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Marketing Moments | Heads or the Hearts?

Marketing Moments
August 9, 2021 6:00 PM

Sales and Marketing

Marketing content shared with Michigan Business Network by:

Bonnie J. Knutson, PhD

The School of Hospitality Business

Broad College of Business

Michigan State University


Change happens in the boiler room of our emotions…so find out how to light their fires.i These 17 words should be embossed on the wall of every business. Said another way, people buy with their hearts and justify with their heads. As Dr. Robert Passikoff points out, the consumer decision-making process has become more emotional. Therefore, so must your marketing since that emotive connection between your brand and your customers differentiates you from all competitors.

Passikoff’s research found that, on average, 80% of our buying decisions is emotional while only 20% is rational. Given those findings, why is it that so many businesses tout price in their commercials? Why is it that they push sales, specials, and discounts in their promotions? The more any brand competes on price, the more it becomes a commodity instead of a brand. And, by definition, a commodity can only differentiate on price. It is simply a basic product or service that is interchangeable with other products or services of the same type in the same category. Think gasoline at the pump. Think coffee at the supermarket. Think pork belly futures. How close is your brand to becoming another commodity? This brings us back to the Head-Heart dichotomy and the requisite need for you to make sure you embrace emotional marketing. Consider two truths. First, people have five core emotions: joy, fear, anger, disgust, and sadness. Or as my dad always told me, people will buy when they are either sad, mad, glad or scared. You just need to know how and when to tap into the right one. The tricky part for marketers, however, is that people rarely feel just one emotion. Usually, our emotions are a combination of several at a time.

Second, emotional marketing makes people notice your message, remember the brand, share the idea, and most importantly buy. Most of us can name some commercial that tugs at our heartstrings. For me, I go back the 1979 Mean Joe Green spot for Coca-Cola, the humorous 1984 Wendy’s Where’s the Beef, Cheerios 1999 segment with Grandma sharing her grandchild’s first Christmas, and the famous 1984 Superbowl ad in which Apple introduced Macintosh.

Emotional marketing tells a story that is honest, authentic, and can tap into the heart. It connects with consumers in a human, personal, and memorable way. While the Internet is awash in how-to or strategies for or steps in articles on emotional marketing, there seems to be several common threads that run through all or most of them. I’ll call them the Triple Play:

ü It is said that love is the strongest of all human emotions so it stands to reason that your brand can incorporate it into its strategy to stay ahead of its competitors. One of my favorite examples is from New York Life Insurance because it educates as well as wins the emotional prize. Based on the premise that love is an action, it shows how the Greek language uses four words for love – Philia, Storge, Eros, Agape – and connects each to everyday real-life situations so that consumers can relate to the brand on multiple personal levels.

ü Everyone can connect with a milestone because they have them throughout their own lives. So, it is a natural to use your milestones in emotional marketing. And they are often linked to a great story that can likewise be used. The lowly potato chip has annually celebrated chef George Crum dropping the first thin slice of a potato into hot oil at the Moon Lake Lodge Resort in Saratoga Springs, NY. Your business can focus on life’s milestones that are important to your customers and develop an emotional marketing strategy that will resonate with them.

ü Emotional marketing is also inspirational. Behaviorists say that, when people are inspired, they think or act differently. They can be proud to be a customer or even be motivated to help, service, participate, or accomplish something themselves. Remember Dawn dish soap being used to clean grease-covered birds in the 2010 Gulf Coast oil disaster? Here is also where encouraging human interest stories about employees can embody the positive attributes of your business – humanitarian, generous, community-oriented, for instance. I

have often heard it said that building an emotional connection can be magical and create a halo effect for the brand.

In a Customer Loyalty Indexii report, Brand Keys found that the #1 “driver” of a consumer’s path-to-purchase emotional engagement and long-term brand loyalty in the category is how the brand makes him/her feel good and look good. It is becoming crystal clear that emotional marketing helps develop the relationship between consumers and companies that results in “brand fans.” True brand fans are not only loyal, but they also advocate for your brand and are almost cult-like in their engagement. The way peoples think about your business does not make them act. The way they feel about it does. As Dale Carnegie famously said, when dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.

Your Bottom Line will thank you!

i Quotation by Jeff Dewar. ii https://brandkeys.com/portfolio/customer-loyalty-engagement-index/

Marketing Moments, hosted by Dr. Bonnie Knutson. With her wit and entertaining style, Bonnie, a frequent speaker at business and association meetings takes her perspective and brings it to our broadcast platform. She shares decades of knowledge and brand awareness, and gives us all a new lens on marketing for business.

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