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You Can Buy Love But You Need The Right Strategy

Good Thinking | September 25, 2018 | 3 min read

Some of the most successful brands have a clear emotional center that resonates deeply with consumers. Patagonia, Whole Foods, Subaru… build your own list. They didn’t get there by accident and we owe it to every brand we work on to get them closer to that gold standard.

Challenge accepted… except even modern consumer personas rely mostly on behaviors, values and demographics rather than really getting to emotional understanding.

And briefs often lack that compelling emotional insight to fuel the best work.

And it’s due tomorrow.

Here’s an idea: Before starting your next brief, take time to think about ways to make that next project more emotionally relevant in the face of features and benefits, facts and figures. Creatives like me prefer motivation before information.

Consumers feel first and think later. Humans think visually and fill in the meaning later with words (sorry copywriters). We also filter everything we encounter this way and if your message doesn’t elicit an emotional response, it gets ignored. That means you’ve wasted every minute you spent in those endless meetings along with your client’s money.

I was recently asked how I tell great work from not so great work. I said “emotional reaction.”

Really knowing your customers’ hearts – their deepest motivations – can uncover and articulate insights that over time create the foundation of emotionally-centered brands.

I like this quote from Canadian neurologist Donald Caine: “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”  He studies brains, he ought to know.

Don’t have a jillion dollar budget? That’s no excuse not to start today. Here are three quick shortcuts you can take before embarking on your next brilliant campaign that can get you closer, faster. Do all three and you get extra credit. I find that the first one taps basic inner drives, the second one explores a visual language for expressing a narrative and the third gets to the heart of the drivers to take action.

  • Metaphors — Metaphors help uncover our subconscious emotional terrain. Gerald Zaltman (Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School and author of 20 books such as “Metaphoria” and “How Customers Think”) articulated the power of metaphor as a way to understand the 95% of decision-making that takes place below the conscious. Compare these metaphors against your audience and link those connections with their subconscious emotional goals. Order the book “Metaphoria” here:
  • Visualization — Words, words, words. Why so many words on briefs? As marketers, we are language experts but, before we think in words, as humans we visualize ideas. Did you know that only a very small part of our brains are devoted to language? It’s a wonder you’ve read this far. In fact, go to any art museum and see how visuals show the essential narrative of our fears and desires, joys and longings. Creating visuals to express situations or constructs gives us a window into this powerful emotional narrative. Do more mood boards. On your next project take an hour to create a mood board about your consumer and the product using pictures and very few words to tell your brand story. You don’t need to be a designer to copy-paste some things into a PowerPoint deck.
  • Proven Emotional Levers — Through numerous studies, it’s become clear that emotion drives behavior. Now, new research exploring behaviors related to over 300 emotions reveals those with proven ability to drive sales (The New Science of Customer Emotions, 2015). This is really worth a read and can give you a leg up in identifying why people take action. In this research, ten emotions were identified to have a big impact on behavior. That makes this list an excellent hack for any marketer seeking an emotional truth to center their brand. Read more about these emotional levers in this HBR article and check your own strategies against these emotional drivers. Which ones apply to your product or service? How can you reframe your narrative to align with these feelings?

Give it a try. Our best work depends on it.