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  • Writer's pictureYannis Anastasakis

Emotion marketing; you have to love it

As the owner of a start-up company, where any frivolous spending is a really bad idea, I had to rely disproportionately on my intuition and experience in my efforts to position my product. This task became all the more difficult when we started working on the actual wording that would convey our messages. With no time, or funds, and yet fully and painfully aware of the importance of “words” and the potential risk they represent if you get things wrong, I started thinking about finding and using some tools to help me evaluate the quality and direction I was taking with my messages.

Given that we are a B2B company focusing on selling translations, our core values (and the words that will surround our messages to our potential customers have to be “toned down” significantly (for reasons that should be clear by the end of this entry). However, I believe that our methodology and tool-set is ideal for companies that sell to consumers. Here are some thoughts about this that you may find interesting:

A few years ago I came across the concept of emotion marketing (a term coined by Hallmark, I believe). In a world where measuring impact before performing sample studies is practically impossible, I thought that this particular way of thinking has some potential. What if we were to use the single common thread in marketing (the consumer) as a tool for message evaluation?

In a nutshell, emotion marketing does just that. It is an approach to the old marketing problem with a completely different set of tools. Instead of looking at your product’s positioning and trying to evaluate if your “words” deliver that message clearly, you instead define and evaluate everything that you do from the point of emotional context! In a nutshell, you identify all the aspects of a product and evaluate its attributes from the point of view of some sort of emotion quanta (which – for ease – I will quickly define here as “bundles of information that are addressing an audience’s state of emotions”).

This is probably easier to explain through an example:

Let’ say that it is 2010, and you are the head of marketing at Apple Inc. Your job is to introduce to the world the new iPhone 4! By any standard, and at least at that point in time, this is the dream marketing job! Remember that when you are asked to promote it, this iPhone is the fastest, most beautiful, most efficient, most safe, most established and most desired smartphone in the world, with the most apps available for it, and the most respected and loved brand name behind it. Everything about this product is nearly perfect!

The single tricky part of the job is one which anyone who has sold something really good in their professional lives will appreciate: How do you position such a beast of a phone? How do you make it stand out when talking about any one feature of it will surely devalue all the other awesome features that you don’t want to leave behind? What will be your “handle” to get this product launched towards your hungry audience, ensuring it will be devoured – as it deserves to be?

Well, you have seen the ads. Although a proportion of app-based messaging was introduced to “push” certain aspects of it, the majority of iPhone’s ads used a key “ground level” message that revolved around FaceTime! Basically video calling… and not very good video calling at that. FaceTime (at least at the time – not sure what is happening now) only works when you are within a broadband Wi-Fi environment… and all that when the same type of service had already been available elsewhere, outside Wi-Fi environment restrictions and for the best part of a decade already! There was nothing really new there…

Why on earth would these very intelligent people at Apple do this to their messages? Why such a mediocre feature was selected over everything else?

Some might argue that the FaceTime adverts could show the smartphone at its best. With retina display and the superior processor working its magic in the background, Apple could show a smooth, enviable service.

Personally, I think that this is right, but only represents a small part of the story.

I believe Apple’s marketing department chose video calling for all the right reasons. Yes, iPhone can be heralded as the product bringing the era of hi-res calling (no granular images and no struggle to see the other person any more).

Yet I think that most importantly FaceTime was chosen because a video calling service gives Apple’s marketing department a wondrous tool. The ability to show people’s faces when selling it, and alongside the faces the ability to convey people’s situations – to which the audience will invariably relate.

Why? Because when you show people’s faces, you can convey emotions and really “charge” the story – thus ensuring you leave a lasting impression that will be “active” until the audience hits the shops the next day.

By showing dads talking to their children from afar, Apple isn’t just selling to parents’ guilt (to the experienced marketer they are saying: “buy this because your children are missing you, and this will make sure they will see more of you”). This ad is also showing a father missing his children – and vice versa – a situation to which we can all relate, and which “talks” to us at a very deep emotional level.

If you watch Apple’s FaceTime adverts with a question in your mind (what is the game this ad is playing at an emotional level)? you will see it in a completely different light. You will see that in the US the iPhone ads were almost exclusively about love and occasionally loss. Unquestionably these are some of the strongest emotions on which you can sell a product, and with which practically everyone can relate.

In one advert that really stood out from that respect, a lovely Asian lady (attractive to all men and easy to identify with for ethnic minorities) is sharing her pregnancy scan images with the child’s father (how emotionally significant is that moment?) … a father who happens to be a soldier in Afghanistan (yes.. a “hero”)… who also happens to be deaf (the actors communicate with sign language – implying to our emotional intelligence – which is not very clever at the best of times – that this father would have no other way to share that moment)! Yes, it is likely that Apple was also trying to be inclusive (one of their core values), but the true value earned from a marketing perspective is in the emotional quanta they were able to deliver to so many of us….

Parental guilt. Love. Feeling of longing. A happy family. Buy iPhones to be truly emotionally complete!

Most other ads of Apple also revolved around emotionally charged situations. And in my book, despite the “easy” job, their marketing department has earned its keep. There is no app or processor speed, or immunity to viruses, or anything else that can ever deliver such powerful hooks. Tugging directly at the audience’s emotions will always be a winner.

What can we learn from this? Well, looking for those emotion quanta in marketing messages can be an extremely helpful way for us to understand how we are selling (or how we are being sold to). It is a rough method, and we should always use our experience and intuition when making any such call, and we have to always account for the different ways in which people interpret messages; but it will surely help.

So, next time you see an advert that you really like (or dislike) it should be easy to know why. Just think of what emotional tugging the advert is attempting to deliver and how successful they seem to be. You will most likely see the whole thing in a very different light.

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