Posts tagged "Higher Purpose"

New rules: what to say in brand communication

March 25th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand messaging, branded content, Consumer insight, Emotional relevance, Navigation, storytelling 0 comments on “New rules: what to say in brand communication”

Time to stop talking about wiping down surfaces

A veritable flood of email communication is heading outward by the minute from brands and retailers, serving mostly as a reminder of hygiene activity and safety practices. While doing so is certainly admirable, it abrogates the one maxim of effective communication that, now more than ever, must be observed to build consumer trust and relationship.

First, for clarity, we recommend the hygiene regimen focused emailing should cease. It serves only to remind people of the coronavirus threat. It is also placing the company at the center of the message rather than the consumer. Hygiene has its place, but not as a lead message.

Effective storytelling begins with observing these important criteria:

  • How is my brand communication being helpful and useful to the consumer in the new conditions they find themselves?
  • How can I help improve customers’ lives at a time when homebound stresses multiply, and families are living in isolation?
  • What utility are you providing that earns permission for engagement and hence is seen as value-added rather than corporate interruption?

Successful communication places the consumer at the center of messaging

The consumer MUST be the hero of your messaging. Their needs, concerns, conditions and challenges are paramount at a time when anything else may be greeted as irrelevant or spam. Granted it’s important to provide information on safety practices and supply chain integrity. That said, you should lead content strategy with consumer-relevant stories over internal mandates.

What’s going on right now that informs messaging strategy:

  1. People are homebound and contending with the growing stresses related to confinement, absence of lifestyle options and restricted social activity.
  2. Children are out of school and disrupted from their learning routine and quality interaction with friends. Boredom is a real thing.
  3. The home is the center of the universe and meal preparation activity becomes a never-ending call to action.
  4. Online communication and contact are at a premium and is a threshold for engagement while screen time explodes.
  5. Economic uncertainty bubbles underneath as people grow wary of the quarantine consequences for business and jobs.

What to convey in your outreach messaging:

  • Be empathetic. Put the brand in league with consumer concerns during this time of crisis. A human, conversational voice is essential. Edit out corporate speak or self-promotion.
  • Offers and generous incentives are important as a thank you and to help ease the stresses on family finances. This may sound like self-promotion but it isn’t. It’s just a well-timed reward.
  • At no other time in the history of modern cultural change has health and wellness become more important. Now is the time to weigh in on stories aimed at helping people take better care of themselves, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This is your higher purpose right now.
  • The kitchen is now the center of the home universe. This is the time to become helpful on menus ideas, preparation hacks, e-commerce ordering tips, interactive cooking experiences with the kids, recipes, pantry stocking advice, food freshness guidance, home baking (the most challenging of culinary skills), and ways to take the drudgery out of home meal prep. Pivot to online cooking classes with your corporate chef.
  • Time needs filling with activities that have more going for it than consuming massive quantities of Netflix programming. Here are some ideas, advice, guidance on activities and pursuits that take advantage of the extra down time:

Music

Art projects

Reading and learning; podcast listening is on a tear

Exercise, yoga and online experiences to promote same

Meditation, mental health and wellness

Home repair and refurbishment

Pet behavioral training

Interactive activities with pets

Spring housecleaning tips

Organization and decluttering the home

Games, puzzles, and other hands-on moments of home-based entertainment

Spring gardening

Online workshops for any of these

You may be asking what’s this got to do with my business, and the answer is, it’s about them and how marketing becomes useful to people in extraordinary conditions.

Unselfishness is put to the test

Ample evidence exists that earning trust and belief is best served when the consumer believes you are genuinely concerned about them and improving their lives. At its core this requires a move towards a less selfish form of marketing that puts their intrinsic needs first.

Given the incredible circumstances in which we find ourselves, this axiom is more important than ever. Reciprocity is the guiding principle that should help direct your strategic thinking. When the brand becomes an enabler, guide and coach, you are seeding the opportunity for a welcomed and appreciated relationship.

This will require a reorientation from traditional command and control forms of marketing. However, the more enlightened approach will put your brand in position to engage at a time when there are fewer distractions. People are looking for the voices that provide useful guidance in these uncertain times.

If you need help in navigating the right message and content, we’re here to assist.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Stark reality of rapid change mandates marketing shift

March 24th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand strategy, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, e-commerce, Higher Purpose, Marketing Strategy, Supermarket strategy 0 comments on “Stark reality of rapid change mandates marketing shift”

Guidance as new voice required in the face of cultural upheaval

Whatever the marketing plan looked like four months ago, it’s changing now in the face of a new reality and shifts in consumer attitude. Here we will chart the conditions and explain an enlightened approach.

So you understand what sits underneath the shifts:

Awhile back when we were engaged in the home safety products category, we had access to reams of quantitative and qualitative research to help us understand what the barriers were to purchase of potentially lifesaving products. The primary hill climb can be summed up in six words: “It will never happen to me.” Home fires, carbon monoxide incidents and other similar close-to-home threats happen to “other people,” consumers believed. This complacency could only be disrupted when confronted with real people stories of loss and tragedy.

The self-assessment people made was, never in my backyard. Now that sentiment has broadly shifted.

The unfolding events around us all has created a new reality. The change can be summed again in a statement, only modified as “it CAN happen to me.” We are witnessing the emergence of primal fear, anxiety nourished with uncertainty, multiplied by the speed of change going on and accelerated by public policy moves in an effort to flatten the curve of pandemic impact.

People believe they are truly vulnerable, while news reports of continued escalation in COVID-19 cases operates as confirmation of that view.

What does this mean to you? There is a rapidly increasing need for emotional support and preparedness. If you’re wondering whether or not consumers are paying attention to your behaviors and communication, a new research report suggests they are closely watching your moves.

  • Gfk research has been tracking the changes and in a recent report said that 73 percent of consumers say how companies react and handle the unfolding crisis will have an impact on future purchase decisions. No surprise, 85 percent of Gfk respondents indicated the virus is impacting their shopping behaviors, presaging a significant, and likely lasting, migration to e-commerce channels.

Primary call to action: consumers are looking for “a brand I can trust to guide me.” Thus, it’s time to step back and take a hard look at what initiatives and outreach in your current efforts are specifically addressing the need for trust creation.

Trust and safety are paramount

  • How are you expressing and addressing empathy and support for the lifestyle upheaval and anxiety people are experiencing?
  • Can you help people answer and manage the emergence of ‘family cabin fever’ conditions in the home?
  • Can you provide lifestyle encouragement, advice and ideas to help home-bound families continue healthy living regimens and behaviors?
  • Of note here, the more ‘unexpected’ it is from you in the areas to try to be helpful in, the more unselfish and trustworthy you appear.
  • Time to enable and encourage community conversation of shared experiences and events in your social channels. People need a place to engage and share.
  • Reveal details of your ingredient safety and testing standards in product creation. In fact, generally there has never been a better time than now to be transparent about everything.
  • What are your manufacturing hygiene protocols and safety procedures?
  • For emerging brands, communicate your supply chain integrity and ability to continue the regular flow of products to distribution. If there are limitations in this area, explain them openly and honestly.
  • For food retailers, your customers are going to hit exhaustion with home meal preparation 24/7. How can you amp up your prepared meal solutions business to bring some welcome relief for home chef monotony syndrome?

Engagement likely to be at an all-time high

With fewer distractions and a feast of extra time on their hands, people will be more open to engagement and have the bandwidth to pay attention. Content creation strategies can help fill the void. That said, it’s important to observe the rules of being helpful and useful over product promotion hype.

In 2008 and 09 when the economy tanked, a great lesson was served to businesses everywhere. Companies that continued to invest and communicate experienced share gains over rivals who answered the soft economic conditions by going into a fiscal fetal position.

You have the chance now to be seen and heard. What you say will impact perceptions of your ability to be trusted and of value to consumers’ rapidly changing lives.

If you need help navigating in this time of great change, please let us know.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Beliefs and behaviors can change the world

March 12th, 2020 Posted by change, Emotional relevance, Healthy Living, Higher Purpose 1 comment on “Beliefs and behaviors can change the world”

Higher purpose works when lived

My wife Kristen and I last night went to what’s affectionately known in Chicago as a ‘Blackhawks Bar’ (code for sports bar with lots of TVs and the sound on during a game) in the West Loop area called WestEnd. We were there to watch the Blackhawks play the San Jose Sharks. Both of us are avid fans. To our left was a table occupied by three Chicago police officers who were grabbing a meal together.

Kristen motioned the waitress over and said, “I’d like to pay the check for the officers over there.” She does this routinely, early and often – and before the game was over, she did it again for another group of officers who were also dining nearby.

She believes that police officers put their lives on the line daily to help provide safety and protection in what is largely a tough and thankless job. Her effort to buy their dinner was a small gesture of appreciation for their service and to telegraph they are valued. She said to me, “I believe in them and what they do, it’s the least I can do to show some support.”

Her effort was genuine, heartfelt and an expression of her values.

We have published extensively about the importance of higher purpose and deeper meaning to brand growth, at a time when people care more than ever about how businesses contribute to making the world around us better. The goal to operate consistently on a level that transcends commerce and aligns the business with inspiring values and unselfish behaviors.

Kristen’s gesture was based on her beliefs. She lives and breathes this way and I for one am honored to have a person like her in my life. So it is that convictions and actions can contribute each day to improving the world we live in.

Sometimes it’s important to step back for a minute and examine how we can author this kind of thinking inside the businesses we run. Our actions always and forever speak louder than our words. When we live it and do it, it can influence the culture around us and inspire others to join us.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Marketing Strategy: Different Beats Best

March 11th, 2020 Posted by brand strategy, change, CMO, Growth, Higher Purpose, Marketing Strategy, Transformation 0 comments on “Marketing Strategy: Different Beats Best”

Category creation is the path to sustainable growth

Emergent has extolled the virtue of category creation as a path to sustainable growth for some time. In essence, we routinely look for ways to dial a client’s brand positioning to the right or left far enough that a new category of one is created.

For the most part we find that food, beverage and lifestyle brands, however, prefer to focus on being better than the competition, or even the best – which is better attired in a nice new suit.

Better is an alluring idea. Brands almost naturally feel drawn to say faster, cheaper, easier, more of this and less of that.

The problem with better is it casts the business in a comparison-anchored fight that never goes away. It gives strength to the competition by keeping them in the conversation and requires routine return visits to make sure the specs are always optimal. In fact, the specs become the defining narrative of the business, a more analytical style of communication that lacks emotional resonance.

A form of polite mudslinging goes on continually as the better or best mantra is applied and justified through ranking of achievements and advantages. Marketers may think that users care most about better, but that’s only because they haven’t given them something different to believe in. At least not yet. 

Are brands merely a list of features and benefits?

  • The primary difference between being brand led versus sales driven begins with recognizing that a strong brand always goes to market with a point of view. The best brands have an opinion that is expressed early and often, and a vision of what the future looks like. Strong brands offer a way forward for their users and help them understand what before and after looks like.

Your brand is ultimately a belief system. In today’s redefined world now founded on substance and authenticity rather than gloss and prestige, belief is the new benefit.

Another way to look at this is the power and importance of different. Superior will lose out to different every time. Emergent’s goal as expert guide is to help marketers define what different looks like and then map how to own it.

Balance sheet challenges aside, the Casper mattress category creation story isn’t really founded on offering a better mattress. They’ve been successful by marketing a point of view and beliefs around better sleep. Their principles and values led to creating a new category and channel for mattress sales that overcame the inability to trial (lay down on) a mattress before purchase.

Your strategic thinking time is best invested looking for powerful ways to be different rather than better or best. Here are four examples of how different can be brought to life.

  1. Create a new category everyone else is blind to

You can choose to play ball outside with competitors, watching their moves and looking for advantages in formulation or superiority in other areas of the category value proposition that people expect. Or you can create a new playing field that’s your very own.

Legacy beauty brands have forever looked at their role as something magical you apply to achieve their definition of beauty. It is created on the surface, on the outside of the user. New more purposeful emerging brands see it differently. They believe beauty comes from inside and operates with a wider lens around wellness. Beauty is achieved through respect for and balance of the mind, body and spirit. This is rich territory to carve a new voice, to change the value proposition and to be different.

Different is easier to remember and gets traction more quickly than better, which always requires some brain taxing analysis to do the math of superiority.

  1. Create a lifestyle brand

Lifestyle brands recognize the role they can play as enablers of consumer passions, and their ability to inspire users to a better quality of life. Lifestyle brands literally insert themselves into important life moments for consumers. These are life events and experiences that mirror the brand’s guiding beliefs and reason for being, which is nearly always attached to a deeper meaning than just the product itself.

Yeti is a super-premium cooler brand that is heavily invested in lifestyle positioning.  The brand is a study in active participation and storytelling around life moments that matter. Its methodology has been expressed on more than one occasion as celebrating “freedom of the human soul in nature.”

Sure, they could devote their marketing energy to technical descriptions and specmanship around the product design. Instead their focus is on the special moments of human relationship bonding on a river at dawn while fly fishing. Is this a prestige sale? $350 or more for a cooler is a leap in price point. No. It is a cult favorite among construction workers because the brand identifies so fully with a life worth living.

  1. Change focus and the conversation

Many brands ill-advisedly devote their marketing plans and tools to revealing themselves to the customer. When you talk continuously about your accolades and advantages, you are expressing who and what you are.

However, brand led businesses on the other hand show their difference by expressing who the customer is and can be. The nuance is showing them how your brand beliefs will change them and improve their lives.

When you talk about yourself, you position the brand as the hero of the story you’re telling. That is upside down and puts the brand in competition with the consumer for the hero role. Users should be the hero of all brand storytelling, with the brand positioned as expert guide, there to help them on the journey and solve problems.

Hotel companies are famous for talking about themselves, the facilities and amenities. The similarity between hotel web sites is striking, as if there were one design firm knocking them off along a cookie-cutter pattern of feature lists. The game to settle who is better or best is played against a backdrop of great-looking pools, spas and culinary offerings.

Then along comes Airbnb. This brand rose above the fray by being different in every way. Here Airbnb inspires a dramatically different picture of what travel is. While hotel companies try to beat the competition with amenities, spacious rooms and gardens, Airbnb turned the industry inside out by being different.

The magic lies in how you travel and what you experience when you’re there. It’s a decidedly human story that builds on the personal adventure you create rather than property specs.

  1. Change the reality

Different can come to life when a brand reframes the long-accepted reality and creates the ‘Oh my God we’ve been doing it wrong all this time’ moment.

Step One Foods in Minneapolis is an early player on this front, pioneering a new category entitled Food-as-Medicine. (Disclosure: Emergent has done some project work with this company). Step One was started by a Cardiologist, Dr. Elizbeth Klodas, who hails from a long line of family bakers.

Dr. Klodas empathetically aligned herself with patients suffering from high cholesterol and the prospect of future heart disease. Dr. Klodas wanted to find a way to improve and change her patients’ lives, not just medicate. Cholesterol lowering drugs, by the way, are the most prescribed medications in America. As is always the case, drug therapies come with side-effects which can be debilitating in their own right.

Dr. Klodas looked at the linkage between food, diet and disease and embarked on a journey to create a food-based solution. Remarkably, she found an effective recipe using real food ingredients in proper proportions to create a line of packaged foods including bars, smoothie mix, oatmeal cereal and other assorted products.

Step One became the first packaged foods company to participate in a double-blind clinical trial of the products, that effectively proved consuming the foods (no other changes to lifestyle required) met or exceeded the cholesterol lowering outcomes achieved by drug therapies, but without the side effects.

Step One has created an ‘OMG we’ve been doing it wrong moment,’ reframing what we know and understand about the role that food can play in addressing disease.

  1. Different is a reframing reality. It is a paradigm shift and as such it flies against the natural tendency to fall into better, best or both.
  2. Different and its cousin new category creation, are pathways to sustainable growth that end the connection to competitive comparison while achieving true separation and distinction.

The question marketers should be asking: can I help make people care about something different that what they prioritize now? The answer is yes, this can be done. Owning different will change the conversation with consumers and usher in an era of brand leadership.

Can we help you identify your path to brand-led strength?  Let’s talk.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Bloomberg: the $500 Million Marketing Misfire

March 9th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, branded content, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Emotional relevance, Higher Purpose, Insight, social media marketing, storytelling 0 comments on “Bloomberg: the $500 Million Marketing Misfire”

A compelling lesson for CPG and retail marketers

Regardless of what you think of Mike Bloomberg’s politics, his relatively short-lived candidacy for President was fueled by a pervasive, high tonnage ad campaign that ultimately flamed out.

While there were varying executions in rotation, the primary television and radio effort was a chronicle of his achievements. This approach was fundamentally flawed from the start, as it ignored the new conventions of authentic messaging engagement in the era of consumer control. It stands as a very expensive example of what not to do and a lesson to CPG and retail marketers everywhere that the new rules of consumer engagement must be acknowledged, even by well-funded political ad campaigns.

It also serves to remind us that the path to market is substantially different now, and big TV budgets are no guarantee of success. We’re doing business in a changed world where other channels (like social media) and more genuine forms of outreach matter more. The glossy cinematic ads can’t make up for an absence of genuine emotional human connection, trust and belief.

Who is the hero? Don’t Be like Mike

The prevailing message in Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign was a bulleted list –

  • Mike built a global business empire from the ground up
  • Mike took charge of the 9-11 response in New York
  • Mike made affordable housing happen on his watch
  • Mike took on the NRA
  • Mike funded college education for those in need
  • Mike stood up to the coal lobby

The list goes on. Not unlike many other campaigns we see on a regular basis, the hero of this story is Mike Bloomberg. You can see the discussions going on with his media handlers building a list of their candidate’s ‘features and benefits’ ready to fire the cannon volley about his wins and achievements. We find the same thing going on with food, beverage and lifestyle brands, building a focus around all the reasons why the product and brand are superior to the other guys.

Embedding disconnect in the message platform

The $500 million misfire started with upside-down messaging. The hero of any politician or brand story isn’t the politician or brand. It is the voter, the consumer. Every single day human beings wake up believing they are the heroes of their life journey.

It is their lives, passions, problems, struggles, concerns, needs, wants and aspirations that matter most. That’s why we build the story around the consumer as hero with the candidate or brand operating as the expert and sage guide to help them win and solve their problems.

When the hero is Mike Bloomberg, the message is now competing with voters for the hero role. It fails to engage as people move on to find the expert guide who will forge a better future for them and their families.

In the brand marketing world, so much effort goes into making the highest quality products and services that the marketing plan is laser focused on trumpeting the superior product features. Seems only logical to do so, right?

  • When the brand is the hero and not the consumer, a fundamental flaw exists that will interfere with engagement, and no amount of media spending is going to overcome that fracture.

Messaging matters to outcomes

If the messaging is wrong, nothing works – and the major media spend simply serves to push the broken agenda in more directions. Marketing investments indeed can be wasted. This is why Emergent devotes a significant amount of work upfront with clients mapping the right message platform, with the consumer as hero of the storytelling. Then and only then, will the application of media tools and channels deliver on the desired objectives.

If the consumer isn’t listening it doesn’t matter that the message shows up early and often. Technology today allows people to avoid anything they don’t see as relevant to them. People resonate to people. We want the heroes of our favorite stories to overcome the odds. Heroes are almost always flawed characters who need help to succeed. This is where the brand enters the picture as the Yoda to Luke Skywalker. You remember that Luke doubted himself all the way to the climatic end when he finally believed in the Force and his Jedi training.

Media in the new age

The goals of media planning today are about genuine, credible, believable and trusted forms of outreach. Thus, why great care must be taken when using influencers because this can work at cross purposes if post authenticity appears to be compromised by payment. Earned media is a vital channel due to the reportorial, non-paid status it holds. Social communities are destinations for people to share personal experiences, a digital form of word-of-mouth. This is why social proof is so important to earning trust.

If the goal is to help improve the lives of your users and if you are working to embed a higher purpose and deeper meaning for your brand that transcends the basics of product selling, you have a shot at creating a ‘movement’ and securing legions of fans who want your marketing rather than tuning it out.

We can help you create a more transcendent relationship with consumers and messaging they will connect with. Don’t be like Mike…

Want to discuss your challenges informally? Let’s talk.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Emotion Will Transform Your Business Outcomes

March 3rd, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, Brand preference, brand strategy, change, CMO, Consumer insight, Emotional relevance, Marketing Strategy, storytelling 0 comments on “Emotion Will Transform Your Business Outcomes”

The story of emotional marketing power

Awhile back the largest home safety products company, First Alert, had landed on a household hazard that no one even knew existed. It was the number one cause of accidental poisoning fatalities in America, a threat flying so low under the radar there was near zero measurable public awareness of the peril.

Yet households and families across the country were potential unwitting victims to this insidious threat that, among poison specialists, had acquired the nickname The Great Imitator. First Alert discovered the widespread existence of highly dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) gas, that could be present in homes because it is a natural, common by-product of all fossil fuel combustion. Anywhere a flame exists, carbon monoxide is there with it, released into the atmosphere where people unknowingly consume it through the simple act of breathing.

Most consumers associated carbon monoxide with car exhaust and suicides from distraught people leaving the car engine running with a garage door shut. CO inside the home living space was not understood. By anyone.

Carbon monoxide poisoning earned its Great Imitator title because it is odorless, colorless, tasteless and early poisoning symptoms perfectly mimic the flu. The presence of CO in a home an outcome of malfunctioning heat exchangers or venting in furnace systems, chimney drafts that reverse direction in certain outdoor wind conditions, or appliances like stoves and hot water heaters that when improperly tuned may emit measurable levels of CO into the building.

  • There was no way to detect it, no way to know if the family is being poisoned routinely by the presence of this invisible hazard. Remarkably First Alert had developed new technology that could sense the presence of CO in the household air and designed an alarm product around it.

Thousands of lives were lost every year to carbon monoxide poisoning but the awareness and understanding of this critical, life threatening problem went largely unnoticed. Until…

Changing the future and saving lives

We were hired to help First Alert build a marketplace for the alarm product. How could we possibly succeed with an invisible hazard that no one has any tangible experience with other than the unexplained headaches or nausea that accompanies low level exposure to the poison? CO operates in the lungs to reduce oxygen levels in the blood stream, slowly suffocating a person from the inside out. Even small amounts are highly toxic.

Consumer insight is a powerful tool and we felt strongly consumer research would help us find the right strategic path. Essential to our due diligence and discovery were one-on-one, deep dive conversations with men and women about the hazard. In these meetings we presented a variety of narrative stories that explained the condition and solution.

Some treatments were educational ‘explainer’ concepts that helped people understand the scope of the threat and where CO comes from inside the home. Some approached the story from the poison side, with physicians detailing how CO works to rob the blood of oxygen, eventually leading to unconsciousness and death.

One of the treatments, however, was a real-life story of a family in Maine that lost their teenage daughter to carbon monoxide poisoning inside their home. The story worked to humanize the entire proposition and focus on the loss of a loved one, in a life-ending condition that might have been prevented.

The mother’s heartfelt story was powerful. In fact, the outcomes of the research confirmed categorically that none of the analytical arguments and educational downloads came within a country mile of making an impact on attitude and behavior like the family tragedy, told by parents who were determined to help others understand how they can avoid this fate.

Dawn of ‘The Silent Killer’

We created short, memorable handle for the CO threat that turned its invisibility into a poignant indictment of the household menace. We developed a launch strategy around the family’s gripping story, created an entity called the Carbon Monoxide Information Bureau as a quote-able source, and rallied a team of respected physicians and indoor air quality experts to fill in the details of how CO occurs and what it does to a person exposed.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington DC made CO poisoning events a priority for their public outreach efforts that credibly affirmed the scope of the problem.

What came next is one of the largest earned media campaigns we ever conducted that blended the family story with information on how people could protect themselves. Chief among the messaging points were medical reports that confirmed children and unborn babies are at greater risk to CO poisoning and could be adversely impacted by smaller amounts of the gas.

Producers at network news and talk shows like NBC Today Show and Good Morning America were genuinely shocked at the revelation, and The Silent Killer story quickly gained national attention and momentum.

Soundbites along with B-roll footage of household hazard conditions went to major market TV newsrooms across the country. First responder fire departments in the top 25 markets were enlisted to weigh in on the conditions and events surrounding CO events in an effort to help people protect themselves and their families.

The First Alert business went from zero to hundreds of millions in CO alarm sales within 15 months of launch. The buyer at Walmart called the new category the ‘Cabbage Patch Doll’ of the hardware department. Local news reported lines outside stores to get the alarms. Thousands of lives were saved, and families protected. Local governments began to weigh in writing Ordinances to require CO alarms in households, while product design created integrated alarms that combined smoke and CO monitoring in one detection unit.

Don’t leave emotion out of your marketing

This was one of the most gratifying marketing and communications experiences in my career for the very reason we were able to save so many lives, while creating a new product category to help prevent a life-threatening hazard that no one can see.

  • Most important was the family who stepped up to help us tell this story out of their personal experience. From a pure communications strategy standpoint, emotion and heart-over-head are directionally vital takeaways to this approach.

People resonate to people. No matter how powerful the facts may be, the analytical evidence of superiority your product may possess, emotional stories of human experience will be more compelling. After all, every consumer is first and foremost a human being and we are simply wired to respond this way.

We can help you harness emotion and craft powerful brand stories that build business.

Want to know more? Let’s talk.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

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