3 essential emotional factors that could KILL your marketing

Tell me how you feel… about… marketing.

Tell me how you feel… about… marketing.

We are emotional beings. We like to think we’re rational, but deep down, emotion plays a bigger role than we think in the buying decisions we make every day.

Often, we’re sold emotionally first—THEN we rationalize the emotions to death to justify our decisions.

Take the 20-something who desperately wants the latest smartphone. Deep down, whether he’s aware of it or not, he wants that gadget because it makes him appear cool and cutting-edge to his friends and colleagues. It makes him feel ahead of everyone… successful… smart. So, he rationalizes and supports his decision by knowing every bell and whistle the phone offers… reading every review… and watching every product video. And for the more extreme example, he may even camp out at the Apple store to get it.

Emotions are lodged deep inside our brains, specifically in the amygdala—an almond-shaped structure in the brain linked to emotion, aggression and emotional memory. According to Dr. Joseph LeDoux in his book, Emotional Brain, the amygdala has “a greater influence on the cortex [thinking part of the brain] than the cortex does on the amygdala, allowing emotional arousal to dominate and control thinking.”

I’m sure you know some crazy emotional people in your life… you’d think their amygdalas were the size of footballs.

Now, the most masterful marketers tap the right emotions for their products or services. In our smartphone example, Apple’s TV spots were spot on—they’re basically demos of the product, showing you how cool it would be to do that stuff. The prospect imagines him or herself doing those same things, in front of friends. And feeling awesome doing it.

Other marketers might tap into fear of loss (think insurance), happiness (entertainment), comfort (food)—the list goes on.

So, given the emotional mess we all are, where do you start when you’re marketing something? Well, I’ve culled it down to three basic questions. Answer these, and you’ll have a good framework to get you going.

What’s the emotional vibe about my industry right now? Do most prospects trust your industry? Are they indifferent to it? Fascinated? Think about what it must have been like to be a marketing vice president for a bank in the midst of the financial crisis a few years back. Between the bailouts and the bad press, consumers, as a whole, were pretty hostile toward financial institutions. What messages would you have put forth at the time, if any at all?

How do people feel about doing business with my company and businesses like mine? People do business with folks and companies they like. It’s a huge driving force. I’ve been staying with my overpriced, but loveable, dentist for too long. But I like him, so I’m in there every six months, like clockwork, getting my pricey teeth cleaned.

But having your finger on the pulse of your customer’s emotions is really important. If you have a social media presence, you should be scouring it for signs of distress. You should read online reviews and blogs about your organization and its competitors. Sometimes, there’s an emotional earthquake happening right under our feet, and we don’t even know it. Be in touch with what your customers feel… it’s critical.

Are they happy after they’ve done business with my company? How about competing companies? The answer to this, of course, depends on the business. If you’re a service business, then ongoing awareness of your clients’ emotional ebbs and flows is essential. If you’re a one-time-sale kind of business, then sniff out if your customers felt happy… or ripped off… excited about their new purchase… or crushingly disappointed. Happy customers will often spread the word. Unhappy customers always do.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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