Editor’s note: Chuck Bean is a partner at Royal Oak, Mich.-headquartered The Martec Group, where he also serves as chief marketing officer. 

“Business-to-business marketing is boring.” - Michael Richards, “Report outlines the yearning for more visceral B2B marketing,” Quirk’s magazine.

As someone who spends their days evaluating the efficacy of marketing strategies, messaging and tactics, Richards struck a chord with me instantly. His opening line is not wrong, in many cases. Nor is the broader point of the piece, which is that B2B marketing does not need to be “boring.”

I’ve spent decades working with large and small B2B companies as a primary focus of my career, so I agree wholeheartedly about the power of emotions in the B2B space, having seen it done effectively. I appreciate the position Richards lays out in his piece. And he provided fodder for some additional thinking of my own, which I humbly contribute to in this article as part of the ongoing discussion of how business-to-business brands and marketers can be more effective. 

One area of the marketing research discipline that cannot be emphasized enough is a certain power that is perhaps upstream of provocation, and that’s the power of emotions. We have studied the role emotions play in purchases of all kinds and strategic decisions – B2B and B2C alike – and the research shows that emotions are powerful drivers of action. Actions taken may be driven by emotions both pleasant and unpleasant, some active and some passive, and can vary in degrees of intensity, whether those emotions are directed at the brand, product or service or projected onto oneself by the client or customer. 

When Richards argues that B2B marketers should be more “provocative” in order to conjure and leverage such emotions, I suggest that such analysis should not live only within the marketing department. In fact, some very large companies – even international...