Cognitive Marketing and Your B2B Customers

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Look into my eyes, not around my eyes, into my eyes. Now. You're under. 

You'll make some quick decisions and purchases, then you'll run round the office like a chicken. Okay, you're awake. 

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So, we're not always the rational beings we'd like to be. Not every thought or action is based entirely in logic. Like, I know eating a whole sleeve of Oreos is going to be bad for me. Do I do it anyway? Of course. 

95% of decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind. Your B2B customers will be influenced by a number of different factors, including emotions and biases. 

Dr Benedetto de Martino, an Associate Professor at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, suggests:

"There is hard financial evidence for this; we have researched the behaviour of stock market investors where millions were at stake in highly risky ‘bubble’ situations, and found that emotionality and decision bias could have extraordinary effects on their decision-making.”

Plus, with an average of seven decision-makers within a decision making unit, each with their input on how the buying process should be conducted, you have seven subconsciouses to compete with. I know, it all feels a bit Freudian. 

Basically, B2B is coming round to an idea B2C has been advocating for a while - you need to push your buyer's emotional buttons. This is the basis behind cognitive marketing. 

I love you all, Marta. — fadetoblk: Illusion, Michael.

It's a lot less Derren Brown than you might think...

Cognitive Marketing is a top way to connect with a customer on a more personal level. It uses what they might already be thinking in a positive way to give a brand or company a position that reflects their customer's position.

So, in this way, the customer will see a similarity between themselves and the brand, and form a strong connection off the back of this. 

And with advantages in AI and other tech, this is far less difficult than it might sound. It's now pretty simple to gather and analyse data online, to define audience behaviours, and uncover what will resonate with them most.

Cognitive tech also has the ability to cover a number of channels at once, improving customer experience and connections, and even strengthening campaign visibility.  Tech can also be used to execute cognitive marketing campaigns themselves.

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Okay, but first up, we need to have a quick look at the types of cognitive biases humans have, in order to understand how to tackle them. 

  • Prejudicial bias. This is where buyers will stick with the companies and brands they know, even if they're not the best for them. Cognitive marketing enables you to understand the individuals behind the decision making units, so you can create more engaging customer value propositions, and craft more impactful marketing.

    This can be a combination of emotional rationales, i.e. wanting to look good in front of their boss, and rational i.e. getting the numbers up on the quarterly report. 

  • Contextual bias. Basically, this is all about saying things in a certain way, that makes it more appealing. Miriam Drahmane of BCM Agency puts it like this:

    "An example of this would be as follows: It’s the old ‘5% fat’ versus ‘95% fat-free’ situation, to take a leaf out of the B2C marketers’ book! In a B2B context, it could be as simple as changing a core service message from, say, ’90% of deliveries within 48 hours’ to the more emotionally impressive ’99% of deliveries on time.’" 

  • Experiential bias. This is when customers make a judgement based on the most positive or most negative part of an experience. So, this creates an irrational response that can guide judgement, neglecting the average and more logical state, and ignoring some of the information that is available. Drahmane gives this example: 

    "The customer received bad service only once. The company email went down and the IT consultancy did not call back on time to rectify the problem, resulting in lost sales. The IT company offered a free month’s support in apology, but the pain of rectifying the problem has never been rebalanced by subsequent positive experiences.

    To turn this to your advantage, cognitive marketing enables you to identify all the touchpoints of a customer’s journey and ensure positive experiences at every point, thus driving a repeatedly positive experience overall and assuaging any occasional negatives that might otherwise lead them to switch to a competitor."

One brand that has a handle on cognitive marketing...


Dove, for a company that basically plays on insecurities, is very good at promoting the opposite. Their 'Real Beauty Sketches' campaign from 2013 is pretty well known, and has stayed with customers since its airing, even reaching 67m views on YouTube.

The advert brings up issues that aren't entirely to do with the product, but which will encourage consumers to relate the positive and inspirational feeling to the brand. 

Medium have suggested that marketers will be using cognitive marketing in the three following ways:

  1. To segment audiences in new ways
  2. To personalise content
  3. To help customers make better decisions. 

So, Dove is using a number to create a meaningful campaign that tracks their audience's emotions and pain points, and addresses them in an effective way. Plus, using real customers in the advert adds that extra humanising touch. 

But let's have a closer look at point number two: personalisation.

Using personalisation in Cognitive Marketing...

Cognitive marketing doesn't just use personalisation, but simplifies it. We all know one of the best ways to make marketing campaigns more impactful is to personalise them to each member of a target audience. 

Now, it's time we get into AI. With personalisation, AI really comes into play. You can use real online behaviour to define and segment your audience, and even change your message for each group.

Some companies are even using their customer's first names at the beginning at the advert, if you want to try really creeping them out. 

This AI-based info tends to work better than traditional demographics, however. This is mostly because it is based on real time and real life data, rather than being reliant on implied data. Though some groups might resemble traditional demographics to a degree, it's not always the case, which allows for a more targeted campaign.

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Cognitive tech can then be used, after the creation of the audience groups, to redesign a message based on the group the individual belongs to. Basing the message on their actual behaviour means you can create a better connection, and ultimately better results. 

So, they're getting the best message, at the best time, at the best place. It's all about catching the interest of a customer, and relaying a message that is timely and relevant. With the amount of adverts pumped into the eyeballs of every customer, this is vital. The whole process is way more effective than just relying on age, gender, location etc, in order to market to consumers. 

Time to focus

"What cognitive does is help marketers focus less on tedious day-to-day tasks and more on the bigger picture, delighting the customer. Today, marketers spend nearly 70 per cent of their time on mundane details and just 30 per cent strategizing and creating experiences for customers." - Harriet Green, general manager of Watson Internet of Things, and Commerce and Education at IBM 

Cognitive marketing puts the complete focus on the target audience. If the basis for the entire campaign is the customer, and the marketer is really getting to know the data and the person, using it at every step, a real connection can be formed. This leads to not only a connection, but a stronger one, which can be long-lasting. 

All of this means you can engage customers more authentically, evoking an emotional response you have identified in a well-known target audience. 

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