CMOs, Win Big by Letting Emotions Drive Advertising

Hit Home: Tap Into Consumers' Feelings to Create Ads That Are More Likely to Be Believed and Remembered

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In his book, Dan Hill explains the use of facial coding to identify emotions.
In his book, Dan Hill explains the use of facial coding to identify emotions.
It's hardly news to chief marketing officers that emotions matter. After all, as the chief defenders of their brands, CMOs are paid to take the long view, and part of the long view is remembering that loyalty is first and foremost a feeling the company should always be striving to promote among its key market segments.
That said, why else do emotions matter in marketing? Here are five reasons:
  • First, as brain science has proved, consumers feel before they think, and feelings happen fast. There has to be a "gotcha" at the beginning of an ad because interest and relevancy can't wait until the end.

  • Not only does the rational argument -- persuasion -- come after the emotional connection has been made, rationality is furthermore limited in that it is really best suited to address needs. In contrast, emotionally imbued wants are superior because they're more immediate and serve as the gateway to stopping power -- an ad's ability to stop people in their tracks -- as well as being ultimately more profitable.
  • Believability is based on a gut feeling.

  • A strong, ultimately positive emotional connection is required to jump over the fear of being sold to, which is rampant in today's highly skeptical marketplace. Real persuasion is emotional in nature.

  • Finally, a substantial, appropriate -- on-emotion -- connection means less customer abandonment because the advertising isn't merely interruptive in nature. Instead, it's laying the groundwork for loyalty.
Given those reasons, why is it the emotions CMOs should rely on to inspire commercial success are not given the strategic prominence they deserve? To answer that question, let's start with the two parties CMOs navigate between. They get pitched by their advertising agencies, which must cross two emotional hurdles: Getting the client to really buy into the campaign, and getting the target market to feel it. Not surprisingly, in dealing with internal clients, CMOs then face a similar pair of hurdles. First, there's the need to get the lawyers, accountants and production people who populate the company to endorse the campaign. Second, it's important these internal clients not alter the campaign in ways that will preclude the possibility of an emotional connection forming between the offer and the target market.

The extra edge
Avoiding crippling changes isn't easily done, however, because those internal clients tend to see the world by the numbers, for the numbers, with the offer as the center. So how can CMOs ward off the pressures to emphasize the rational, on-message attributes of an offer -- especially when those attributes may not be as differentiated as internal clients believe them to be? In other words, how can internal clients be led to understand, value and accept the impact of emotions on the success of branded offers?

The answer lies first in recognizing that tangible attributes can usually be me-too-ed over time. Competitors can pull the same levers. So these days, smart CMOs start by strategically modeling the extra edge: the emotions they want the target audience to feel and why. In working with the agency, the advantage is that doing so provides a blueprint for keeping the creative suitably on-emotion. The emotions the target market is intended to feel will fit the dynamics of the offer and the target market's beliefs, values and sensibility without placing undue constraints on the creative. Meanwhile, in regard to internal clients the strategic modeling of emotions is beneficial in that a disciplined strategy will make them more comfortable with the process and thus less likely to practice undue interference.

Here's how that strategic modeling can be done. As shown in the illustration, psychologists tend to agree that there are six core emotions that transcend culture, affecting every consumer in an age of global commerce. Those primary emotions and the secondary emotions that emerge from blends of the six are the key. CMOs should identify which emotion they're most eager to inspire in the target market and which they're most eager to dispel. Then as part of explaining those choices to themselves, they should work with the agency to identify which core visuals will best convey those emotions.
Dan Hill is the president of Sensory Logic, a Minneapolis-based research consultancy specializing in sensory-emotive strategies, and the author of the new book, Emotionomics: Winning Hearts and Minds.
Dan Hill is the president of Sensory Logic, a Minneapolis-based research consultancy specializing in sensory-emotive strategies, and the author of the new book, Emotionomics: Winning Hearts and Minds.

Now, getting good creative that will have great ROI value because of an emotional connection that resonates longer and more strongly can take many forms. Disney owns not just a word, but an emotion: happiness. Having surrendered the surprise of innovation to rival beverages with more interesting bottles, Snapple has resorted to messages under the bottle cap. Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry's delights with new flavors with striking, fun names. Not to be outdone is Michelin, which sells tires based on the guilt factor that otherwise you don't really care about your family's safety. Finally, there's Viagra and the fear of failure. Can you think of another product that's taken a health warning ("If an erection lasts more than four hours ..."). and so successfully turned it into an implied promise?

Staying on-emotion
What are the advantages of being on-emotion rather than merely on-message? They're plentiful. Being on-emotion means your advertising is more likely to be seen, read, believed, remembered. When emotions gets tapped, the ensuing relationship between a company and that customer acts as a barrier to conquest by competitors because loyalty is a feeling. Emotions may not be quantifiable, but they sure are bankable. Getting a 50-year-old man to spend $25,000 to buy a Harley-Davidson bike that could get him killed is phenomenal.

In the future, a smart CMO will build a team around himself that's truly emotionally literate. To that end, their agencies' strategic planners and creative directors will be intent on intuitively grasping where the strongest on-emotion positioning opportunity lies by delivering on blends of the key emotions as well as invoking one or more of the four core human motivations of defend, bond, learn and acquire. Meanwhile, the researchers these CMOs hire will at once become both better trained in the visual arts so essential to good advertising and alert to the reality that you can't identify the pertinent emotions by asking questions alone.

The bottom line is that being on-emotion can provide a competitive advantage because the strategic modeling of emotions is still in its infancy. Get ahead by putting emotion into play not only on behalf of the target market but for the distribution channel and employees, too. When somebody says, "I don't know what I want, but I'll know it when I see it," she really means: "I'll know it when I feel it."
The heart of strategic modeling
The six core emotions that transcend cultures and their secondary emotions.
From Emotionomics: Winning Hearts and Minds
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