“Jaws” is one of my all-time favorite movies, second only to “Auntie Mame” (but that’s a whole other blog). As a genre, I don’t really like classic monster horror films at all. “Jaws” is the exception. What sets it apart from many other mundane monster movies is its slow buildup of suspense.
When John Williams’ Academy-Award winning score starts to play in the movie’s beginning, we as viewers all suspect something terrible is about to happen to the poor, clueless swimmer. The whole premise of the film works because it appeals to a primal fear in all of us. Every viewer wants to know what’s beneath the waves, and the slow reveal allows the audience to fill that unknown void with their own depiction of the monster. And, even if we don’t consciously realize it, our subconscious is aware of exactly what scares us the most.
Your B2B Messaging Is Bruce
Whether it’s fear, joy or empathy, emotion is a powerful tool to use when connecting with an audience. The idea of a deadly creature is introduced in the first moments of “Jaws,” but Bruce (the shark) isn’t fully seen until the film’s frightful climax. The audience infers that there is a shark based on a few glimpses and a whole lot of their own fear.
And that’s what makes it powerful.
The producers didn’t lead with the shark. They let viewers’ emotions fill the void. As marketers, we can take a lesson from this. Instead of spelling everything out for your B2B audience, let them fill in the blanks for themselves. I guarantee they will fill it with what is most relevant to them.
There’s a lot that can be learned from “Jaws” when it comes to advertising in B2B. Imagine opening a trade publication to a stunning, full-page ad. A company name is displayed alongside an unexpectedly beautiful or compelling scene. The following page is another full-page ad covered top to bottom in product images and lengthy descriptions. Which one is more likely to draw you in? Which one are you going to remember?
The average attention span of an adult is eight seconds, which is shorter than that of a goldfish. You have the blink of an eye to catch someone’s attention, so using an emotion-focused approach can make way for more creativity. Why should you bother using emotion? Because it is the most compelling form of persuasion — even in B2B. Consider research from CEB and Google, which showed conclusively that “emotionally-led marketing is more effective at driving decision-making in B2B.” (B2B Marketing).
Draw Them in With a Jaw-Dropping Visual (or Maybe Just a Few Powerful Words)
I’ll keep this simple, rather than writing a full dissertation on emotional advertising. Ninety percent of information is transmitted visually, so using imagery enables you to say less within your brand advertising and allows for emotion to fill in the blanks (B2B Marketing). If your audience can find a connection with the visual, you’re more likely to create engagement. Period. Information that is transmitted visually gets processed 60,000 times faster than text, so make the most of your eight seconds by leaving a lasting impression.
If the answer isn’t visual, then keep the writing short. In fact, the best approach might just be a headline or theme that garners attention — with no supporting copy. This allows a reader to use their imagination to fill the void with what’s most meaningful to them. A long list of capabilities next to your product leaves nothing to the imagination. Worse, it could omit something a reader is seeking. A compelling headline or phrase will do a lot more work than a bunch of body copy.
“You’ll never go in the water again.” Now that’s a headline: neither body copy nor shark visual required.
Find Your Dorsal Fin
Not sure it’s possible to introduce emotion in your B2B product? Check out this visual for a centrifuge used for waste separation. Yes, it’s possible — for ANYTHING.
Go forth and find your dorsal fin, munched surfboard or mangled raft. Then let the audience start filling in the blanks. Once you have them hooked, you’ll know when to introduce the shark.