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The exponential rise of the internet is posing a new set of challenges for today’s marketeers. For starters, present-day consumers are more well-informed than ever before. The vast amount of online resources have granted them access to all the ins and outs of a business; a business’ ethics, processes, and revenues, are now only a couple of keyboard taps away. As such, consumers are quick to point out inconsistencies between brands and their inaccurate or surface-level marketing ploys. 

Additionally, consumers are reported to have a diminished attention span – both in the individual and collective sense – compared to previous years.  This is the result of the rise of social media and short form content, which have also made consumers increasingly selective on what they place their focus on. So how do marketers go about these obstacles? What is the key to engagement?

 

Targeting consumers’ emotions. 

Marketeers are acutely aware of the power of emotions, and more importantly, their ability to bypass the conscious mind. While the definition of ‘emotion’ has still not been solidified, emotions are generally proposed to exist on a negative-to-positive spectrum encompassing six universal facets: happiness, anger, disgust, sadness, fear, and surprise. These emotions are theorised to have evolved due to their adaptive functions, which subsequently aid to our survival. For example, happiness is deemed beneficial as a reinforcing mechanism, and anger is a tool useful in improving an individual’s bargaining position. Emotions are thus key to driving behaviour and cueing action – and that is their inherent power.

It is indeed our emotions that guide most of our (ir)rational decisions. Scientific research has revealed that we feel before we think. This internal process applies to all situations; the purchasing one being no exception. As Mitchell Harper, the CEO and Founder of InsaneGrowth, claims: “People buy with emotion first and logic second.” There’s an abundance of proof evidentiating the importance of emotions and their ability to override logic in a marketing situation. Think of the yearly emotional journeyCoca-Cola takes its consumers through: from its running theme of festive happiness during the winter period, to the advertising of joy and fun throughout the summertime. Coca-Cola focuses on promoting its fizzy drink not for its taste, but rather for the shared feeling of belonging fostered amongst its consumers. These reoccurring associations define the brand, giving it the stature it upholds today.

 

Another brilliant example of emotional marketing done right is Always’ 2014 #LikeAGirl campaign, a campaign which earned the company multiple awards at Cannes and even an Emmy! The reason behind the campaign’s success was the brand’s ability to turn a phrase with negative connotations into one eliciting positive feelings. Again, as in the Coca Cola case, they weren’t advertising a product, but rather an idea – one encouraging social engagement and a sense of unity amongst women. In this case, an advertisement advocating for social issues panned out successfully.

 

However, not all companies who promoted a need for social change were successful. The power of emotional adverts is also made apparent through cases where ads evoked strong, negative emotional responses – resulting in irreversible backlash. This was the case with Gillette, whose 2019 advert on toxic masculinity sparked controversy. While some consumers praised the brand for raising awareness of social issues, others viewed the brand’s input to be insulting. In spite of some positive feedback, this campaign ultimately resulted in Gillette incurring a reported loss of $8 billion. It is thus of crucial important to consider emotions – and their resulting effects – in marketing campaigns.

Emotion-driven engagement isn’t limited to short-term marketing campaigns; it is just as  useful for maintaining long-term brand loyalty. A recent 2019 study by Deloitte revealed that consumers’ rational considerations with regards to a brand can either make or break the bond with that brand. These consumer considerations, which include aspects such as pricing and quality, are only put forefront in the beginning and ending stages of the brand relationship. If these aspects remain consistent, the ingredients to an ongoing relationship with consumers are based on emotions, trust, and shared values. As such, although a relationship may begin due to rational considerations, emotions are the engine driving everything in between.

To conclude, emotions are an important consideration for marketeers strategising for both short- and long-term endeavours. If done effectively, and with the right target audience in mind, such methods can snowball social engagement and enrich the relationship between a brand and consumer. Yet, as in any relationship between two people, it is important to consider the subject matters discussed, and how they mesh (or clash) with today’s sociopolitically tremulous climate.