Coca-Cola, Dove, McDonald’s—what do these big-name brands have in common? They are the masters of feel-good marketing campaigns. From #MakeItHappy and #SpeakBeautiful to “Pay With Lovin’,” consumers watched these household names attempt to make the world a happier place throughout 2015. Money may have been the end-goal here, but the added perk of happiness positioned Coca-Cola, Dove and McDonald’s for greater engagement with their target markets, particularly the millennial demographic.
According to a recent study from ZenithOptimedia, a leading global media services network, brands that can evoke feelings of happiness in millennials are more likely to build long-lasting relationships with the sought-after segment. This is psychology-based marketing at its best: delivering emotional selling propositions (in this case, happiness) that trigger consumers’ unconscious minds.
So, how can the print and promotional industry use this technique to turn a profit? After all, not everyone is operating on a Fortune 500 budget. To learn more, Print+Promo reached out to Jeanette Maw McMurtry, principal of Eagle, Colorado-based e4marketing, and an author, presenter and expert on psychology-based marketing. Find out what she had to say.
Let’s talk about psychology-based marketing. What is it, and how does it pertain to a company’s branding efforts?
Jeanette Maw McMurtry: Neuromarketers and psychologists have found from various studies that 90 percent of what we do is driven by our unconscious minds. Yet marketing, branding, promotions and sales initiatives have always been targeted toward the conscious mind, meaning that we are wasting 90 percent of our efforts and budgets by appealing to only 10 percent of our customers’ decision triggers.
For years, I spoke at events around the world for Xerox on the power of personalization in print direct marketing and its impact on driving unparalleled response and return on investment (ROI). After time, personalization became expected and the returns diminished. I decided at that point in my career to focus on personalizing marketing programs to the psyche of consumers, as that is where most decisions are made. I was stunned at the impact on response, sales and ROI. By applying some of the psychological principles I studied, I was able to beat clients’ controls by 600 percent or more for revenue, 100 percent or more for response, and achieve ROIs of 3,000 percent. This is how powerful psychology-based marketing for branding, promotional and engagement programs can be.
Psychological relevance is manifest through words, offers, colors and projected values of a brand’s communications, iconology, marketing campaigns and so on. Even the fonts used in an ad can unconsciously influence our attitude and perceived value of a brand. As we align with people and brands that we believe have our same values, it is critical that all aspects of your promotions—the materials you use, incentives you offer and more—project the person and values most associated with your customers.
What is the first step in building a well-managed brand?
JMM: No marketer can truly deliver psychologically relevant experiences or communications without first understanding the emotional selling proposition (ESP) of its product category and then its own brand. It is mission critical to put processes in place to monitor the changing attitudes and demands of consumers, and which emotions are behind most of their thoughts and actions. I recommend developing ESPs for your brand in general which addresses the emotional fulfillment you provide vs. just the tangible or physical aspects of your product or service. Once you define this value, you can develop ESPs for the various segments or personas associated with your category and brand. The ESP profiles should address the generational elements (e.g., different levels of trust and brand engagement from millennials to boomers; social influencers, such as authority; and the psychological triggers, like risk aversion; and how loss/rewards elements apply to your category).
Do you think customers consciously work with print or promotional companies with the sole purpose of achieving happiness, for example? Why or why not?
JMM: Business marketers need to operate in a manner that creates happiness for their customers. When they achieve this goal, they in turn experience happiness personally as it provides a sense of accomplishment, security for a job well done and anticipation of the rewards associated with meeting their business goals. Research shows us that when these personal needs are filled during the sales process for B2B purchasers, they are much more likely to buy and are even eight times more likely to pay a premium price. Print and promotional sales teams need to identify the happiness triggers for their purchasers, and deliver on those needs if they want to succeed.
How do printed campaigns and promotional items deliver unconscious happiness to consumers?
JMM: We humans still respond best to things we touch that engage more of our senses and so print will never go away. We also react to promotions that give us more value for our money or reward us for our purchases. We have and always will respond to brand experiences that make us feel appreciated, or that we are being given something of value in return for our time and loyalty. When we feel recognized or appreciated, we experience feelings of happiness or connectedness, and those feelings, often sparked by oxytocin rushes, are transferred to the brands that create them, thus creating loyalty and often evangelism.
Should small businesses or organizations approach building brand awareness differently than medium or larger ones?
JMM: Small businesses have to approach awareness differently per budget issues and cannot compete on a mass-media level with bigger, established brands. Simply promoting a name is not going to spark sales for a small business like seeing flashing Coke signs might spark an impulse to buy a cold can of pop at a vending machine. Promoting the ESP or emotional value of their business over larger competitors is a much more effective way to success. Personalized communications that build one-to-one relationships are key to growth for start-ups and small business and the most efficient way to sales, lifetime value and lasting ROI.
Small companies should determine what level of partnership they provide to make customers’ lives easier and more productive, and focus on the relationship that can lead to a long-term account and word-of-mouth referrals that typically produce the best leads. Keeping their names alive with relevant offers, promotions [and] unexpected levels of customer service keeps a brand top of mind, and that is the kind of awareness that pays off in incremental sales, loyalty and high-value referrals.
What role does social media play in brand-building?
JMM: Social media is the gateway to engagement and necessary for all companies—and a great way for promotional companies to showcase products and new ideas. Print and promo companies can engage customers through fun, interactive chats and dialogue about their products and value, and leading trivia questions to get people talking on your social pages. Another [idea] is gamification. Using mobile and online sweepstakes and trivia games is huge for engaging and driving consumers to websites to learn more about specific promo products and the value promo products offer in general. No matter what category you are in, consumers play games, and are drawn to games. Fast games that offer easy-to-earn rewards, even as small as a pen or coffee cup, pay off as we humans are wired for rewards and seek opportunities to “win” more than we even know we do.
How can a company develop a distinct point of differentiation while remaining true to its message and core values?
JMM: Developing ESPs vs. USPs—emotional selling propositions vs. unique selling propositions—is a big way to differentiate a brand. When you can assign an emotional value to a non-emotional product, you gain engagement, trust and often a chance to talk to customers personally in order to spark a profitable relationship.
Nothing is unique in any market anymore. The way to stand out in any market with any product is to deliver emotional fulfillment associated with purchases in a given industry. Are people anxious or nervous about making a purchasing mistake and thus jeopardizing their job security? Align your product with the confidence they need to succeed, and the fulfillment of the personal and professional goals they have, and you will stand out and beat any competitor.
What are some common mistakes companies make when trying to increase brand awareness?
JMM: A big mistake for brands of all sizes is to buy media just because you can. Just getting your name out there is not going to pay off unless you are a top global brand that needs to communicate its presence and values vs. generate new sales (again, Coke’s desire to be more visible than Pepsi in order to unconsciously be part of your everyday life). You need to assess the context for your content. Is it relevant to your customers? Is it a channel they frequent and one that is part of their lives? Is your message actionable, and can you measure it? A good rule is if you can’t measure it, don’t buy it.
How can companies better manage their marketing efforts so that they make consistent impressions that etch their desired brand images into the minds of their targeted prospects?
JMM: Brands need to decide what emotional value they fulfill, and then build their messaging, experiences and promotions around that value. Promotion[al] companies provide a wonderful value to their customers and that is the emotion of feeling appreciated, recognized and valued. Instead of selling pens or mugs with companies’ logos on them, they are really selling bonds of mutual respect, admiration and friendship that result in trust and loyalty. The promo companies that can put that stake in the ground will fare much better than those that continue to sell swag.