Empty Emotional Promises – Part One
In my 20+ years consulting for dozens of Fortune 100 companies (including Kraft, Panasonic, Lipton, American Express, and Whirlpool), my wife and I have evaluated literally hundreds of marketing campaigns for their emotional appeal to prospects. So its with much confidence I tell you that while most marketers know theyve got to push emotional hot buttons to make the sale, the overwhelming majority get it incredibly, incredibly wrong.
Its a shame, because if you use emotional marketing right, youll build long-lasting relationships with customers who will become loyal to your company and purchase time after time. But if you use emotional marketing incorrectly, youll quickly drive people away and erode market share.
You see, most people assume that all marketing increases sales, and that good marketing just gives you a bigger bump than bad.
But theyre wrong. Bad marketing can actually un-sell your product!
In his book Olgilvy on Advertising, David Olgilvy (head of the Olgilvy & Mather agency) reveals a study done by a former research director at Ford. Automotive ads were placed in every other copy of the Readers Digest. At the end of the year, people who had NOT been exposed to the ad had purchased more cars.
So its entirely possible to spend millions of dollars on advertising that actually talks people out of buying. The point is that emotional marketing is not something you should engage in casually or assume you know how to do without study. Yet its not at all difficult if you understand the real common sense reason which goes into it, and a few simple techniques to avoid the biggest errors.
The purpose of this article is to discuss the biggest emotional marketing mistake we see time and again, and to give you a simple method for avoiding it 100% of the time.
The #1 emotional marketing mistake of all time is
THE EMOTIONAL EMPTY PROMISE: Dont Build Your Dream House On a Shaky Foundation! Sure, sell them a dream. But make sure its based on a real point of difference you can own!
OK. So you probably already know that people buy for emotional reasons, and then justify their purchase with logic. No surprises there
But where most people fall short is in setting up their emotional promise so that it CAN be supported with logic. This isnt about tricking people; its about understanding the deep human needs which are met by real features and benefits in the market.
Ideally, the primary emotional promise you make should revolve around a point of difference feature you uniquely own. (A point of difference benefit is something people will actually pay money for because youve distinguished yourself from competitors. It contrasts with a price of entry benefit which is something every competitor in the marketplace has to have to even be considered in the running. At the end of this article Ill show you how to quickly find point of difference benefits in your market).
Without real, rational promises, your customer is left with no real reason to repeat their purchase. When the emotional impact of your ad wears off (and it will!), theres nothing for them to sink their teeth into, no concrete reasons to justify an ongoing relationship with your product or service.
So, while emotional marketing tricks to create love at first sight certainly do exist, I strongly recommend against using them without a real promise. Because the infatuation inevitably wears off, and strong marketing systems arent built on a string of one night stands.
The conventional marketing wisdom Sell the sizzle, not the steak is a little off base. You see, without the steak, theres really nothing to sell. Sell the sizzleand the steak instead!
Why Empty Emotional Promises Are So Common:
Most advertisers know that to grab attention and generate interest, you need to make an emotional connection with the prospect. (Even marketers who target physicians, engineers, or accountants need to emotionally connect with their prospects before they can present their factual messages and points of difference. Thats the entire reason that drug reps exist in the pharmaceutical industry!)
But the emotional connection is only half the battle.
The key to moving people from an emotionally excited state to actual purchase lies in connecting the emotional promise to real features and benefits of your offering. Its not enough to grab their emotional attention you need to lead them step by step to the sale with real, rational reasons to purchase.
How to Avoid Empty Emotional Promises:
Before you release your message, ask yourself, What will people remember about my product after the emotional reaction wears off? Have I given them a real reason to purchase?
Let me give you an example from a 2005 Superbowl ad. (By the way so my lawyer doesnt shoot me these are very well considered opinions, not objective facts).
Empty Emotional Promise Ford Trucks:
A thirty-something man is driving in the desert with his family. Theyre in a car (clearly NOT a Ford truck).
Enter the action music, and a large gang of bikers overtakes and surrounds them.
Oh No! says the wife, as she urges him to pull over.
The man says something like Relax thats the last thing we should do! I know how to handle this.
He pulls into a restaurant parking lot where you see about 15 jet black Ford Trucks lined up in the same way one might see motorcycles lined up at a biker bar.
The bikers pause and look frightened before going in. Eventually one of them says Im not going in there, and another says the salad bar is better up the road! (This implies that Hells Angels become wimpy salad eaters instead of brawling beer drinkers in the face of Ford Truck owners.)
Then the announcer says something like We dont just make our Trucks tough, we make YOU tough!
Why Its an Empty Emotional Promise:
Ford presents an intriguing premise here buy a tough truck and it makes you tougher by association. The emotional part of the premise is executed extremely well. (Its attention getting, entertaining, and you cant help but laugh).
Further, Im pretty sure that Ford has done enough homework to know that Feeling Tough IS a very desirable emotional benefit in their market.
But heres the problem.
- What makes Ford trucks tough? Is it a stronger suspension? The ability to weather all kinds of roads? Hauling capacity? Horsepower?
- What does tough actually mean in terms of benefits for the consumer?
- Does Ford actually offer a unique point of difference above and beyond its competitors that makes it tougher than they are?
Theres no way for the viewer to LOGICALLY CONNECT their desire to Feel Tough to Ford Trucks. So after the emotional excitement wears off, the consumer is left to themselves to determine what tough means, and only has an inkling that Ford might deliver. (Another big mistake Ford makes is directlytelling the viewer about the emotional benefit We Dont Just Make Trucks Tough, We Make You Tough, instead of implying it.)
The purpose of marketing communications is to sell, not just to entertain. Empty Emotional promises dont sell, they only entertain. (Sometimes, they also win advertising awards).
Check back in on Monday to learn how you can avoid empty emotional promises in your marketing efforts.
About the Author:
Dr. Glenn Livingston is a clinical psychologist and marketing consultant to dozens of Fortune 500 companies. Together with his wife Sharon, he’s founded three advertising companies and launched more than a dozen profitable markets of his own.
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