Sunday, December 11, 2011
CONNECT WITH FEELING
A few weeks ago we celebrated Thanksgiving in the US with family and dear friends. It was a day to celebrate our many, many blessings. It was a day to be fully awake for everything we have to be thankful. This might include our health, love of family, support of friends, our livelihood, contentment, whatever and whomever we feel thankful about. It was a day to give thanks.
Unfortunately for many, it was more about the traditional turkey. It was a day off from work and the first day in a four-day holiday. It was about watching football on TV and throwing back a few cold brews. Or it was mouthing “thanks” but not truly feeling it. It was a thanks that came from the head but wasn’t truly felt in the heart. For these folks it was a day whose meaning was lost. It was a lost opportunity to be thankful.
So where are we going with this theme? We’re going straight at our marketing and communications. They’re a lot like those admirers (not practitioners) of Thanksgiving. There is little or no connection from the marketer to the customer with the essence of the brand, or the communications. It is the nature of a brand, and the intent of communications, that is lost. It is a lost opportunity to connect with customers - both current and potential.
Everyday we hear news reports of mounting unemployment (among other tragedies). Companies are streamlining and real, live, flesh and blood people (like our brothers, sisters, friends and coworkers) are losing their jobs. The numbers are staggering. The impact is profound, particularly as we approach the year-end holidays when we hope and expect to feel joyful. Unemployment is preying on millions of young people and tearing apart the dreams of many families. It doesn’t discriminate between the exceptional and mediocre performers. It doesn’t discriminate between DINKS (dual income, no kids) or single-mom families. It doesn’t discriminate among those suffering in the US, Europe, Asia or other parts of the world. Yes, we are well aware cognitively of what is happening. But do we feel it at a deeper level? Do we connect with these millions of individuals (and their families) and their plight emotionally? Do we feel it as profoundly as those that have lost their jobs feel?
The way one says, “I’m sorry,” in Spanish, is to say, “lo siento.” It comes from the verb “sentir,” the literal translation of which is “to feel.” So while we hear I’m sorry when it is said, its intended meaning is probably “I deeply feel it.” We step on someone’s foot, reflexively blurt out “I’m sorry,” and go on with whatever else we were doing despite the fact that, unknown to us, the individual may hobble around for a few days sporting a bruise that makes it difficult to wear a shoe or stand on that foot. But did we really and truly feel sorry? Did we have a physical reaction brought about by our feelings triggering a chemical dump into our blood system, which, in turn, caused our skin to blush and our breathing to feel constricted? This latter reaction is the result of really and truly feeling.
No, we probably don’t connect with statistics about the unemployed unless we are counted among their ranks, or someone close to us is going through the pain, fear and emotional upheaval that this brings. If it is merely facts we don’t feel it. If it is not communicated in a way that connects with feeling, we merely acknowledge the facts with a shake of our head, maybe a comment, and then go on to doing our thing as if nothing ever happened, or is happening around us.
Connect with feeling
It’s the same with brands and communications. If customers don’t feel it they don’t and won’t connect. If they don’t connect then they go on doing what they’ve been doing. No change in behavior. To trigger a change in customer behavior, to stimulate their taking the actions we seek in our marketing and communication behavior objectives (or any behavior objectives), we need to get them to feel a connection to the brand and our messaging on an emotional level. We need them to be able to realize the brand’s value, its message, its essence. We need them to realize its meaning. We need them to feel it. Not to rationalize it intellectually but feel it emotionally.
This is not about leaping-up the benefit ladder and spouting an emotional benefit like confidence or trust. No, that’s not it at all. It’s about conveying a relevant message and doing it in a way that makes those customers feel confidence, trust, or whatever you intend for them to feel. It could be that you want the customer to appreciate your brand’s product performance advantage (i.e., a product benefit). Well, you can do it but to do so you have to connect with feeling. You have to connect in a way that will evoke emotion.
Here are some relevant examples of connecting with feeling:
The Curves brand - Curves is a health club for women. Not men. Just women. These are overweight women who suffer from concomitant conditions, for which they are prescribed medications, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and/or high cholesterol. They probably have been overweight for much of their lives. They’ve tried diets, perhaps, experiencing temporary success but ultimately regaining lost weight and piling on a few extra pounds on top of it. They find those gyms, whose membership boasts the svelte and beautiful, far too intimidating. These women have a low self-esteem and lack confidence that they can be successful in losing weight and realizing true happiness.
Curves provides these women with the support they need to instill the confidence that they can be successful. Their founders feel compassion for these women and a genuine calling to do what they can to help these women to be successful, not just sell them a gym membership or another diet plan. At Curves there are no men, no mirrors, no spandex. The equipment is set-up in an oval pattern so that the women can see and encourage each other. The brand’s purpose is to transform these women through hope, encouragement and sensible fitness programs.
Even their communications serve to encourage, motivate and inspire. A television spot for the brand depicts a young girl of about 9 or 10-years of age, a bit on the pudgy side, tentatively approaching the end of the high diving board. Her arms are held tight to her side to maintain control of her fear. Her shoulders are up around her ears. You can feel her fear as she stands at the edge of the diving board. It’s palpable. Is she going to jump, or not? She peers around to see that no one is looking, looks down into the pool, takes a big, deep breath and … jumps. Next we see her head-on dog paddling in the pool, sporting a big smile. A super appears “Curves. The Power to Amaze.” We think the brand connects in a way that gives these women the confidence that they can do it. They can successfully lose weight and get in shape.
iPod, iPhone and iPad – Remember when you purchased your first iPod, iPhone and/or iPad and opened the packaging? Forget for a moment about the devices themselves, we are talking about the packaging. Chances are you never experienced packaging quite like it. It triggered feelings of craftsmanship, something special to behold. Then we get to the devices. As light as they are, they have gravitas. They feel good in the hand, and their simple elegance is dazzling. They quietly command us to use them, play with them. Then the way they connect to, and interact with, our Macs, and each other, is smooth, effortless and seamless. They allow us to simply connect to our music, movies, presentations, and enjoy the experience. These devices are designed to express their essence and in doing so they connect with feeling.
Mc Donald’s Adult Playground – Kids love McDonald’s. You? Me? Us? Probably not. So when the kids clamor for McDonald’s we retreat in fear of ingesting way too much fat, the din from over-stimulated kids, spilled soft drinks, and the thought of indigestion. Hardly sounds like they are connecting with the right kind of feeling. If it were not for our children we would probably never set foot in one. But McDonald’s is about more than the food. McDonald’s standard of identity may be a fast food restaurant but they want to be thought of as a family, fun food venue. How do they connect? With on-site playgrounds, happy meals, Ronald McDonald, and party rooms.
How do they connect with parents? You know, that special species of adults. Well, McDonald’s built an adult playground in the center of the work district in Sydney, Australia. It had swings, slides, and the kinds of things that kids of every age love. Only these were scaled for adult usage. As people came into the city they discovered the playground. And, they could not resist its call. They swung joyously on the swings, slid head first down the slides, and, well, behaved like children. McDonald’s adult playground connected with their inner child and made them realize, really feel the joy their children experience whenever they are taken to McDonald’s. (As an aside, we cannot wait until our grandchildren are old enough for us to take them to enjoy the experience of McDonald’s.) We can feel their joy!
We’ve given you examples of brands, devices, communications and special events that connect with feeling. We hope they inspire you to do the same. Here are some thoughts for your consideration in getting your marketing to connect with feeling.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS:
1. Live in the moment – Don’t be attached to the past. Use it to gain insights into feelings. Don’t live in the future either. (Hey, we are NOT saying that you should not plan.) What we want you to do is connect with the “here and now,” and what you are feeling. Don’t shut down your feelings. Feel what’s going on. Really feel it. Get out of your mind and into the cells of your body, and deep into your heart. Feel what someone else is saying or feeling, don’t be thinking about your response.
2. Keep a diary of your feelings – Why do it? So you can get in touch with what you feel and, importantly, what triggers those feelings. Perhaps, it is a scene in a movie that made you feel sad, causing tears to well-up in your eyes. Or maybe it’s a feeling of contentment you get when the sun comes through the clouds to warm you. List the feeling and identify the trigger. It will help you appreciate ways in which we can connect to help our customers feel for our brand and its messaging.
3. Empathize – Life is not about us. It’s about serving (or, if you prefer, satisfying) others. If we serve our customers better than our competitors then our brands will be preferred, and grow healthy. This starts with an in-depth understanding of our customer. We need to get beyond the numbers we get from quantitative research and get a feel for the fabric of the customer. Use our target-customer tool (which contains seven elements) to define the customer clearly and completely. Talk with customers. Learn to think like them too. Don’t assume that they are irrational or not very intelligent if they don’t choose your brand or respond to your tactics. Try to get at the root of what is triggering their choices and behaviors. Put yourself in their shoes. Hypothesize and check it out. We should know our customer so well that we can predict how s/he will respond to a piece of stimulus. Everything we do in marketing is stimulus. And we should only serve those stimuli that motivate the customer to behave in a predetermined manner (our marketing and communication behavior objectives).
4. Think impact. Think results. – Our work should resonate with customers. It should “strike a responsive chord” in the hearts and souls of our customers. When one strikes one note in a properly tuned guitar it causes the next string to vibrate with resonance. That’s what we are looking to achieve with our work. We are looking to strike a responsive chord with our customers. Strive, too, to be evocative. To be evocative means to evoke feelings, to evoke a response. If we don’t get the feelings we won’t get the response. And, if we don’t get the response then we won’t get the behaviors or the results that we seek. Is your work evocative? Does it strike a responsive chord with your customers?
5. Go with your gut – Get out of living in your head. Get out of trying to play up to the way your boss would see it. Hey, we’re not telling you to go “stupid” now. Instead, we’re inveighing you to use your intuition, instinct, and tap into your feelings. Agency personnel will often ask for your gut reaction to creative. Why? Because this is how customers respond to products, packaging, services, ad communications, promotions, etc. Does the work excite you? Does it make you feel proud of yourself? Importantly, does it cause you to feel as you hope for your customer to feel? And, critically important, does it trigger the intended behavior you seek of the customer? Use your gut. Then verify with marketing research.
6. Express your inner self to connect with feeling – The year-end holidays provide each of us with the opportunity to express ourselves in a way that communicates how we feel about others. It also provides us with an opportunity to get others to feel, deeply feel something of worth. Perhaps, you might take time to send out a card with your expression of gratitude, friendship or love for another. Or surprise someone special with a thoughtful gift or gesture. Consider making a donation to a worthwhile charity, gifting a homeless person, or delivering food for needy families. Do something that makes you and others connect with feeling. By the way, it’s not good enough to just go through the motions or tell that someone. Make her or him feel it. Connect with feeling this holiday season, and throughout your career.
This is our final article for DISPATCHES for 2011. We are taking the remainder of the year to celebrate the holiday season with our families, friends and loved ones. We wish each and everyone one of you a joyous holiday season filled with peace and love, and a wonderful New Year. Until 9 January 2012 …
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney
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