Missing the forest for the trees in effective communication
People crave real intimacy and authentic experiences from the brands that matter to them, but in many instances aren’t getting it.
Why not? Because marketers fail to understand the power of the bond.
Businesses are wrapped up in their technology and recipe secret sauce, extraordinary ingredient sourcing and other bits of product development magic. They become preoccupied with putting the marketing spotlight primarily on these achievements. Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, consumers unfortunately are not (and have never been) analytical creatures operating as fact-based decision-making machines. Yet many businesses still insist on presenting the evidence of choice superiority.
Doesn’t it make sense to create marketing communication that resonates, that inspires, that engages rather than broadcasting the wrong message consumers will look to avoid?
The most dramatic example of the human condition, and thus, offering a roadmap of how to re-position marketing for maximum effectiveness is…
The bond – the deep emotional connectivity people have with each other, their friends and family and their pets. When we separate out what really matters in life, the centrifuge of priorities reveals that relationships bubble to the top. But what are relationships really a living example of?
- Emotional connection
- Shared purpose or experience
- Motivation for investment in relationships
Imagine for a moment a brand being able to embrace these characteristics and operate with human qualities. How would this transform business behavior, marketing outreach, messaging and the planning that occurs around these key strategic endeavors?
Pet food is an iconic example of often analytical selling strategies leading the marketing chin at retail and in media. On any given day we find extraordinary products, made with great care and attention to nutritional quality, that present arguments based on protein levels or production capabilities designed to help maintain nutritional density.
All worthy endeavors to a one. But each fail to fully grasp the incredible bond that is driving the purchase of high-quality pet diets.
In this example, the hero of the marketing story is the pet parent and their pet. The underlying premise is the lifestyle and relationship that serves as the basis for purchase decisions. When the story telling acknowledges the emotional connectivity, the desire to express love in the form of a healthier diet, we find a treasure trove of opportunity to genuinely connect.
In human food and beverage or lifestyle categories the same principles are at work. People care about their health and wellness. They have discovered that what they ingest and how they live have a direct connection to their quality of life. Imagine for a moment engaging them on their journey as an expert guide and enabler of what they want to achieve.
Right there is the grist for a more effective and powerful form of communication that touches the heart as much as the head. This sense of higher purpose in the marketing relationship leads with ‘other centeredness’ that empathizes with the struggles and challenges people have in their daily lives.
When consumers can ‘see’ themselves in the marketing, that’s when the magic actually begins. It sounds counterintuitive to how marketing has coalesced solely around product features and benefits for a generation – because it is.
The world is different now as consumers are in control and masters of leaving the stage when marketing is self-promotional, unemotional and intentionally makes the brand the hero of the story.
Path to marketing victory
Brands are often sitting on a mountain of storytelling fuel in the personal stories of challenge and change experienced by their users. Bringing these great stories to life offers honest and trusted proof of performance, emotion, belief and transformation. It takes great skill to assemble powerful stories but just like a compelling movie script, the premise of the story is bound up in people and their unrelenting desire for improvement and overcoming roadblocks on life’s journey.
The key ingredients in activating the relationship bonds as a litmus test for marketing message strength:
- Recognize the importance and characteristics of bonds in your own personal experience, how they operate and why they matter. This will help inform the thinking.
- Decide the business exists to improve lives and actively participate in helping consumers solve the challenges they face.
- Articulate the problem or challenge the brand can solve in context of the consumers journey, desires and needs.
- Demonstrate the solution through the anecdotal stories of real people and how their lives have improved or changed.
- Employ emotion in how these stories are told. Language matters. Words matter, so be judicious in how the message is constructed.
- Most of all be vigilant about staying away from the traps of self-promotion. Analytical arguments that fail to recognize the consumer will also fail to engage them, when they can’t find themselves in the storytelling.
This is truly is a game of inches, and so we acknowledge here the uncertainty that CEOs and CMOs may experience in designing strategies that will function correctly. No one wants to risk a misfire.
What we all want, however, are legions of enthusiastic fans that keep coming back for repeat purchases. This is attainable when the rules of engagement are followed, and the marketing is optimized to match the characteristic needs of heart-led human beings in the digital age.
We can help you work through these challenges and open a new era of consistent engagement by creating marketing the consumer wants and embraces.
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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.