Emotional resonance is all but mandatory in today’s marketing landscape. You can’t just make a stellar product and count on buyers to come to you—you have to lure them in. And with inflation prompting customers to prioritize savings, you can’t count on brand loyalty to keep them coming back.
To gain and retain a customer’s attention in an increasingly competitive and unpredictable marketplace, you need to build deep and lasting connections. Then, like a good romantic partner, you must make them feel truly seen and understood. Here are some ways to get started.
1. Study Your Customer’s Feelings
Research shows that people’s decisions are driven more by emotion than by logic. If you can figure out what’s in your customers’ hearts, you can calibrate your strategy to tug on the right strings.
You can use traditional market research tools like customer analytics, surveys and CRM data to do this. But these might not give you the level of depth you’ll require to really identify with your customer. You don’t just need to anticipate your customers’ behavior and decisions. You really want to understand why they make the choices they do and how they feel about their decisions.
Focus groups and other qualitative research tools give you more insight, but they demand a lot more time and money. Instead, you can partner with companies that are innovating the science of collecting emotional data, developing more advanced methodologies for understanding customers’ reasoning. Through advanced analysis, they can quickly determine what motivates customers and figure out how to persuade them to act.
2. Rewrite Your Story
Once you understand what’s meaningful to your customers, you can start to realign your messaging with their—sometimes surprising—feelings. If you sell hybrid cars, you may discover your audience cares more about feeding their families than saving the planet. If your current brand story is about environmental benefits, you could start proselytizing about the long-term savings of going hybrid instead.
Or you can go in a different direction with emotions, one that has little to do with the story of your brand. You can simply use your customers’ motivating emotions to gain visibility, as in the case of “sadvertising.” The messaging doesn’t even need to relate to the product if you convince customers your brand shares their values.
Do you remember the do-gooding protagonist of the Thai life insurance commercial that went viral a few years ago? The spot played into consumers’ sense of empathy and desire for connection, without really saying anything about the product. Such ads work because they make customers feel something, and that makes them remember you.
3. Segment and Curate
Besides tweaking your overall brand story, you need to curate emotion-based content for different types of customers and interactions. To do this, segment your marketing based on the motivating emotions of different customers. Maybe you have one demographic that’s moved by fears about toxic chemicals in their food. Another is driven by extreme jealousy of their fitter, slimmer friends. Those two groups should get very different ads for your vegan meat substitute.
When developing your marketing strategy, you can also think about how you want customers to act in response. You can curate your content around different business goals, like establishing more online presence or earning customer loyalty.
Research shows that anger and awe tend to go viral the fastest. If you want to reach more people quickly with a new product, target your ads around those emotions. If your goal is to build brand loyalty, on the other hand, research shows your marketing should evoke fear.
4. Use Testimonials and Word of Mouth
One of the best ways to connect with customers is by making them feel closer to the product. Social media marketing, testimonials and other word-of-mouth strategies can be some of the best emotional marketing tools. In fact, 81% of customers said social media posts from influencers or personal connections made them consider buying something.
Hiring trusted influencers to promote your product to their social media followers is one way to do it. Another is creating viral content that people will share voluntarily on their social media. A link from a friend makes a customer feel much closer and more connected to a product.
Getting more customers to review your offering can also go a long way toward fostering that sense of connection. Research shows people trust online product reviews almost as much as personal recommendations and more than they trust brands.
5. Give the Right Cues
There are other, more subtle ways digital marketers can play into customers’ emotions. Certain colors and word choices, for instance, evoke particular emotional responses in customers.
Blue can signify trust and dependability, increasing customer confidence in hospitals or health insurance companies, for example. Green signifies nature and is great for selling environmentally friendly products and fresh food. Red can evoke urgency or make a customer feel hungry, so it’s a good choice for clearance sales or fast food.
If all else fails, you can go the old school route of making customers insecure about their looks. But in this day and age, inclusivity and positive marketing will get you a lot more bang for your buck.
The core of an emotionally resonant marketing strategy is, first and foremost, knowing and catering to your customer. Before making big changes, audit your current marketing strategies to see what’s already resonating. Get as clear as you can on what your brand has to offer and expand on what’s working.
Bear in mind that you can always tailor, segment and recraft your emotional marketing—to a point. But be wary of ever straying too far from your brand’s core message and values. The most important core emotion you need from your customers is trust. To earn it, you need to keep your story straight.