Opinion: Return on emotion is the new ROI
We all know that the days of easily calculated return on investment are years, if not decades, behind us. The once-simple formula, which compared how much a brand spent on an ad campaign to how many people it reached, has been replaced with new math for our digital age. While the temptation might be to keep counting clicks, eyeballs, likes and retweets (or some combination) and call it an assessment of success, consumers have become way too savvy for purely quantitative measures to matter much.
In an era when consumers want more from a brand than a product they like, and brands want consumers who are not just purchasers but devoted followers, we need a new way to measure success. I believe that we need to look at return on emotion.
The Harvard Business Review has found that consumers become more valuable to a brand as they become more emotionally connected. “Emotionally connected customers buy more of your products and services, visit you more often, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more—everything you hope their experience with you will cause them to do,” concludes the magazine’s study.
The key to creating these emotional connections, according to HBR, is to tap into one of many emotional motivators. Though researchers initially came up with more than 300 factors that drive behavior, they were able to pick the 10 most important motivating desires:
To stand out from the crowd; have confidence in the future; enjoy a sense of well-being; feel a sense of freedom; feel a sense of thrill; feel a sense of belonging; protect the environment; be the person I want to be; feel secure; and succeed in life—which includes living meaningfully.
Experiential marketing is an extremely powerful way to tap into these motivators. Here are examples:
Stand out from the crowd: Billie Eilish, who had her first hit at age 13, is known among her Gen Z fans not just for her music, but for her outlandish wardrobe. Eilish has described her fashion sense as “this much above crazy.” The recent Grammy winner teamed with Freak City to create graffiti-inspired merchandise. She further tapped into her fans’ desires to stand out from the crowd with the “Billy Eilish Experience,” a live entertainment pop-up with Spotify that featured limited edition items in partnership with NTWRK.
Be who you want to be: Pinterest, already known for helping people be who they want to be, last year brought this attribute to life at the Cannes Lions festival with experiences based on personalization and self-expression. Its installations included seaside conference rooms, lounges and “dreamland”—a space on the beach where hammocks were hung under streamers printed with real-life dreams that came true with the help of Pinterest.
A sense of belonging: In planning the Propel Co: Labs Fitness Festival, brand leaders wanted to bring all fitness enthusiasts together as a community and combat what they saw as clear divisions within their consumer base. Some were devotees of boot camps, while others swore by kickboxing or spinning. Festival participants sampled it all—more than 40 different workouts from around the country led by experts and set to live music by well-known artists. The brand reported that people left the event 85 percent more likely to purchase Propel water.
A sense of well-being: Well-being goes beyond just physical fitness, and Miravel Resorts fully embraces this mentality with its new Austin retreat, which is designed for those looking to achieve a sense of both physical and mental well-being. Guests at the all-inclusive property can choose from a variety of classes including hiking, yoga, cooking lessons, meditation with horses, cardio drumming or experience a floating pool massage.
Seeking a thrill: For the last two years, Google has treated CES attendees to amusement park-like rides and slides. In 2019, the tech giant took participants on a ride through a mom’s busy day as she ran errands with her kids and tried to plan a 90th birthday party for Grandma, all with the help of Google Assistant. The feel-good ride included tunnels with lights, music, and visual effects and ended at a bakery—where riders enjoyed fresh macarons and saw that Grandma’s cake had been successfully delivered.
Experiential marketing allows brands to offer a tangible, immersive moment that starts a two-way dialogue and, in the best-case scenarios, creates a long-term, meaningful relationship. Experiencing the brand taps into consumers’ emotions and motivators and creates a bond with them that is not possible in the same way with any other medium. In short, it provides the greatest return on emotion.