmag.com, the author of Emotional Branding Marc Gob finds that well-crafted brands can achieve this when they “can tap into the aspirational drivers which underlie human motivation.”
Decisions Are Always Emotional
When weighing the options, emotion again plays a key role in decision-making. Choice is complex, and even when we can overcome early impressions and biases, there is often a gap that logic cannot cross. That emotional gap, where the facts don’t fully line-up or concretely point to an outcome, is another area where emotion plays a prominent role. In studying people with brain damage which prevented them from feeling emotion, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio found that people had extreme difficulty making sound decisions. In his book on the subject, he discovered that people with this type of brain damage could follow the analytical process right up to the point of deciding, but could not arrive at a conclusion. This was due to the fact that decisions often include less rational considerations which require emotion to move forward, such as debating between the pros and cons of something.
How You Make Customers Feel is Important
The most successful products and services are sometimes not the best. Many excellent products languished for decades before making strong emotional connections with customers, including Nike, Jack Daniel’s, and Starbucks. Any attempt to attract, engage and retain customers or clients in B2B or B2C settings must successfully incorporate rational and emotional elements, and understand that how their brand makes customers feel is important. All businesses must craft an experience that goes beyond the more rational functional and pleasure-seeking/pain-avoiding criteria. That’s not to say that the rational aspects are not critical to a customer or prospective client’s decision-making process, but we believe, and many studies support, that they only confirm a person’s desire to purchase a product or engage a company.
Building genuine relationships with customers is the key to building a stronger brand, and to converting prospective customers into repeat buyers. Particularly in the energy industry, creating spin or glossing over topics will not work. Authenticity and transparency are your allies, and using them to connect with your customers on an emotional level and forge stronger relationships can make you an intimidating competitor.
About WJ – William Joseph Communications
A recognized leader in the marketing industry, William Joseph is a full-service agency that empowers businesses of all sizes to change the world and achieve bold performance targets. Our commitment to founding all of our solutions on strategy ensures clients connect with their ideal target audience and compels them to act. With years of direct experience empowering organizations in the energy sector, William Joseph knows that marketing in the oil and gas industry is not optional, but necessary.