If you want to succeed at emotional marketing, the last thing you should do is communicate emotion. While this might seem counterintuitive, over 20 years of case studies at the Center for Emotional Marketing proves that emotion is the output to be achieved not the input. Here are the top 5 ways companies fail at emotional marketing today:
1. Overpromise, under-deliver
When a well-known coffee company billed their beverage as the one that will “help you live a fuller life,” they failed. Why? Because that is a lot to promise, even from a deliciously steamy, caffeinated mug of goodness. Think of all that’s involved in living a fuller life. Does coffee play a part? Perhaps. Will it make your life complete? Probably not.
2. Skipping rungs on the communication ladder
A common mistake is to assume that your customers know what your brand is about and to leap straight to the emotional benefit. Only once your brand story is well understood can you move into emotional territory. And this isn’t solely true of new product launches—even brands around for 50 years often need to reacquaint consumers with their core benefits.
3. Disconnected promises
Another common mistake is for a brand to embrace an emotion it has no hope of delivering. Let’s take “confidence.” A fine sentiment. But a bottled water or a shower curtain will not deliver confidence no matter how many times you say it. In order for emotional benefits to work, they must come organically out of the product experience, not off a list of trendy buzzwords.
4. Emotion without expertise
If you communicate emotion without establishing a clear expertise, you leave your consumers vulnerable for poaching. It’s remarkable how many brands forget this essential ingredient for success. Every brand has to establish its unique knowhow. To create a sustainable competitive advantage, consumers must understand what your brand does better than any other.
5. Telling, not showing
When you try to tell consumers how they should feel, you don’t sell, you alienate. Nobody likes to be told what to do or how to feel, yet many companies insist on expressing emotions overtly. Instead of instruction, use illustration, and let consumers come to their own conclusions.
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Leslie Zane is founder and president of the Center for Emotional Marketing, a pioneering brand strategy and innovation firm, that has the only proven framework for managing and improving brand perceptions in consumers’ minds.