• September 14, 2010
  • By Dan Hill, author, About Face

The Emotional Path to Success

The breakthroughs in brain science have confirmed what we all already know in our gut, but sometimes forget about in the day-to-day rush of getting the next ad campaign launched: Namely, that everybody feels before they think — and, without generating an appropriate emotional response, no campaign has a chance of success.

Here are some guidelines to help avoid that fate.

  1. Get Physical — Sight and sound are fine, but overused. Leverage the sensory dimensions of feel, touch, and taste to create more intimacy and differentiation. Remember: The brain originated with our sense of smell. So Descartes got it wrong — it's more like, I have the ability to smell, therefore I feel/think and buy your product.
  2. Keep It Simple — You've got three seconds to connect. The joke that has to be explained to you is never as funny as the joke that you just get. The frustration of "huh" (message-itis) is marketing's hidden emotional cancer. Consumers feel lost more often than anybody wants to admit.
  3. Keep It Close to Home — Generate likeability and preference through familiarity. Most advertising only has time to echo the story already in your head and heart. Anything out-of-the-box risks being out of emotional range. What's intellectually complicated merely becomes emotionally obscure.
  4. Focus on Faces — It's the center of our being, the barometer of health and beauty. It's also how we tell if we like somebody, or where to check if we distrust what she's saying. Fake smiles don't really fool us; everybody's a natural facial coder. For instance, "surprise" that lasts for more than a second isn't genuinely feeling surprise: It's canned, spin, rejected.
  5. Make It Memorable — Ad agencies too often set a pace that feels like a blur to consumers. Their clients — companies — can meanwhile be foolishly blind to the need for an ad to have an emotional peak. People notice change; a solution where the "pain" of the status quo isn't conveyed adequately means the solution isn't as valuable and the story drones on.
  6. Relevancy Drives Connection — Us and me are everything; attachment and self-esteem are the motivations that work best. Differentiation from rivals doesn't by itself deliver anything on behalf of your target market. In Latin, "motivation" and "emotion" have the same root, which is to move, to make something happen. Without emotional engagement, you're dead.
  7. Always Sell Hope — Meaningfulness is the key to sustained happiness. Create a powerful context, a way to enhance confidence and security, or merely sell a product or service instead. When we're happy we embrace a branded offer, and are inspired to solve problems at a clip that's as much as 20 percent faster (with superior results). In other words, happiness is more than a "soft" benefit.
  8. Don't Lead with Price — Price only has to be heard to be pigeonholed, short-circuiting the emotional connection. In contrast, value gets assessed over time based on the build-up of brand associations and experience. Make money by building a relationship. Loyalty is a feeling, after all, and in this case depends on overcoming our natural aversion (disgust) toward giving up cash for a company's goods or services.
  9. Mirror the Target Market's Values —   Most companies are merely talking to themselves, thinking the offer is hero. Yes, there are the ephemeral emotions created by responding to an ad as stimulation. But richer pay dirt is evoking emotions that nourish brand equity through projecting a compelling brand personality and enshrining values that echo what the target market accepts and can embrace.
  10. Believability Sticks — Arguing through statistics is the least persuasive type of advertising. Analogies and cause/effect ads work because we intuitively believe the story and visuals. That enables us to believe the tale, not the teller, which is essential to ad effectiveness because corporate credibility is on life support.

About the Author

Dan Hill (dhill@sensorylogic.com) is a recognized thought leader and practitioner in helping companies build stronger sensory-emotional connections with consumers. His previous book, Emotionomics, was chosen by Advertising Age as one of the top-10 must-read books of 2009. His newest book, About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising draws on a database of results built up over a decade of experience using facial coding as a noninvasive, scientific research tool on behalf of major companies around the world. To learn more, visit www.sensorylogic.com.                                


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