How B2B Explainer Videos Nudge Viewers To Make Decisions

Behavioural economics has been one of the most effective explanations of why people do the things they do. In this article we look at explainer videos from a behavioural economics perspective to better understand: what can marketers learn from this science?

Key Takeaways on B2B Video Marketing:

Great marketing strikes a balance between logic and emotion.

This balance is exemplified in the B2C world, but it is often lost when it comes to B2B marketing.

Explainer videos, using defined principles of design, strike this balance and make information digestible to a B2B audience.

They naturally incorporate ideas from behavioral economics; a relatively new field that’s had a historic role in successful marketing.

This article delves into:

The field of behavioral economics

The power of Nudge

And how explainer videos harness this power through 4 key principles of design.

Table of Contents


  • Who are you marketing to?

The Need For Cognition

  • Difference between B2B & B2C
  • What is the Need For Cognition?
  • The Elaboration Likelihood Model

What is Cognitive Marketing?

  • Contextual bias

Why B2B Explainer Videos Are The Perfect Tool

  • 6 Principles for Sticky Ideas


  • It's all human

Who exactly are you B2B marketing to?

It seems like some attempts at B2B marketing were made for something other than a human.

Like Spock, or HAL, or even SIRI.

At the other end of the B2B content you create is a human.

And while their need for cognition might be higher than the average consumer, they still want to feel something.

They like stories, jokes, and even meme business content!

Yes, even whiteboard is effective! 

And they especially like content that appeals to both logic and emotion, like explainer videos.

So while a field like cognitive marketing might sound very scientific and logical, it actually offers B2B marketers tools to help their content strike a chord with their audience and influence their decisions.

Let’s start with

The need for cognition in B2B

A B2B audience has a higher need for cognition than a B2C audience.

It’s the difference between selling an iPhone and selling the small semiconductors that will be responsible for powering millions of iPhones.

A B2B audience requires a lot of information before making a decision because there is more at stake.

There is one key difference between a B2B audience and B2C audience highlighted by Ogilvy VP Rory Sutherland in his piece: The Objectivity Trap.

A B2C audience is dealing with the fear of regret.

“Did I make the right decision buying an iPhone over an Android model?”

B2C marketing is using tactics to alleviate this fear,

“All your friends are using iPhones”

“I bet you have a Mac too, have you seen the Apple ecosystem lately?”

“If anything goes wrong with your phone, don’t worry, AppleCare will take care of it”

“Did we mention we have geniuses working for us? Can’t figure out how to use your phone? They’ll give you a hand!”

All these ploys scream to the audience that they’re making the right choice and there will be nothing to regret.

A B2B audience lives with the fear of blame.

“If these semiconductors don’t improve the speed of this CPU and offer a better browsing experience to customers, will I be reprimanded?”

“How will this mistake make me look in the eyes of my superiors?”

“Will I lose my job. I can’t afford to lose my job, I have a family and a mortgage to pay”

These are only some thoughts a B2B audience is sifting through.

That’s why their need for cognition is much higher than a B2C audience.

What is the need for cognition?

In psychology, the need for cognition (NFC) is a personality variable where individuals need to engage in effortful cognitive activities.

The audience is looking for structure within content to ensure it is logically sound.

They are interested in engaging in debate around the product or service.

For instance, a B2B audience will seek out reviews on a particular semiconductor company to see what others are saying.

They are in need of social proof. Can they trust this company to deliver?

It might seem that the logical choice for B2B marketing is to promote logic and facts while disregarding the need for story.

“Once they see the stats, facts, and positive reviews, there is no doubt they’ll choose our company over the competition”

However, an audience with a need for cognition is also inclined to high elaboration.

This is where a B2B audiences’ emotion checks in.  

The elaboration likelihood model

This model uses the dual process theory of persuasion.

According to the ELM, there are two routes for persuasion: The central route and the peripheral route.

Most B2B content takes the central route, which is a bombardment of information portrayed in a positive light about the product or service.

Cost, reviews, features, speed, and efficiency are some of the factors highlighted in the central route.

The central route makes an appeal to logic, and while it is sound, the peripheral route cannot be ignored.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of a job interview.

Two candidates are applying for the same position.

They both have the same amount of experience on their resume.

They’ve both received stellar recommendations from their references.

And they have the exact same university degree.

Who gets hired?

This same problem can be experienced in the B2B world.

There’s only so much a semiconductor company can offer from a logical standpoint until they can no longer get one up on the competition.

Eventually they will meet their match, and a purely logical route will no longer be effective.

This is where the peripheral route shines.

The peripheral route relies on emotion, and no matter how high the need for cognition is, there is always emotion at play.

The peripheral route is unrelated to logic.

It’s about how a message is packaged and the story it’s conveying.

Emotion is what makes drivers pick a Ferrari over a Toyota.

Sure they both get you from A to B,

But one of them has status,

And status might get you laid.

It’s logic steeped in emotion that convinces a B2B audience to choose one semiconductor company over another.

Yes, you may be a company specializing in semiconductors, but that’s not what you do.

Your semiconductors are featured in CPUs, built into personal computers, allowing millions of people to access the internet to work, create, and connect with their loved ones.

You sell semiconductors, but connection is your story.

The semiconductor company telling their emotional story to their audience while pairing it with logic will ink the deal.

The candidate who builds more rapport with the interviewer will get the job.

This is a yin and yang situation, yet most B2B marketing is an appeal to logic only.

This is where cognitive marketing and explainer videos can help.

What is cognitive marketing?

95% of the decision making process takes place in the subconscious.

And the subconscious is susceptible to its fair share of biases.

Cognitive marketing examines everything from behavioral economics, to psychology and neuroscience to understand the decision making process in any situation and the role or bias.

One bias in particular, which explainer videos help to address, is contextual bias.

Contextual bias is not about what you say, it’s about how you say it.

We like this example from B2B Marketing:

There’s a difference in saying:

“90% of deliveries within 48hrs”


“99% of deliveries arrive on time”

This is the effect of context on the human mind.

Explainer videos ensure that a logical fact is placed in the right context to maximize emotional impact and influence the decision making process.

Cognitive marketing puts the customer at the centre of any marketing activity.

Every decision is made with the customer and their needs in mind.

So while you may be trying to convey logical information in your B2B content, it’s emotion and context that will help it stick and influence the viewer. Even considering things like authority marketing and how it affects perception.

Why B2B explainer videos are the perfect tool

73% of users bought a product after watching an explainer video about it. (Tubular Insights)


Well designed explainer videos have the power to combine logic and emotion.

They are built upon the premises of behavioral economics and cognitive marketing.

They not only engage and educate, but their style entertains an audience.

And companies who take advantage of the storytelling capabilities of explainer videos will have an edge over competitors.

In the book Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive & Others Die, Chip & Dan Heath lay out 6 principles for sticky ideas, and all effective B2B content and explainer videos should involve them:

Be Simplistic: Strip ideas to their core. What is the single most important point to drive home?

Be Unexpected: Grab the audiences’ attention. Break the audience's thinking pattern in a way that relates back to your core message to reinforce it.

Be Concrete: This is where context becomes important. Give your audience something to grasp. Be as specific and clear as possible. For example, a V-8 engine is concrete, a “high-performance” engine is not.

Be Credible: Use your content to develop yourself as an authority. Use statistics, details, and facts to support your authority.

Be Emotional: You sell semiconductors, now make people care about them. Remember, your story: You are connecting people. Now tell that story.

Tell Stories: Do not underestimate the power of stories. They have the ability to burn an idea into the viewers’ mind.

Notice that even these six principles strike a balance between logic and emotion.

A B2B explainer video featuring these 6 principles has the potential to stick with an audience long after the final frame.

Video in B2B, Need For Cognition and Behavioural Economics. Conclusion:

Whether you’re in B2B or B2C,

Even if you’re in B2B2C,

You’re dealing with humans.

And humans make decisions based on logic and emotion.

This means your B2B content needs to appeal to take the central route and the peripheral route.

It needs to incorporate the principles of behavioral economics and cognitive marketing.

It can’t rely on facts and logic alone, no matter how high the audience's need for cognition is, there is always room for emotional impact.

So the next time you’re making a blog post, Instagram story, or killer explainer video,

Remember to appeal to the audience's mind and heart.

Yin & yang.

Until next time,

Rocketwheel out!

About: Rocketwheel is a video production company in San Francisco that produces videos for clients all over the world. Over 13+ years of creating everything from motion graphics to animation to live action to 3D. What can we do for you?