Feel nothing, do nothing
How emotion drives purchase
The question of how a brand or product can drive emotional bonds with today’s consumer is a challenge many are facing.
Strolling through one of the growing number of UK food retailers, it might at first be difficult to make the case that emotion has a lot to do with driving purchase. Cost competition is intense, and aisles are replete with price-driven offers, BOGOFs, rebates and appeals to consumers’ wallets. It could seem it’s a world where economy is king and the lowest price wins every time.
Building brand bonds
What we might not see strolling through that supermarket are the people who are leaving without making a purchase because they could not find “their” brand of lager, dishwasher tablet, smoothie or cat food. These are people so attached to specific brands that they will go elsewhere if they can’t find them.
Statistically, it’s this small minority of each brand’s customers who will have that brand or go without, who generate a disproportionate amount of that brand’s profits over time. This is true across brands and categories, from cars to banks to a bar of soap.
What makes someone seek out their preferred brand instead of grabbing what’s on sale or convenient? Perceived superior product quality? The ethical stance of the company that makes it? Some long-ago cherished memory where the brand played a role? In all cases, at some point in time these brands established emotional bonds with their customers.
Striking a chord
If you take a quick look at the most recent Interbrand list of the world’s most valuable brands, you’ll find the same list you generally find every year, with just the rankings changing from time to time. Working your way down the list, we’d wager that a few of these brands strike what you’d consider an emotional chord with you.
Advertising is generally about driving awareness and preference. Traditionally advertisers use a reach x frequency formula to ensure the public was aware of their product and had seen it recently enough so that it would come to mind if a consumer needed something like it.
But today’s media-savvy audiences are able to skip, filter, or avoid advertising like never before. As a result, advertising / marketing appeals must respect that the audience needs to find something emotionally fulfilling in their fleeting interactions with brands – aspiration, inspiration, satisfaction and motivation are very strong emotions to leverage. As legendary ad man Bill Bernbach said: “Because an appeal makes logical sense is no guarantee that it will work.”
Walking the walk
The question of how a brand or product can drive emotional bonds with today’s consumer is a challenge many are facing. Interestingly, the few who succeed are those who seem less about talking the talk of engaging with consumers and more about walking the walk of actually doing it.
Amazon.com will offer you the lowest cost for almost anything you want, but that’s not what makes it so popular. Great customer service, offering up suggestions for products based on your history, the convenience of flexible delivery do enough to delight customers into feeling an emotional attachment. For many – though not all – Amazon will be the first port of call for just about any purchase.
The luxury and beauty sectors have long understood the importance of the emotional bond and how to create it with promises of better lives through cosmetics, handbags and other high-ticket items. Louis Vuitton sells the dream first, driving an emotional need for a +£1,500 bag. The rational drivers: bag size, durability, pockets, hardware, all are secondary rational justifiers.
Although no data was available for this article, we’d bet that Felix Baumgarten has done more to sell Red Bull than two-for-one offers for Red Bull.
Innocent Drinks and Dorset Cereals might be all about natural ingredients, but what they sell is a feeling that we’re more healthy when we consume their products – and health is a very strong emotional driver. Companies like Disney and Apple have constructed entire universes in which their customers can live happily ever after.
Positivity over price
Price promotion is not going away, and it remains a very powerful way to move inventory in the short term. But it’s a game of diminishing returns as your price can always be beaten by someone else – a problem the big supermarkets are grappling with right now. Brands who will succeed as consumers become increasingly discerning are those who understand how to bring a large dose of positive emotion to the products and services they offer.
To conclude with another quote from Bill Bernbach, who was responsible for some of the most emotionally driven advertising in advertising history: “You can say the right thing about a product and nobody will listen. You’ve got to say it in such a way that people will feel it in their gut.
Because if they don’t feel it, nothing will happen.”
Also published on Medium.