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MARKETING

Oldie but Goodie Marketing Secret: Emotion Sells

Take a tip from Disney: sometimes you need to tug at people's heartstrings when you pitch your product.

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Even if you're not a "Star Wars" fan, there's another reason to keep an eye on the movie slated to come out in 2015. Disney uses nostalgia as a marketing tactic--because it works. According to Michael Gitter, founder of a nostalgia site called DoYouRemember.com, part of the early marketing efforts for the first "Star Wars" movie in years includes the following:

  • Re-release of the original movie trailers and archival footage on YouTube
  • A comic book version of George Lucas's unproduced Star Wars first draft script
  • Bringing in Lawrence Kasdan, an important contributor to the first trilogy scripts, to rework the new script

Is it a pitch for nostalgia? Sure, but that short-sells what the Mouse King is doing. Nostalgia is a catch phrase for a bundle of emotions, including longing for the past, an affectionate rose-colored-glasses look at a previous time, and maybe some fear and distrust of the present and future.

Why Emotion Sells

Emotion is the key. It should be at the center of any marketing because everything people do--getting into and out of relationships, buying a product, taking one job over another--is ultimately based on feelings. The stronger the feelings you evoke, the more you draw people to you.

A classic example is old-time direct marketing. Experts like Herschell Gordon Lewis would talk about motivations that worked in getting people to respond. The motivations were all ultimately feelings: fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity, and need for approval. People might buy something or respond to a pitch because they were afraid of something, as in the famous "Do You Make These Mistakes in English?" campaign. Perhaps the motivation was that without having white enough teeth, they would be rejected by potential love interests.

Manipulative? Oh, my, yes and often to a despicable degree. Direct marketing done well has always faced the danger of slipping into a con, although it doesn't have to cross over the line. Also, these negative feelings are not the only possible motivations that work in marketing.

Back to Disney for a moment. The company is masterful in marketing, though it uses a different palette of emotions to drive consumers. Warm and fuzzy feelings can be quite powerful--look at the number of cute animal videos that get watched over and over again.

Often marketers say that you have to offer benefits, not features, to prospects so they know what's in it for them. And that's true, but your campaign is equally lost if the benefits are intellectual constructs that you want to explain to your prospect.

This isn't just true for business-to-consumer. B-to-b marketing is also an emotional activity. Yes, there is a fair amount of rationality involved, given that a business customer has to satisfy some objective criteria. But even then, the person recommending the purchase has an emotional checklist. It might be to ease the burden of getting something in to free time for other tasks. Maybe it's to look good to a boss or even fear of buying the wrong product. (IBM brilliantly mined that last one for years, with customers actually saying, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.")

If people do things to satisfy emotional needs and desires, then you need to communicate emotionally, understanding how what you offer maps to what they need. The communications may be in outright marketing, product design, order taking process, or customer service. The point is to address the customer emotionally in a practical way. Do so honestly with respect for the customer and you'll enjoy great word of mouth, strong customer relations, and solid sales.

Last updated: Nov 22, 2013

ERIK SHERMAN's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.
@ErikSherman




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