The Battle of the Data Sheet


Bridging the divide between rationality and emotion in Industrial B2B marketing

By Chris Lawrenson

The humble data sheet is the sacred text for product engineers.

By outlining features, dimensions and capabilities, they collate everything product engineering teams believe customers require. Presented as the ‘source of truth’ for plant engineers and integrators to aid their purchasing journey, it’s easy to assume customers will respond in a likewise manner, making informed decisions and choices based solely on analysis and comparisons of that data.

Of course, human beings don’t work nearly as predictably as the products they’re buying.  Customers simply don’t buy products purely based on specifications no matter how superior they are. Purchase choices are consciously and unconsciously influenced by unpredictable factors external to any product launch and are deeply rooted in personal emotion and brand perception. Rational comparisons are made, but the decision-making process is influenced by a wider range of emotions and concerns: The desire to succeed. The worry about selecting the wrong product. The influence, good and bad, of previous experience. All personal considerations you won’t see listed in a spec sheet.

This need to reconcile the logical with the emotional – cheerfully expressed to Coda clients as the Battle of the Data Sheet – usually manifests once the button is pushed on the product launch date, after handover from product development to product and marketing communications teams. In meetings and discussions, these differences are first conveyed within the customer messaging, when engineering teams can focus on promoting product features (the dispassionate technical advantages) over product benefits (how these advantages will benefit the user, which is emotional).

  At this point, introducing the need for more emotive arguments can require some persuasion, for which the smartphone market is our perfect go-to example. On paper, two competing smartphones may appear almost identical in specification (similar processing power, camera capabilities, or battery life).  Yet the fierce loyalty many consumers express to one brand over another is driven not by logic, but by feeling. These allegiances stem from past positive experiences, peer recommendations, or even the aspirational image of the parent brand. As many product engineers we encounter are passionate about their tech brands, it’s easy to point out that the power of emotional decision-making is literally in their hands.

The successful route forward is the synthesis of the logical and emotional components so they complement and reinforce the efficacy of one another. The data sheet and product brochure elements remain key articles of faith, but product and marketing communications teams must craft the narratives that resonate with a customer’s aspirations and values. This requires more highlighting of unique value propositions; emphasis on superior customer service and support, and the continual building of a strong, reliable brand identity.

And as industrial technologies age and become more commoditised, technical specifications are less likely to substantially differentiate one product from another, and adherence to features and functionalities has increasingly less impact (I’m reminded of the rueful observation of a client who stated, pre-major product launch that “Of course everyone’s got lasers now and you can’t get much faster than the speed of light”).

The imperative to use emotional campaign components only grows, with greater emphasis required on highlighting product and brand reputation, and the more assurances, guarantees and project de-risking they bring. Focusing customer-centricity into every product launch breathes new life into otherwise standardised devices, transforming them from commodities to trusted and proven solutions that continue to build loyalty.

So, how can product engineering and product marketing teams leave the battleground as a single team, united by purpose?

1. Craft Compelling Narratives: 

Beyond listing technical specifications, product narratives should evoke emotions and resonate with what your customer aspires to. Whether it’s storytelling through marketing campaigns or providing personalised content from identifiable product experts, weaving a compelling narrative enhances brand loyalty and fosters emotional connections.

2. Focus on User Experience: 

An intuitive product experience speaks to consumers on an emotional level. By prioritising user-centric design elements that push their emotional buttons – for instance, being easy or satisfying to use – emotional bonds and needs can be attached to the products.

3. Build Trust and Credibility: 

Transparency and authenticity are non-negotiables. Create campaigns that foster trust through credible communication, and ensure promises are delivered on. Reliable customer support and demonstrating product quality are the most resonant wins for industrial product.  

4. Keep building Brand Identity:

 A strong brand identity goes beyond logos and colour schemes—it embodies a set of values, beliefs, and promises. Product managers should nurture brand identities that resonate with their target audience, cultivating emotional loyalty that transcends the allure of competing specifications. 

It’s a careful balancing act, but by marrying technical excellence with emotional resonance, teams will build the meaningful and relevant arguments to convert customers in an increasingly competitive marketplace. 

If you need further assistance in implementing these strategies, get in touch

Get in touch for assistance implementing these strategies