Emotion, Reason, and Marketing
Fast Company has a really interesting article on the role of reason vs. emotion in marketing. The argument? Market researchers have been getting it all wrong for years, by placing reason as the primary mode of thinking, rather than emotion:
The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!
I like how this article, and the neuroscience it cites, focuses our attention on a paramount issue that sometimes gets lost in the noise of marketing: building a brand connection. Particularly in the cluttered digital environment, that primary relationship — an emotional one — is as critical to a brand’s success as the attributes of its latest product.
Social adds a unique element to building a brand connection, because, for the first time, it’s a two-way street. Brands can tell their stories, and engage with fans who want to tell theirs. This is connection — and at scale, it’s community. With emotion at the center of consumer behavior, these are powerful things indeed.
The article doesn’t ever refer specifically to social marketing, but if you want to build a strong brand connection in today’s world, it’s clear that social belongs at the heart. I’ll close with another quote from the article that makes the point better than I can (emphasis mine):
The left brain creates an intellectual understanding of “self” and a sense of separation from others. Our right brain creates a feeling of “we,” that wonderful sense of connection with one another and the ineffable awe of living in the moment—the essences of better lives and great brands.
Making and Keeping Promises
I read an interesting article on VentureBeat the other week designed to provide startups with advice about brand-building, but it’s well worth reminding even the biggest brands of this simple truth:
At the core of every great brand is a company’s ability to deliver on the prospect’s expectations — or better yet, exceed those expectations.
The heart of every brand is its ability to make and keep promises, and marketing is the part of the brand that makes the promises. The article goes on to note that “startups often bake a ‘desired position’ into the brand that strays too far from reality,” but even big brands do this. When there’s too big a gap between the brand position and reality, you get a broken promise.
One of the most interesting things about marketing today is that with the rise of social media and, more broadly speaking, communication networks (e.g. email), broken promises are no longer isolated to one disappointed customer and his/her immediate group. Instead, they are shared, by lots of voices. If promises are broken too badly, and too often, conversation about your brand can get loud and negative. And that can directly influence how other customers feel about you (just ask Papa John’s).
Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
I wrote last week that real time social marketing was having a moment. It’s having another moment right now in the Oscars aftermath. Unlike the Super Bowl, there was no “:Oreo moment.” Many brand tweets fell flat, as Ad Age pointed out — and they also ran a piece on why not every cultural moment deserves a brand response. I don’t disagree with either article, but I thought Seth’s post was a timely reminder of what the stakes are. Thinking and being able to react in real time is risky — but it’s also energizing and invigorating. Not every moment is right for every brand, but when it is, the opportunity is huge. (And it almost goes without saying that day-to-day engagement adds up to huge opportunity over time, too.) On the flip side, sometimes there is a desperate need for restraint: you don’t want your pre-scheduled content or ads blasting out into the world, oblivious, while an unthinkable tragedy unfolds and the social web becomes a forum for shock and grief.
The point is, in today’s world, you have to be there — already living an “entirely different way of being in the world.” That is the essential piece. Make the moves you need to now so you’re ready later (which, of course, will soon be the now).
Real Time is Right Now
It’s something I’ve been interested in for years, and it’s really having its moment in the sun — real time reaching its real potential in social media. From Oreo, Tide, and others killing it during the Superbowl, to Twitter’s acquisition of social TV company Bluefin Labs to — a favorite example — The Onion hitting new heights thanks to its new focus on real-time/daily publishing, real time is truly having its moment.
For brands, this means being present and participating in real-time digital culture is becoming less of a luxury, and more of a must-have — a standard, like having a Facebook page and Twitter account. But here’s the thing: It’s not just about being there and saying something — anything. You have to see the opportunities that are right for your brand, and respond in a way that makes sense for you, your users, and what you want to achieve.
That’s strategy. And a smart social strategy needs to be absolutely ingrained in your team’s thinking if you want to play the real-time game (and spoiler alert: you should). It’s hard work to craft a social strategy that pays off where it needs to, harder still to ensure real-time responses adhere to it. But it’s work that’s worth doing for brands that want to keep up.
Brilliant — and exactly the questions brands need to ask themselves about their digital marketing.
The Social Marketers’ Super Bowl
Every year there are lots of of stats that come out of the Superbowl — both about the athletes and the marketers, especially those of us working in social. Digital Trends has a good run-down, and here are some highlights:
- 24.1 million total tweets during the game
- 5.5 million tweets during Beyonce’s halftime show — more than during the entire game in 2012
- 235,000 tweets per minute during the power outage
- 3 million Instagram posts mentioning Super Bowl-related words
These are mind-blowing numbers, but they prove out something most of us already know: the second screen is hugely important, and nowhere more so than during sporting events, where watching live truly matters.
The more interesting stats to me are these: Twitter was mentioned in 50% of commercials, Facebook in 8%. Last year Twitter received far fewer mentions, while Facebook was mentioned in twice as many ads. The total number of social media mentions increased from 2012 to 2013. I think these data reflect a growing sophistication among digital marketers about social — not only that they’re doing more with it, but they’re being smarter about it. Twitter has always been the more powerful platform for engaging with users in real-time, but because Facebook has dominated marketers’ thinking (and spend) for years, Twitter hasn’t always been embraced as fully as you might expect. Marketers today — the good ones, anyway — are getting more sophisticated about the multi-platform approach that effective social marketing demands, enabling them to be participatory and “native” in a way that isn’t possible when you’re super focused on one platform. It’s exciting.
And, just for good measure, I think Ram’s “God Made a Farmer” ad was my favorite of the night. There were other commercials that grabbed my attention (hello, Calvin Klein) or made me laugh (M&Ms) or disgusted me (not even going to link to it because we ALL know which one I’m talking about, and I don’t want to encourage them by contributing to their video views), but none were as arresting as Ram’s. It wasn’t perfect — notably, there is not much of a Hispanic presence in the ad, which is a huge oversight — but it was such a powerful concept and great execution that it still gets my vote.
Although he’s addressing entrepreneurs here, Chamath’s words are equally true for digital marketers. We need to dial back our obsession with creating “virality” and focus on delivering value. That’s how you build connections with consumers in a crowded digital space — how you become memorable, trusted, and preferred. Value for users can take lots of forms, but it should always be the starting point for marketers.