Two Tips to Building “Emotional Connection”

There’s no doubt that the Marketing world has progressed from “technology push” to “consumer pull”. Some great companies pride themselves on being consumer centric, and adopting “Consumer is Boss” mantras, which help guide innovation and marketing towards consumers’ needs and desires.

Yet many Brand Builders still find true emotional connection elusive. Common approaches include building an emotional benefit (“I feel”) into positioning statements, “showing” emotion in advertising (Kodak father-daughter wedding dance), and moving from one-way to interactive communications.   

While there’s no “one size fits all”, I believe that one of the best pathways to connecting with consumers on a deeper, more emotional level is to move beyond thinking about people as consumers, and start thinking about them as humans.

  • A consumer is defined as someone who pays to consume goods and services (Wikipedia).
  • Humans are defined more holistically… based on their larger well-developed brains, high levels of abstract reasoning, language, problem solving, sociality, and culture.

When we think about people as humans (vs. consumers), we take blinders off and magic can happen. Here are two very specific ways the human view can help:

Opportunity 1: Human-centered INSIGHTS.

A lot of evidence points to the power of an INSIGHT to drive Brand growth. Yet many Brands have insights that aren’t insights at all, or that don’t work because they’re too focused on consumerism and not focused enough on the broader understanding of a person’s life. Human Insights are generally not Category-specific, but your Brand can pre-empt and own a Human Insight in your Category.

Some of my favorite insights – that have built Brands – are, in fact, HUMAN Insights… fundamental truths about PEOPLE and what motivates them in life. They capture core human motivations that are not Brand or Category centric. Here are a few examples of Human Insights that Brands have brilliantly tapped: 

1. Always® – Girls feel boxed in by society telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. This is about girls and how they feel and why… it’s not about feminine care or Always®. But Always® taps into this with their “Like A Girl” movement. Always® wants every girl to stay confident / unstoppable.

2. Rent The Runway® – Every woman deserves a Cinderella moment.  This insight is not about dresses or fashion. Rather, it is about tapping into the core human truth – in an inspirational way – that there is desire for the remarkable luxury experience. The Rent the Runway® Brand promise and business model gives women access to those experiences.  

3. Pampers® — There’s nothing we won’t do to make life #BetterForBabyThe message from Pampers® in this video is about all the good things people do for babies — from everyday acts of kindness to celebrating major life changes. In two days this commercial got over 1.5 million views on YouTube, and Pampers, by association, must be “better for baby”.   

4. Coke — The moments in life that are the most special are the moments we share with others. This is a fundamental human truth that could be tapped into by a wide range of Brands and Categories. The core idea behind Open Happiness was connection itself, rooted in the “shared moments” human insight.

Opportunity #2: Human Centered Storytelling

I can’t think of a Brand that enjoys a deeper connection with its consumers (“members”) than REI. This short blog: “What REI’s Marketing Strategy Says About the ‘Sale’ in Storytelling” sums up how best-in-class storytellers create magic. One of their key success principles is “Forget about the Product”. Counterintuitive? Maybe. Does it work? Absolutely.

“When your employer’s product sits beside brands as loud as its own, the task isn’t to sell people differently; it’s to see people differently.” Also check out REI’s Facebook page – all storytelling!

Bonus: When we focus on people as people, we will also have more empathy than when we’re focused on what a person will or won’t buy. The more empathetic you are as a Brand Builder, the more likely you will be to establish an emotional connection.