Building Brands and Brand Equity

The 1% Engagement Problem: Why Most B2B Advertising Fails

The 1% Engagement Problem: Why Most B2B Advertising Fails

Insurance giant MetLife recently ditched longtime mascot Snoopy, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars – and several decades – making the Peanuts beagle its instantly recognizable celebrity spokesperson. (Except this one never asked for a raise, never got caught in a scandal, and never waded into political debates.)

The move dovetailed with the company’s shift from retail business to B2B sales. In a classic conflation of professionalism and formality, MetLife seemed to think its B2B advertising was no place for a cartoon character.

What MetLife and many other B2B brands seem to forget is that people who work in business are humans, too. And while business decisions are supposedly made based on purely rational considerations, that’s far from the truth. This fundamental misunderstanding underlying much B2B advertising leads to tens of millions of squandered advertising spending every year, across both traditional media and digital channels.

If you don’t believe me, ask Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman delineates two modes of thinking: “System 1” is instantaneous, driven by instinct and emotion; “System 2” is slower, driven by deliberation and logic. Kahneman hones several decades of research to emphasize how people attribute far too much importance to ‘rational’ human judgements in decision-making. Specifically, he explains that even when we believe we are making decisions based on rational considerations, our System 1 beliefs, biases and intuition drive much of our thinking.

Business people have their own notions about brands. A huge proportion of these ideas are derived from humans’ System 1 belief system. And much of what resides in our System 1 belief system are impressions yielded from our own experiences.

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