Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Marketing to the Emotion

"FUD" is a marketing strategy that tries to get the customer to make a decision based on emotion rather than logic. Therefore, it is a particularly loathsome strategy to the engineer. It further advances the negative impression so many engineers have of marketers. However, not all emotion based marketing is FUD. There is a fine line between marketing to the emotions of the audience and outright manipulation. Showing an image of manly fighter pilots in a razor ad may have nothing to do with shaving, but you would never call that FUD. It elicits an emotion, but it does not deceive.

Marketing is more effective when it taps into the emotions rather than when it targets the mind alone. There is a real dark side that needs to be avoided. It does not matter how many pie charts a large corporation shows on television ads to convince the viewer that they are ecologically responsible. An image of a dirty river, rusting tanks oozing toxins or suffering wildlife will cause the public to demand action. Someone must be brought to justice. The public is convinced that corporations can not be telling the truth because the public has seen the images. Emotions win over logic and truth gets obscured.

Most marketing is manipulative. How many luxury cars are bought for their quality and safety? Can anyone tell the difference between one American beer and another? Tastes tests consistently say the consumer can not. MacDonald's is frequently called to task for the way they market their Happy Meals to children. Engineers have some justification when they criticize marketing for being underhanded. In the world of high tech sales and marketing, there is no appeal to emotions. Facts are presented about the product, pricing, availability and support. The customer is given the tools they need to make a rational decision.

The difference between marketing to the emotion and manipulation is important to understand. I heard a former ad exec for Radio Shack claim that an ad should be nothing more than an invitation to buy. Show an image of the product, the name of the product, a few pertinent facts, and the price. Then let the consumer decide. No humor. No inspiring text. No hype. Just facts. That explained why I did not like Radio Shack ads. I did not know they were being boring on purpose. I thought they were boring because their products were boring. That approach does not manipulate but it is extreme and not very effective.

To market effectively, the marketing should inspire without deceiving. There is one obvious brand that does this effectively. They are so good at it that engineer, businessman, college student, and soccer mom all fall under their influence... and love it. Left for dead in the mid-90's, they reemerged and turned the world upside down. Most of the credit goes to their founder/CEO who left the company in shame in 1985 only to return to the company in 1996 and revolutionize multiple industries.

Over my next 10 blogs, I will discuss how marketing genius, Steve Jobs, and the talented folks at Apple did it.

James Snider is the Business Development Director for Accelerant Marketing Alliance, LLC == Marketing, Communications and Design. Corporate Marketing Department ... one hour at a time.  www.linkedin.com/in/jamessnider

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