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  • Athina Mallis

The 'emotional connection with customers' - why is it important?

For brands to truly emotionally connect with their brand they need to understand their consumer, according to Vijay Solanki, renowned marketing leader, former CEO of IAB Australia and CEO and founder of ParentalEQ. And this is more critical than ever during and beyond the pandemic.

AZK Media speaks with Solanki on the importance of brands making a more authentic emotional connection with their consumers and how psychology is still an important tool within the marketing mix.

"It’s critical more than ever, and the pandemic’s effect has been like we've been going through this Maslovian Triangle,” he says. "There have been the hygiene factors, the challenge to get the shopp ing done or to find toilet roll, right through to brands that we feel are giving us comfort or making us feel good. The emotional connection couldn't be more important."

The power of psychology in marketing

Previous roles for Solanki include CEO of IAB, the chief digital officer of Southern Cross Austereo and senior director - digital marketing and social media - EMEA at Blackberry. With a background in psychology, Solanski now merges his two passions as the CEO and Founder of ParentalEQ, an innovative parent-child psychology platform that helps deliver emotionally nurturing outcomes for both parents and their kids.

Sitting at the intersection of marketing, digital and innovation for more than twenty years, Solanki says organisations need a holistic view of a customer and should be agile enough to evolve and thrive against the backdrop of changing consumer, technology and market forces.

Solanki says psychology is important in marketing for the simple reason that at the heart of psychology is understanding human behaviour.

“It’s important to always remember your customers are people, they have emotions and marketers need to consistently recognise that,” he explains. "Every marketer, B2B, B2C or otherwise should be thinking about why customers ‘do what they do’. As a person rather than as a robot.”

How to build an emotional connection in B2B marketing

When it comes to the human connection to the brand one of the common mistakes B2B brands make when selling the functional benefit of their service or technology, Solanki explains.

Often, B2B marketers don’t go deep enough to understand the customer's pain point, not simply their practical pain point but things that are causing them emotional pain. The B2B brand should figure out if they can help out in any way.

"There's a lot you can do to build an emotional connection across both B2B and B2C,” he adds. “B2B often rely on the salesperson to do that and obviously that chemistry is super key, but the communication can have an emotional value as well as a functional value."

Solanki uses the example of a B2B tech company who rather than try and sell its wares, run webinars where they were supporting the mindfulness of their customers because they were realising their customers were getting anxious and getting stressed.

Solanki also stresses a B2B company also needs to go deeper to understand “their customer's customer.”

"If you can provide an insight, particularly an emotional insight that your customer doesn't have about their own customer, then that can be super helpful in further strengthening that emotional connection,” he says.

Stand out examples in marketing

Solanki has a career spanning decades in marketing and has seen a number of exceptional examples of great campaigns within both B2B and B2C.

One of them is the "love what you do" campaign by Blackberry in 2009 starring music producer and DJ Diplo.

He says, "The campaign was really positioning blackberry as a utility tool for a DJ. He would have an audio sample on his blackberry, we would shoot him jumping into a plane, jumping into a limo and going to the concert and in between how he was using his blackberry to run his business.

"In that sense, it was a B2B story but it was clearly a consumer campaign because any 25 year old who was into their dance music was wowed by seeing Diplo using a blackberry. So it's really whether you're B2B or B2C, it's humanising the brand."

Marketing is a continual evolution of learning

Marketing is such a quick and evolving marketing space and sometimes it can be overwhelming for marketers to stay on top of it all. Vijay Solanki says for marketers to feel empowered in their role moving forward they should be constantly learning.

"There are the traditional components of marketing, brand management, propositions, architecture, all that good stuff that you would learn at a Unilever or P&G," he says. "At the same time what technology has done has created a whole new set of tools."

What Solanki notices is at the senior end of town, the senior person hires a head of digital and assumes that this person will be managing all things digital. Solanki recommends that marketers learn these digital skills just in case.

"If you can understand even this much you'll be able to ask better questions and that could be one way in which you can stay abreast of this fast moving world you're talking about," he says.

Even Solanki himself, who has decades of experience in marketing has to constantly educate himself.

At the beginning of this year he took the leap as a 50 year old entrepreneur to create a startup called Parental EQ, a parent coaching service to raise emotionally strong kids.

"I've realised that I've had 25 years of corporate privilege, what I realised most of the time was to brief the team, let them do the work and review it," he adds. "This time where there is a search campaign to be run or a social campaign, there is no one else; it's just me."

"It's been painful and some days I've sworn a lot but it's been incredible as well. I've got at least this much knowledge to put together a campaign on Google or how to optimise something on Facebook. It's incredibly powerful - it's empowering."

This article was also published in Little Black Book Online, one of the world's leading publications for marketing, media and agency news.

Athina Mallis is a Senior Content and Communications Specialist at AZK Media


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