Heart vs. Head

What has come over us Limeys?

We were always known as a pretty dull, phlegmatic bunch, compared to the excitable French, the fiery Spanish, and the sexy Italians.

Well, something weird has happened.

Across the road from my offices, a building firm has a slogan that says they’re passionate about building.

Pret-a-Manger — a U.K. firm that was launched recently in the U.S. — says they are passionate about food.

A firm called Churchill — in the same business as Geico — says they are passionate about insurance.

I have lost count of the number of people on Facebook who say they are passionate about whatever it is they do.

And not long ago, I saw a poster on the London underground that claimed the North West of England is a passionate country full of passionate people.

I’m from the North West, but I never noticed it.

But more to the point, all this passion reminds me of a big mistake made by many who sell to businesses.

The Big Mistake When Selling to Businesses

Many marketers assume that business decisions are made on rational grounds and that emotion doesn’t come into it.

This is nonsense. And to prove it, I used to ask marketers at my presentations if they could think of anyone they worked with that they hated. It never failed to raise a laugh of recognition.

And I wasn’t surprised. Fact is, people, in general, are a mighty passionate bunch. So I was delighted to see some recent research that revealed the following…

People in Britain who wanted to hit a work colleague in the last year:

  • 41% of the Welsh
  • 38% of Londoners
  • 38% of people in the North East of England
  • 50% of people over the age of 65

Labels Cost You Money

Marketers love to label people as consumers or businesspeople — but is that how our customers see themselves? Don’t they just see themselves as people?

Of course they do. We are all human beings. And you and I know perfectly well what motivates people when we sell makeup, cars, or even hair remover. People want to be popular, admired — and definitely not shunned.

What do they want in business? To be popular, admired — and definitely not shunned.

People want to be successful, quoted as examples for other people to emulate, and not seen as losers — in life or in business.


You don’t grow a second head on your way to the office, and you may spend more waking hours there than anywhere else. Your time there is not less interesting or less emotional than the time you spend at home. It may be more so.

What People Do to Succeed

People lie, cheat, and finagle their way to whatever goal they may have. And they kill for money — which is what most business revolves around.

Man is not a rational animal at work — any more than he is anywhere else. He (or she) makes decisions on emotional grounds and then tries to find logical arguments to explain them.

So I repeatedly find that if a promotion isn’t doing well when selling to businesspeople, a dash of passion makes all the difference.

A good example is a series of three e-mails we wrote for DHL.

The e-mails were addressed to dispatch managers — people doing a dull job who nobody ever took any notice of… except when they wanted to complain.

The subject line that did best had nothing to do with whether DHL showed up quicker or got the stuff there fast or don’t lose it on the way or do it for less.

It said: “How to be a hero for a change at [your company]”

And it brought in all the leads DHL wanted for the entire year.

So if you want better results when selling to businesses, search your heart. Then use your head to explain why the emotional argument makes sense.

[Ed. Note: Veteran copywriter and direct-marketing strategist Drayton Bird has worked with American Express, Ford, Microsoft, Visa, Procter & Gamble, and scores of other clients during his five-decade career, which included a stint as international vice-chairman and creative director with Ogilvy & Mather. In 2003, he was named by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

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