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A Brand with Feelings

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

 

Maya Angelou’s life lesson is something we have the pleasure of taking solace in, and it’s what inspired looking at brands with feelings.  She understood the power of emotion with an audience, and I’ve dug a little deeper in this article to further articulate the ways brands can use emotion to build deeper customer relationships.

 

There are 8 basic emotions – which ones does your brand focus on?

It seems that the subject of determining how many emotions there are was started way back in the 4th century B.C. by the philosopher Aristotle, and explored much later by Charles Darwin. Most recently psychologists have concluded that there are anywhere from four to eight basic emotions.

In 1978 Dr. Paul Ekman, with the help of W. Friesen, developed the first and only comprehensive tool for objectively measuring facial movement – the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). Since then there have been over 70 others studies confirming the same set of results of seven universal facial expressions of emotions – anger, contempt, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise.

Psychologist Robert Plutchik developed the famous wheel of emotions which identifies eight basic emotions – joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, surprise, and anticipation. His theory starts with these basic emotions then blossoms out to multiply variations creating a wide spectrum of emotions with opposing relationships.

Kendra Cherry author of Everything Psychology Book said, “The basic emotions, however many there really are, serve as the foundation for all the more complex and subtle emotions that make up the human experience.” There is some compelling evidence that shows consumers use emotions rather than information to evaluate brands. Emotions also create deeper and more visceral impressions that have impact on long-term memory.

Emotions are complex but for the purpose of building a brand based on feelings, we used Plutchik’s eight basic emotions.

 

Negative Emotions

Most companies try to stay clear of associating their brand to negative emotions. But some brands have been very successful in differentiating their brand with the contentious emotions of disgust, sadness, anger and fear.

 

Disgust

Disturbing graphic images on cigarette packs is a great example of using disgust to build the brand of anti-smoking. Gone are the days of the iconic Marlboro man, the ultimate American masculine cowboy brand, which drove Marlboro to the number one tobacco brand in the world. I have read that several actors who portrayed the Marlboro man over the years have rode off into the sunset prematurely due to smoking-related diseases–talk about disgusting. Dr. Ellen Peters, who conducted a research study on the effectiveness of smoking warning labels and graphic images with 244 smokers, says, “The images definitely did stir their emotions, but those emotions led them to think more carefully about the risks of smoking and how those risks affected them.”

Another brand that serves up a spoon of disgust is the famous Canadian cough medicine Buckley’s with the slogan “It tastes awful. And it works.”

But the most disgusting advertising for a brand has to go to OXY Face Wash with their series of zit popping videos. Say no more, the images speak for themselves!

 

Sadness

Is sadness the new happy? Does it leave a mark deeper than joy? Making people cry seems to be many brand’s objective these days. Take a look at all the holiday epic stories of lonely and sad people. The U.K. retailer brand John Lewis is built on pulling consumers’ heartstrings. But some would say that we can’t be happy all of the time so there is an authenticity in trying to get to a deeper brand engagement. Several insurance companies have cornered the market for ‘sad-vertising’ such as Thai Life Insurance (Unsung Hero), MetLife (My dad’s story) and Nationwide (Dead Boy).

 

 

Anger

Making people mad to buy a brand seems counterproductive but it is used to create an action or to make a strong statement. If you want to change a perception or get people to take action, anger can be a very persuasive tool. Generally, we feel angry when we see a person or a helpless animal hurt, or a major injustice being enacted.

Sadly, terrorist groups like ISIS have used this emotion effectively to build their brand. “They’re very good at branding,” said J.M. Berger, co-author of the book ISIS: The State of Terror. They have a complete visual look with a black flag, distinctive clothing, black masks and identical weapons. They use brutal violence against innocent people and public executions to generate widespread anger which also appeals to a small niche of supporters who want to take up their cause.

 

After the Great Recession, many brands tried to take advantage of frustrated and angry consumers affected by hard times by emulating further antagonism. Eastman Kodak did a rant about overpriced inkjet printer ink (I actually purchased a Kodak printer based on this fact). Post’s Shredded Wheat Cereal declared “Innovation is not your friend,” Miller High Life showed their support towards blue-collar customers and Harley-Davidson condemned “The stink of greed and billion-dollar bankruptcies” to align with their customers.

 

 

The most unique brand campaign I have seen that successfully angered its target audience was a simple billboard advertising that said: TEXT AND DRIVE with the company logo Wathan Funeral Home. The outraged and upset viewers went to the funeral home’s website to voice their angry but were surprised to find that it was a PSA to get people to stop texting and driving. Angry with a happy ending.

 

 

Fear

Every brand has a call to action and in many cases, depicts a sense of urgency to respond. But brands would tend to prefer a positive experience and keep as far away from risk as possible. But there are brands who thrive with their use of fear, like Greenpeace. They have been effective in shutting down major projects and changing their prey’s business practices by way of fear mongering. They take mere possibilities and translate them into fearful statements, such as “Our health is threatened by climate change. Malaria, asthma, encephalitis, tuberculosis, leprosy, dengue fever and measles are all expected to become more common.”

 

 

President Donald Trump’s success is attributed to building his brand on fear. Alex Altmen, a Washington correspondent for TIME magazine said, “No President has weaponized fear quite like Trump. He is an expert at playing to the public’s phobias.” Barry Glassner, a sociologist at Lewis & Clark College and the author of The Culture of Fear, says Trump “is a master” at creating fear. “His formula is very clean and uncomplicated: Be very, very afraid,” says Glassner. I repeat be very afraid.

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research demonstrated that consumers who experienced fear while watching a film felt a greater affiliation with a present brand than those who watched films evoking other emotions, like happiness, sadness or excitement. I believe this goes back to our basic instincts of survival.

So you see how negative emotions can successfully build a brand, but caution cannot be underscored enough. Graeme Newell, marketing consultant, speaker, and founder of 602 Communications says negative emotions can be a powerful tool to elevate a brand’s message, as long as they’re not delivered too bluntly and you must leave the audience with a positive takeaway. Greenpeace’s continuous use of fear has lost some value over time and has created its own challenges. How long can you cry “wolf” to get people to mobilize your brand?

 

Positive Emotions

As character Don Draper said in a Mad Men episode, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness.” This is the territory many brands navigate using the emotions of joy, trust, surprise and anticipation.

 

Trust

Without trust the financial industry doesn’t work. In essence a five dollar bill or hundred dollar bill is the same simple piece of paper with different numbers on them, but the buying power is significantly different thanks to trust.  No surprise that the business and financial services industry needs trust to operate. Trust is integral to the success of all brands but foundational for those brands built on faith and intangible, complex components.

Generally, the emotion of trust becomes super important for a brand if it has broken this bond with the customer. I am sure VW, Toyota, and BP are working on this emotion extensively today.

In the UK’s 2015 Consumer Trust in Brands report, they state that food brands have one of the highest trust levels—its important to have repeat customers who aren’t sick or dying from eating your product. That is exactly what happened with Maple Leaf Foods Inc. in 2008, when they produced listeria tainted luncheon meats that killed 22 people and sickened 35 others. Sales were immediately hit by a 50% decrease but was only down 15% two months later.

“The very first thing that must happen in these incidents is acknowledgment, apologies, and action from the CEO,” says Hamish McLennan, CEO of Young & Rubicam. Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain felt the company’s transparency and immediate reaction in taking responsibility for the crisis helped win back customers. Morgen Witzel’s article, Maple Leaf Food’s response to a crisis, states, “The trust built in the days after the onset of the crisis laid the foundation for its eventual turnaround.” Today, I don’t think there is any trust issue facing Maple Leaf Foods thanks to Mr. McCain’s conviction to making things right and not listening to his lawyers.

Humanizing your brand helps build trust but you must foster an authentic and lasting connection with your customers to get there.

 

Joy

What brand do you immediately think of when you hear the word “joy”? Think of joy as a sudden burst of happiness on a high. Does “Joy in every bottle” ring a bell?

 

 

Most people are always on a quest to experience more joy in their lives and looking for those small indulgences of pleasure. Many brands have found the sweet spot, such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Campbell’s Soup, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Zappos, Facebook – “likes”, and Ferrero Rocher chocolates to name a few.

 

Surprise

A pleasant surprise is always appreciated by consumers and can be leveraged across all consumer touch points (social, events, in-store, advertising, mobile, etc.).

In a social listening study conducted by DraftFCB (now known as FCB or Foote, Cone & Belding), using W. Gerrod Parrott of Georgetown University’s emotional framework (Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy, Fear, and Surprise), they found “surprise” as a distant sixth place in association with brands. So there is room for brand differentiation in using this emotion.

MasterCard has been running their “Priceless” campaign for over 17 years  and in 2014 they introduced “Priceless Surprises” with the goal of surprising cardholders when they least expect it. For example meeting Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani or VIP tickets to special events. There is a strong emotional element in watching a fan connect with a star and MasterCard #PricelessSurprises made it happen. Raja Rajamannar, CMO of MasterCard said, “The success of Priceless is driven by the campaign’s ability to create emotion, influence behavior, unite people and touch upon consumer passions.” Their website says that over 97,867 cardholders have experienced a surprise so far. I’m still waiting for a surprise that doesn’t include 18% when I check my credit card bill!

 

GoPro on a smaller scale had a campaign called “Everything We Make Giveaway” where every day one person wins everything they make. In the last five years they have given away 1,500 cameras and $4 million of GoPro gear. Don’t get too excited this campaign is no longer on.

For the last five years WestJet Airlines has implemented their “Christmas Miracle” by surprising a select group of customers or potential customers. In 2016, they surprised the residents of Fort McMurray, Alberta who were impacted by the devastating wildfires with a special “Snowflake Soiree”. Everyone who attended was given a free WestJet ticket.

 

Anticipation

I am sure you have been anxiously anticipating this last emotion. Researchers have found that people experience more intense emotions around anticipating future events/opportunities than remembering those in the past.  Booking a holiday is a great example of a positive and powerful emotion as a person waits for the exciting trip. High-end cruise liners have perfected the art of creating excitement with cruise planners and special updates prior to embarking.

Sandals Resorts understand the importance of anticipation with their beautifully stunning, natural blue and turquoise oceans and clear sky images, but more importantly, keeping the excitement growing with their social media activities. Tiffany Mullins, Social Media Manager says the Sandals Resorts “strategy is to evoke an emotion with every single social media post.” Not only are they humanizing the brand but their social media presence is creating a virtual vacation experience in advance of the actual vacation. Brilliant.

The Apple brand is an expert on contemplating the future and having their customers emotionally engaged beyond their current technology and living in anticipation of the next generation, like the iPhone 8 soon to be released. Each version is a stepping stone to further deepen the brand loyalty or cult-like following.  Apple is notorious for their pre-launch hype, limited availability, reorders and long lineups on launch day, only to be repeated again within another 12 – 18 months. Here we go again.

 

Emotional Branding

Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95% of our purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind, a place where emotions are king. If you are going to engage in emotional branding, understand how and where you want to connect to your customers so you can consistently build on every touchpoint.

As William Gelner, Chief Creative Officer of 180 explains, “We live such digitally switched-on, always-plugged-in lives, and yet we still also somehow feel disconnected from people. As human beings, we’re looking for true human connection, and I think that emotional storytelling can help bridge that gap.”

Pick your emotion(s) and start building your emotional brand story today, every step of the way.

 

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Wrapping Brands in Hope, Love, Joy, Peace and Bacon

We can thank the birth of Jesus Christ for putting Christmas on the map, but its brand marketers that have made the solemn religious festivities into a $600 billion business in the United States alone. This year Gallup research predicts the average American will spend around $830 on Christmas. There’s a lot riding on this holiday, so much so that brands spend millions to connect themselves to this emotional time of giving and celebration. Retail brands live or die during this important sales period and we’ll take a look at the lengths they go to do it right.

 

For all brands to cash in on Christmas, they need to break through the clutter and attract festive shoppers who are looking for brands who match their warm and fuzzy shopping needs.

 

Many would argue that Christmas has become more about marketing than religion. The history of Christmas’ evolution is part marketing and part theatrical symbolism. While Charles Dickens did not invent the Victorian Christmas, his book A Christmas Carol written in 1843 is credited with helping to popularise and spread the traditions of the festive time. Coca-Cola Company claims they helped shape the image of Santa as we know him today. Inspired by Clement Clarks Moore’s 1822 poem A visit from St. Nicholas (commonly known as Twas the night before Christmas) illustrator Haddon Sunblom commissioned by Coca-Cola created the iconic red suited and white breaded Santa image that was friendly, plump, jolly and loved Coke. From 1931 to 1964 the ‘Coke Santa’ was the advertising theme every Christmastime in magazines, billboards, posters, displays and calendars.

 

 

For brands, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year to pull on the heartstrings. Writer and content strategist Taylor Mallory Holland concluded in her blog article Make ‘Em Cry – and Buy that “Emotion is a key ingredient in great holiday content marketing.” Jonah Berger, researcher and author of Contagious would agree. He discovered that “high arousal” of positive and negative emotions like awe, excitement, amusement and anger motivates us to share messages with others. He says “when we care we share.”

 

The holiday season is full of high emotion. We become hyper-sensitive to stories of the poor and unfortunate souls who don’t have food, shelter or friends. We are drawn towards stories of goodness in humanity and messages of hope, peace and love. It’s a time to reach back to the child in all of us who believed Santa Claus was real, reindeers could fly and life was just plain simple (because someone else did the worrying).

 

John Lewis, a department store in the United Kingdom has built their brand on this fact. Since 2007, John Lewis has captured the attention of the world with their annual tradition of launching a new Christmas advertising campaign to kick-start shoppers into buying their Christmas gifts. John Lewis’s emotional brand formula isn’t revolutionary, as Stephen Vowles, marketing director at Argos says, “It resonates because it speaks to the values most of [us] hold at Christmas – showing people that we care about them and that we are thinking of them.”

 

 

But Edeka, a German supermarket chain may have trumped John Lewis this year with the “saddest Christmas ad ever” as described in The Washington Post. So far the story of a lonely old widower who is especially sad during the Christmastime has over 41 million views on YouTube compared to John Lewis Man on the Moon which has only 21 million views.

 

 

WestJet has created Christmas miracles of their own over the last four years. Their Christmas Miracle online videos have surprised and delighted consumers in various creative and sensitive ways. Their biggest success was in 2013 where they surprised passengers on a flight from Toronto to Calgary. In Toronto, they had them tell a TV monitor Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and upon their arrival in Calgary four hours later their present appeared on the luggage carousal like magic. To date, this video has received almost 43 million views. If you didn’t think Westjetter’s cared before this, then get out your tissues.

 

 

There are many brands like Apple, Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire, Coke, Stella Artois, Sainsbury, Budweiser, Macys and many more who produce Christmastime commercials/videos that tug on consumer’s heart-strings. Their ultimate goal is to connect with consumers at this time of goodwill and joy with the hope of their brand resonating with them.

 

This is the time that brands can forget about the functional benefits and tap into the spirit of Christmas. If done right, brands can move from a purveyor of Christmas to a state of mind of hope, peace and love minus the bacon. A place were few brands live.

 

To all the world’s brands “Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night”.

 

May the peace and goodwill of the season remain with you throughout the New Year!

 

Top 2015 Christmas Commercials

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Best Seller – Brand Storytelling

We all live for a great story. A story that we can retell that has suspense, adversity and a great ending. Humanity has been built on stories. Since the beginning of time, storytelling was the only way to transfer knowledge and inspire people to move forward. The first written story was the The Epic of Gilgamesh an epic poem dating back to 2100 BC written on 12 clay tablets. Today, there are over 129,864,880 books in the entire world according to Google’s advanced algorithm – unfortunately I can’t say I’ve read them all – yet.

Storytelling is the hottest and newest branding tool on the market. But in reality it is the oldest and most enduring element of human civilization. Except, we no longer sit around a smoky fire pit wearing stinky and somewhat revealing leather gear, while the storyteller points at the holographic on the cave wall. Today, we have progressed to boring PowerPoints and uncomfortable three piece suits.

Joh Hamm’s article Why Agencies and Brands Need to Embrace True Storytelling says “Stories are how we pass on our accumulated wisdom, beliefs and values. They are the process through which we describe and explain the world around us, and our role and purpose in it. Audiences have always known this and asked for stories—they’ve never asked for content.”

Storytelling is Best Seller on Social

It seems that social media has given new life to storytelling. For brands, attracting consumers with captivating, engaging stories that are significant and meaningful is a new competitive edge.  If all employees could tell the company’s brand story (promise) with passion and emotionally-charged, descriptive language using no facts and figures you wouldn’t need advertising.  Susan Gunelius’s article How to write brand stories that builds emotional connections on Forbes website states “Stories are the perfect catalyst to building brand loyalty and brand value. When you can develop an emotional connection between consumers and your brand, your brand’s power will grow exponentially.”

Close to seven million people have viewed the of Coco Chanel’s story on YouTube. A story about transforming women’s fashions, and the transformation of a woman who build the CHANEL empire.

We all know it’s much easier said than done.  Recently, Colleen HendersonPresident of Perfect Pitch Consulting coached forty of my team members in how to write a good story. Everyone struggled to write one emotional sentence of what we do for our customers. It isn’t easy writing compelling and inspiring brand stories. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Start the Story with Why

The best brand stories are aimed to get the audience to care by answering their question “why?” Many successful brands only talk about the “why” and less about the facts.  Neil Patel writer for Forbes says when someone is “interested in your brand’s story, they feel connected in a powerful way. This feeling of connection then turns them into customers.”

Toms shoes uses storytelling to convince thousands of people and customers to go a day without shoes with their annual “One Day without Shoes” campaign to raise awareness of the millions of children around the world who have no shoes.

The campaign is actually on right now until May 21. If you Instagram your bare feet with the hashtag #withoutshoes they will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. Check out my lovely toes at #withoutshoes.

Jonah Sachs author of Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future says “It’s critical for brands to shift from messaging to storytelling. After all, a brand is nothing more than an ongoing story – a set of meaningful emotional experiences – unfolding between itself and its audiences.”

So what makes a good story or story-selling? A brand DNA is all about where it came from and how it got to where it is today. But a great story needs conflict. Dove’s Real Beauty “You’re more beautiful than you think” campaign is a great example.

All good stories has the following elements: introduction to set the stage, a protagonist (the hero) an antagonist (the villain), a conflict, a climax, a resolution, and a reason why the audience should care. Better yet, you can follow Aristotle’sSeven Golden Rules of Storytelling: plot, character, theme, speech (or dialog), chorus (or music), decor and spectacle. Ideally you want to make the customer the hero but in some circumstance you want to make your brand the hero.

Don’t Mix Facts with a Good Story

Facts actually make people more sceptical on what they are seeing and hearing.  Researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not correcting misinformation, but doing the complete opposite, make misinformation even stronger. We often base our opinions on our beliefs, which don’t always mesh with facts, so we chose the facts that best fit our beliefs.

Do you remember the Oscar winning movie Sidways? It was a movie set in California’s of two men on a week-long road trip in the wine region of Santa Barbara. Throughout the movie the lead actor Paul Giamatti, a wine aficionada, declared his love for Pinot Noir and his distaste for Merlot. The movie led to a strong upswing in the sales of Pinot Noir and a drop in Merlot.  Facts can be questioned and rationalized, but when a beloved character that people can empathize with endorses a product or brand, follower goes along with no questions asked. Just ask Playboy model and actress, Jenny McCarthy about her crusade against vaccinations.

Final Chapter

Today, we are inundated with information loaded with facts and figures. Benefit statements, promises, testimonials, demonstrations, research and new scientific evidence. A story well told that is authentic, relevant, engaging and human can cut through the clutter and noise.

One of the great storytellers was the late Steve Jobs because he informed, inspired and entertained. He always stuck to the rule of three. He understood the power of “3”. Not exceed the list of 3 nor going below 3 things.  He also made sure his stories always had a hero and a villain; most times it was the competition. He also made sure he was prepared. His delivered flawlessly but to do so he practices until it looked effortless.  And finally, he always left the audience with something inspiring like he did with the introduction of the iPhone where he said, “I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I’ve been so excited about today…There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ We’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very, very beginning. And we always will.”

Successful brands tell the story of who they are, not only the people behind the brand, but also how their customers connect to their products in ways that give them the ability to do more with their life. Stories that inspire passion in life and illustrate the why and how behind the what and where.

Seth Godin reminds us, “Great stories agree with our worldview. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes [them] feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.”

Henderson suggests that everyone should have three stories ready to be given at any moment. 1. What brand do I represent? 2. Who am I? 3. Who have I helped? Each story should be engaging and well-crafted. No longer than 90 seconds and well-rehearsed.

I leave you with Steve Jobs commencement address to the 2005 graduation class at Stanford University where he tells three touching stories. “Stay hungry. Stay Foolish.”