Friday, October 3, 2008

Creating an Emotional Appeal for Your Brand

In a tough economy, when price becomes a powerful motivator for choosing one product, service or professional organization over another, Harvard Business School Press authors Rita McGrath and Ian MacMillan remind us about tapping into the emotional appeal of your brand to hang onto your customers and win prospects. The book is MarketBusters.

This is not a new concept (is anything in marketing today?, but there was a rather heated blog discussion about whether or not emotional appeal works in business to business marketing. I had this same discussion with a former boss who treated my saying - of course it can - like the ramblings of an idiot.

But the fact is we all have an emotional connection to the products we buy. It's not just the type of sneaker we wear, or our favorite restaurant or our hairdresser. It's the people we know professionally, the service providers we use, the professional groups we don't give up even though they cost more than some of the others, the Mac versus the PC, or the industrial chemical that we've been using for 20 years, know works, are attached too and don't want to change.

Tapping into that appeal - understanding it - reinforcing it - and using it to emphasize WHY US, WHY NOW - is just plain smart. But first you've got to understand it. Here's some advice from the authors about how to get to the heart of emotional appeal:

Examine what different customers segments think. Good segments reflect behaviors - remember that even customers who are demographically similar may have very different behaviors and preferences.

Look at how customers interact with your product/service. What's on their minds? What are they worried about? Looking forward to? Would they rather be doing something else than dealing with whatever issue you solve for them?

What emotions does your product evoke in customers? This requires research, ask them why they would switch, if they are considering switching. Ask your field salespeople and customer service reps - they probably know better than anyone else in your organization. Then do some brainstorming with members of your team - what could they come up with that might trigger that connective feeling?

Test what you learn. Try the appeal out on representative members of your customer segment and observe how they behave. By the way, observation is absolutely key. Customers often won't - or can't - tell you what is really driving their behavior.

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