I have a somewhat tenuous relationship with exercise. I exercise because I should, not because I enjoy it. And like many people, I’m also busy with kids, work and other commitments, so I don’t have a lot of time to pursue a complicated exercise regime.
That’s why I run -- it’s efficient and, most importantly, doesn’t require that I sign up for a gym membership. The one thing it does require is that I have a decent pair of running shoes. But because I’m an exerciser and not an athlete, I don’t think very deeply when it comes to choosing and purchasing shoes. So, what can a brand do to convince someone like me to choose their shoes over those of another brand?
Brands employ a number of different strategies to affect the decisions consumers make. For example, some brands choose to make emotional appeals using phrases like “Taste the feeling” or “You’re in good hands.” When successful, these appeals allow a brand to evoke a specific emotion, creating a connection with the consumer that results in a natural affinity for the brand’s products or services. The premise is pretty straightforward: It makes sense to choose things that make you feel good.
Other brands use cost-benefit or bang-for-buck language to appeal to the consumer’s rational thought process. They bellow things like, “Save 15 percent or more!” or “Find qualified candidates in as little as 24 hours!” They want the consumer to be convinced that what they’re offering is a great deal and to feel confident that choosing the brand’s products or services is a smart decision.
Both approaches can be effective. But what if there’s an even more effective approach -- one that relies on an understanding that people don’t make their decisions based purely on cost-benefit analysis or based on an emotional connection, but on something in between?
The reality is that most people make decisions intuitively. Even though there are both rational and emotional components to the decision-making process, people will ultimately make decisions that seem right to them. That’s why the most effective appeals to consumers tap into their intuition, focusing on messaging that makes their decisions seem entirely and obviously right for them.
To capitalize on this, it’s critical that we understand what intuition is and how it works. Essentially, intuition is the instinctive reaction a person has to something as it passes through a filter created out of that individual’s collected life experiences. Connecting to a person’s intuition requires the ability to honestly answer the question, “Do you understand who I am, where I’m coming from and why this decision is important to me?” The key to answering that question is to understand both the substance and context of the decision being made.
Substance refers to the practical aspects of the decision: what the decision is, who’s making it, who else is involved in and/or affected by the decision and the desired outcome of making that decision. Emotion can certainly be involved in deciding some of those things, but generally speaking, the substance of the decision is its rational component -- that is, the cost-benefit or bang-for-buck analysis.
Context, on the other hand, primarily refers to the more emotion-driven aspects of the decision: the state of mind of the decision-maker, the physical context in which the decision is being made, the timing or urgency of the decision, the perceived importance of the decision, and the hopes and fears of the decision-maker. Reason plays a role here, but context is primarily about the primal, instinctive components of the decision-making process.
Understanding both substance and context puts brand leaders in a better position to understand the shared, collective experience of the consumers being targeted. Appealing directly to that shared experience and to the intuitive framework shared by those consumers is the most powerful way to drive decision-making. And that appeal, whatever form it takes, needs to be creatively captivating, emotionally compelling and rationally satisfying.
Ultimately, the delivery of the message has to hold consumers’ attention long enough to deliver the emotional and rational components required to connect to their life experiences in a way that not only makes their decision seem right, but also allows them to feel good about it and to justify it to themselves and others.
Nike is a company that gets it -- that’s why it targets its “Just do it” message not only to athletes, but also to everyday people like me. It knows that when I buy running shoes, the substance of my decision is about the purchase, but the context of the decision is what really matters. The thing preventing me from exercising isn’t the shoes; it’s the motivation to get up and get out there.
Because Nike understands this, it build creative like this commercial. It makes a strong emotional appeal, suggesting that if I wear Nike shoes, I’ll be more like the individuals featured in the ads. But, more importantly, it also appeals to my own aspirations by putting me on a level playing field with elite athletes. Ultimately, it’s that comparison that motivates me to get out there. And, not coincidentally, it’s what makes it more likely that ordinary people like me will choose Nike over its competitors.