On February 5, 2017, a lumber company from Eighty Four, Pennsylvania took over the internet. They produced a video that showed the plight of a mother and daughter as they journeyed toward a better life. It sparked so much interest in the brand that their website crashed that day.
Super Bowl ads are known for their power and emotion. But if you look through a list of the most influential Super Bowl ads of all time, wood supply companies aren't exactly common on the list. Pepsi, Budweiser, Nike—these consumer brands know how to get you tingling. More B2B-focused companies, like 84 Lumber, don't usually steal the show.
The 84 Lumber ad was so powerful because it tapped into the current climate, and it was an entirely emotional story. A mini-epic that put humans at its heart. And now everyone knows the name 84 Lumber, whether you need wood or not.
This is the power of emotion—a power few B2B companies are using. But a power that is as important in B2B as B2C. We expect emotion in consumer-focused video. But companies don't buy your products, people do. You need to make that human connection as much as Nike does to drive your brand and drive sales.
In the words of Chris Savage, "Everybody likes a good cry."
The power of affect
Nineteenth-century American philosopher and psychologist William James said: "Some events are so emotional as to leave a scar upon the cerebral tissues."
Your brain can't remember everything. It has to triage. Affect is how it does this. The parts of your life with the most emotion attached to them—happiness, sadness, shock, awe—are the ones we remember the best. Though they don't quite scar your brain, they do change it permanently.
Think of your memory as a 3-step process:
1. First, you have to take in the information. This is encoding.
2. Then you have to place that information into long-term memory. This is consolidation.
3. Finally, you have to actually remember that information. This is retrieval.
Emotion is important in each of these 3 steps. The attention needed for that initial encoding can be modulated by different emotions. You are more likely to pay attention to something that is emotionally important to you. The same goes for retrieval. We've all had that experience where a feeling triggers a powerful memory.
Consolidation is what you would think of as remembering. It is where actual changes to your brain take place to turn an "engram," a fleeting memory that you'll forget in seconds, into a long-term memory that you will have the ability to remember for years.
Your hippocampus is the part of the brain that acts as the channel for this consolidation. This is where memories are first encoded. Then, normally while you sleep, they are shunted off into other areas of the brain for long-term storage.
But right at the front of your hippocampus, sits a little almond-shaped structure.
The Amygdala, highlighted. Source: Spectrum News
This is your amygdala. It's not normally glowing orange. But if you're watching something scary, or something sad, or something exciting, it figuratively will be.
The amygdala is the emotional center of your brain. Once thought to only control fear, it is now becoming implicated in more and more emotions. And it's no coincidence that it sits directly next to the memory structure in your brain.
A 1998 study from Yale showed how the amygdala comes into play for memory. When asked to remember emotionally-charged words or regular words, most people remembered the arousing words better.
Your amygdala, and emotion in general, then acts as a gateway for your memories. The more emotional something is, the more your amygdala fast-tracks that sound or sight into memory. This is why you can remember your first kiss 20 years ago, but can't remember what you had for breakfast yesterday.
How to add the feels to B2B video
84 Lumber isn't the only business-facing company using emotion in their video. Though the majority of B2B brands are missing this trick, a few have already understood the power this can have on their audience.
Affection for UPS
Logistics and the color brown aren't exactly the 2 most exciting things in the world. So you'd expect UPS to have an uphill struggle to inject an emotional connection into their brand. But this video shows that UPS workers really care about their customers.
The kid in this video is undeniably cute. But more importantly, the narrative conveys a human connection, rather than an impersonal process. This video does a great job of showing the positive power that UPS can have in someone's life. After all, who doesn't like getting packages through the mail?
In awe of Volvo
Like the 84 Lumber video, when the following video from Volvo was released it went viral, even though most of us aren't in the market for trucks.
This video uses the power of awe (and the power of Enya) to get your attention. It just seems so amazing! What's best about it is that the more you watch it—and everyone will watch multiple times—the deeper this wonderment goes.
- At first, you're simply amazed at Jean-Claude Van Damme. He's doing a split on truck wing mirrors. Is this even real?!
- Then your awe transfers to the video itself. Woah, this is all one shot. That's pretty cool!
- Finally, the amazement shifts to the drivers, trucks, and Volvo itself. These people are driving trucks with that level of precision. Backwards. When I start my trucking business, I'm off to the Volvo dealership!
For the people who are driving trucks, they get to stage 3 immediately. They are in awe of Van Damme, but also in awe of Volvo's dynamic steering. The impact of the video helps them remember that Volvo is going to make their job easier (and safer).
Laughing with Adobe
This video from Adobe Marketing Cloud is one of a series of shorts they produced looking at the perils of bad customer experience.
Whereas most businesses might not appreciate a good truck, they might have a soft spot for software. Many B2B companies care a great deal about superior customer service. But we've also seen the videos, read the blog posts, and even tried the products that promised us a greater future. We are growing tired of people telling us they've got the answer.
Adding levity and excitement is a way to paint a different picture. If this was just a video touting the features of a behemoth enterprise marketing solution, it wouldn't be nearly as memorable.
This ad in particular clearly illustrates the added bonus of these videos: watchability. With all 3 of these examples, along with the 84 Lumber Super Bowl ad—you can watch them all the way through.
Businesses are people too
You'll notice something else about all these videos. Every single one revolves around people. A kid and a truck driver. A movie star and a truck driver. A desperate Mr. Hunter and a concierge. You can't inject emotion into a video that focuses solely on your product. Instead, tell the story of how people use your product.
This is fundamental to the way these videos work, because at the end of the day, you are marketing to other people, not businesses. In the further words of Chris Savage, "Video is the best way to scale emotions and human connection."
When you make a video for your leads, customers, or future customers, you aren't marketing to businesses, you are marketing to people. All you've got to do is add a little feeling.