3 Ways to Engage the Emotional Brain in B2B Market Research Insight Communications

As market researchers, the main aim of our game is to capture the attention of our audience and drive action. Without the buy-in of stakeholders, research is unlikely to gather any traction in the business, limiting its ability to drive action. There is difficulty in engaging stakeholders in research due to a multitude of factors, such as time constraints in the workplace and difficulty in keeping up to date with simultaneous projects. However, there are steps which can be taken to facilitate the engagement in research and hence make market research insight communications simple, concise and easily digestible by research stakeholders.

There is a wealth of new information circulating the B2B marketplace about the role that emotion plays in B2B decision making, which has previously been largely constrained to B2C research. It is believed that to make market research messages resonate, and be easily digestible, we should target this ‘emotional brain’ in stakeholders when communicating our insights. There are many possible routes to the emotional brain, though perhaps three which we as we as market researchers can really put into practice.

  1. The stakeholder ‘sweet spot’ is emotive short, snappy communication

    It is perhaps obvious to suggest that it is easier to relay a message if it is in a short, sharp format. Before we even reach the receiver, communicating market research findings throughout a large organisation is difficult as stakeholders are often involved in a variety of projects, so communications may get snowed under by others. The use of a subject line which carries emotional weight is the first step to reaching the stakeholder(7). For instance:

    Subject Line Meaning To The Stakeholder
    Research Findings Show That 50% Of Customers Are Detractors Resonates with emotional brain; If attention is not paid to the research, business might be lost
    2018 Research Findings Does not resonate with emotional brain; No real urgency to pay attention to insights

    Once the stakeholder has been reached, we then must pay attention to the format in which we land our insights.

    Through the use of visuals alongside text, we can enhance what our insights mean, which is more likely to entice emotion than text alone(1), and this is particularly the case if we place the findings in the context of the business’ values. Quite often in B2B market research we focus on ‘functional’ brand values and overlook ‘emotional’ brand values(3), which have the potential to captivate the attention of the emotional brain more easily. Understanding the emotional values of a company can help us to land our message effectively with stakeholders through engaging the emotional brain; making our market research communications appear more credible. Communicating this in a format containing relevant images provides the ticket to truly engaging our audience.

  2. Trust in the researcher ensures that market research messages will resonate, and findings are more likely to be put into action

    The emotional brain is generally attracted to trustworthiness. When compared, researcher attributes such as trustworthiness, and the quality of interactions are perceived as more important to effective insight communication than others such as the commitment of the receiver to the research process(5). It is generally the case in marketing and market research that stakeholders are regarded as ‘targets’ for insight communications(2) as opposed to partners throughout the process. From this, we can learn that in order to engage our B2B market in research communications, we should focus on developing deeper relationships with clients. Through building relationships, we are able to mitigate the perception of risk in adopting our recommendations as our emotional brain identifies a trusted partner’s recommendations not as risk, but as business development opportunities(4). In building trust to satisfy the emotional brain we can provide an effective foundation on which to land insights that are more likely to drive the business forward.


    Further Reading
    What Lies Beyond The Numbers? 3 Insights Into Your Respondent’s Inconsistent Behaviour:


  4. The emotional brain is excellent at deciphering body language; incongruence between insights and movements is likely to skew perception

    Around 50% of communication is based on body language, meaning that this plays a leading role when we are delivering findings to clients. This is crucial to our delivery of any insights in a face-to-face or video situation, as poor body language would communicate a completely different message to what we are intending. Body language portraying anger or fear elicits a stronger neural reaction in areas of the brain responsible for these emotions in onlookers, whilst excitement engages the region crucial to emotional processing(6). From this, we can understand that how we look during communication is key. For instance, if we take a fearful stance, we are unlikely to be seen as credible or trustworthy, so the message we are trying to convey will not land well. On the other hand, showing excitability for the research and the message it carries is more likely to engage the emotional brain and have a greater impact on our client. Presentations with strong body language are more likely to be memorable, and can act as an instrument to drive the research insights forward.

    Taking steps to recognise that the emotional brain is important in effectively communicating insights is important in B2B research, as otherwise we may run the risk being missed or overlooked by busy stakeholders. Tapping into the emotional brain through small steps such as targeted communications and building up a stronger relationship will help us to reach our audience more effectively, and will allow us to leave a lasting impression on those who can give traction to our insights.


1. Dunlap, J.C. and Lowenthal, P.R., 2016. Getting graphic about infographics: design lessons learned from popular infographics. Journal of Visual Literacy, 35(1), pp.42-59.
2. Gregory, A., 2007. Involving stakeholders in developing corporate brands: The communication dimension. Journal of Marketing Management, 23(1-2), pp.59-73.
3. Lynch, J. and De Chernatony, L., 2004. The power of emotion: Brand communication in business-to-business markets. Journal of Brand management, 11(5), pp.403-419.
4. McLain, D.L. and Hackman, K., 1999. Trust, risk, and decision-making in organizational change. Public Administration Quarterly, pp.152-176.
5. Moorman, C., Zaltman, G. and Deshpande, R., 1992. Relationships between providers and users of market research: The dynamics of trust. Journal of marketing research, 29(3), pp.314-328.
6. Peelen, M.V., Atkinson, A.P., Andersson, F. and Vuilleumier, P., 2007. Emotional modulation of body-selective visual areas. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2(4), pp.274-283.
7. https://viz-fest.com/2018-presentations/

Readers of this article also viewed:

Show me: