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Brand Purpose Emotional Targeting Learning

Heart over head: why you should move away from rational marketing

By Andrew Mirzai, Paid media strategist



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February 28, 2023 | 8 min read

Most mental processing that guides our actions is emotional, not rational. connective3’s Andrew Mirzai explains this principle in more depth and how to move away from a rationale-only mindset.

Rubiks cube

Don’t rely on rational advertising; prove your worth beyond price value / Aaron Boris

Rational advertising communicates a brand’s product advantages in a direct way, using factual benefits of their product or service. Emotional advertising tugs on the heartstrings. It’s not about what your product does, it’s about how it makes your customer feel.

People aren’t as rational as they think when it comes to purchasing products; they are guided mainly by their emotions and may use some rationality at the end to ‘sense check’ their emotions. Former Saatchi and Saatchi chief exec Kevin Roberts claims emotion drives 80% of decision-making and rational drives the remaining 20%. This can be as high as 95% depending on where you look.

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Don’t hang your hat on rational advertising

In this cost-of-living crisis, it’s been a clear strategy of many businesses to reduce their pricing through large discounts and use that as the main carrot to dangle in front of their customers.

Rationally, it makes sense, as the biggest decision for today’s consumers will likely be the expense. However, rational thinking also tells you there will generally always be someone cheaper selling a similar product.

Therefore, unless you actually are the cheapest, the way to justify your price is to showcase that the experience of the same product will be better through your brand. If you don’t do that, in the long run, you’ll end up having to do more and bigger discounting tactics to beat the competition which will eventually become unprofitable, and people won’t buy from you without a discount because you haven’t proved your value beyond price.

Even in the short term, where some businesses relish seeing a spike in their spreadsheets after launching a new discount. However, if you look deeper into the numbers, often buyers have just shifted around. They’ve either waited for the annual discount to happen or bought earlier – the incremental value is usually tiny. An analysis by Nielson suggests that 84% of promotions are unprofitable, even in the short term.

This also leads to low sales volume when there is no sale, as your customers have just moved their purchase, which can cause panic and another discount to drive more sales, it’s a vicious cycle.

Using emotion to drive long term profitability

Most people can remember where they were when they first got the keys to their dream house, or what the weather was like when their first child was born. But those same people can barely remember what they had for tea last week.

This is because memories that are tied to emotion are remembered, and the brain doesn’t tend to store non-emotive memories. In marketing terms, consumers are exposed to between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every single day, but if you ask the average person to tell you about an ad they’d seen today, you’d be lucky if they remembered any of them. And so, it’s unrealistic to expect the average person to remember your one in 10,000 ad that conveyed no emotional response.

Rational advertising can – and does – work if there is a very immediate need for the product, but anything beyond that tends to be forgotten.

So, how can brands implement emotion over rationale?

I can recommend running creative workshops to discuss your brand’s key personas and any motivations or barriers behind purchasing your products.

For example, with one of our clients in the hospitality industry, we agreed that a big motivator for purchasing their product is having the opportunity to take a break from life, considering the multiple issues across the UK these last few years. So, I’d always recommend using this sort of setting as a starting point.

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Once you’ve agreed on your motivators or barriers, decide which emotions you are trying to convey. For our hospitality advertiser, we decided to present the emotions of calmness and joy. We agreed on an overall creative theme of wellness with an underlying tone that good mental health is priceless. Testing this messaging against price-focused messaging, we saw a 292% rise in short-term sales, a 129% rise in traffic, and a 903% rise in post-engagement.

IPA has also illustrated that emotional campaigns are more effective on almost all business metrics.

They  found that 43% of emotional ad campaigns reported very large business effects (including sales, market share, price sensitivity, loyalty, and new customers) after three or more years. This was compared to just 23% for rational campaigns, indicating that the longer the time frame, the more emotions drive profit. Emotional advertising worked over 100 years ago – and it still works today.

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