March 26, 2008
PLUMBING THE DEPTHS OF EMOTION
Emotional connections are vitally important in creating brand loyalty. Why is it that consumers will pay a significant price premium (upwards of 50%) for Johnson’s Baby Powder? Is it the talc ingredient found in the product? Or is it the product’s fragrance? The fact of the matter is that competitive baby powder products are comprised of the same ingredients – talc and fragrance. And, while the rational mind of the consumer chooses to defend the selection of Johnson’s Baby Powder with one of these product attributes the subconscious mind, if plumbed, would undoubtedly reveal an emotional connection. It’s the only connection that matters when it comes to establishing “brands.”
Dr. Abraham Maslow, the clinical psychologist, suggested the importance of emotions in his theory of the “Hierarchy of Needs.” As you will recall from your studies, he postulated that there is a hierarchy of needs progressing from the most basic to the most sophisticated. He likened the hierarchy to a ladder we climb one rung at a time. We must first step onto the lowest rung, which deals with survival (give me food, clothing, shelter), before we can proceed up the ladder. The topmost rung is … yes, you have it, “self-actualization.” Self-actualization is an emotional need. It’s in one’s head. So he is informing us that emotional needs are the highest order needs. And remember, needs and benefits are “two sides of the same coin.” This suggests, in turn, that emotional benefits are the highest order benefits. Ergo we choose Johnson’s Baby Powder because it symbolizes the deep and abiding love we have for and share with our baby, Starbuck’s Coffee for a deserved self-rewarding experience, Rolex watches to affirm our success to and status with others and, maybe, Viagra because it helps us feel like a “whole man” again.
Accordingly, our brand positioning should (at some point in our brand lifecycle) cater to an emotional need and pay-off that need with an emotional benefit. But as we have stated in past issues of DISPATCHES, many of the emotional benefits we encounter in Brand Positioning Strategy statements are just so much malarkey. They either haven’t earned it (one rung of the ladder at a time), or it’s wishful thinking (that deceives no one but the marketers that have penned it), or it’s over the top (in other words it’s --------!). Many more times the proffered emotional benefit is innocuous. It just doesn’t mean anything to prospective target-customers.
Part of the problem traces to our rather limited vocabulary (do you find this surprising? astonishing?) when it comes to identifying and expressing emotions. Most often the emotional benefit in the BPS will read “confidence/trust,” “peace of mind,” “control,” or “feel like a (whatever – you fill in the blank).” It’s just so shallow. Moreover, it is probably not grounded in the reality of the product, brand equity, customer experiences and/or perceptions. A limited vocabulary will also hamper our ability to identify and/or understand the emotions of our target-customer, no less be able to blueprint and establish the connection we hope to build through our marketing initiatives.
It’s important for us, then, to expand our vocabulary when it comes to emotions. Dave Roche recently provided us with a listing of “the vocabulary of feelings” which provides a useful starting point since “feelings” are, after all, “emotions.” The source of this work is “Improving Therapeutic Communications – A Guide for Developing Effective Techniques” by Hammond, Hepworth and Smith. Actually, Dave came across this in his extensive reading on developing healthy relationships – the kind between partners. This, too, is apropos since brands establish relationships with target customers, products do not. The vocabulary of feelings that Dave shared with us (which we believe may only be a partial listing) has 10 basic feelings (e.g., happy, fearful, lonely, etc.), which, in turn, contain a plethora of feeling states, which are further classified as to being “strong,” “moderate” and “mild.” The total number of vocabulary words is more than 300. A more precise articulation of someone who is “happy” could be “on cloud nine” (strong), jovial (moderate), or glad (mild).
We need to establish an emotional connection with target-customers to create brand loyalty and, in order to do so, we need to plumb the depths of emotions in drawing-up our Brand Positioning Strategy statements.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS:
||Expand your vocabulary of emotions. This will assist you in identifying target-customers’ feelings and articulating the emotional connection you need to establish. Below is a list of “the vocabulary of feelings”:
THE VOCABULARY OF FEELINGS
|LEVEL OF INTENSITY
On cloud nine
On top of the world
Good for nothing
Like a failure
In high spirits
Unsure of yourself
Ill at ease
|LEVEL OF INTENSITY
In a dilemma
In a quandary
Full of questions
At the mercy of
Sick at heart
At loose ends
Going around in
In a bind
Apart from others
Taken for granted
||Get real with emotions. Don’t promise what you can’t fulfill. The most valuable emotions are one that the customer grants you though the customer experience with the brand. It is part of the brand equity. It’s important to harvest these and reflect them back to the target-customer through your marketing initiatives.
Connect on a subconscious level with customers. In other words, don’t tell them what they should be feeling, let them feel it through the stimulus (i.e., communications, merchandising, packaging, public relations, etc.) you share with them.
Be aware of where you are in the product lifecycle. While your BPS may point the way to an emotional benefit, be cognizant that it may take time to get there. Don’t forget to communicate your product rational benefit in those cases where you have clear superiority versus competition.
Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney
© 2003 Brand Development Network (BDN) International. All rights reserved.