Embrace Emotion and Humanity
There’s something incredibly powerful about brand communications and campaigns that create an emotional connection. Messages that break boundaries, compel us to action, stick with us and tug at our heartstrings. Sometimes, that requires putting data and analytics to the side and acting with passion and intuition. In other words, embracing emotion and humanity. It’s a simple, low-tech strategy that’s incredibly effective because it addresses the universal basic instincts we all share, creating connections and ultimately—for your business— long-term customer loyalty.
The Pandemic and all that comes with it has displaced all of us from our personal routines and connections we once took for granted. Most of us lament the fact that we no longer get together with friends, go to the movies or go out to dinner. But during this pandemic, it’s easy to forget that in the digital age that we live in with computers in our pockets, we were all well on our way to losing sight of the basic human interactions that we regularly made before our forced isolation.
Previous to the existance of the iPhone and even computers, our interactions with family, friends and objects were very analog and had more meaning because they required effort. We visited friends and had full conversations; no texting or clipped messaging, Skype or FaceTime. We went to the store to buy things and supported neighborhood businesses; no online shopping or Amazon. We conducted ourselves in a more organic way and made stronger emotional and human connections without being coldly transactional. But with the convenience and instant gratification that the digital age affords us, it has the unfortunate byproduct of fundamentally eroding the simple emotion and humanity of everyday life.
Every brand aspires to make a personal connection with their target audience to create customer loyalty. But all too frequently, there’s an over-reliance on data and analytics to shape marketing initiatives. Don’t get me wrong, market research is a valuable tool which helps a company to:
• Anticipate a customer’s needs
• Help recognize trends and shape product development
• Deliver personalization in a multi-channel environment
• Optimize the customer experience.
Every one of these insights is incredibly important and no company should ever ignore how valuable the knowledge of each of these outcomes is. But data and analytics should not be the endgame, they should be a component of a holistic marketing strategy. Over-reliance on market research can have the effect of making your customer a number on a spreadsheet that you seek to obtain in order to justify your initiatives and expenditures. It can be a crutch that stifles creative and compelling marketing. There are some ground-breaking examples of where the marketing is confident, yet speaks to the basic humanity in each and every one of us.
Here are 3 of my all-time favorites:
Created by Lee Clow and his team at TBWA/Chiat/Day in 1997, this commercial features 17 iconic 20th-century personalities, including Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Pablo Picasso and many others, carefully selected by Clow and Apple CEO Steve Jobs for their diverse and incredible contributions to society and humanity. The 17 are celebrated for their inventiveness, their willingness to push boundaries and their desire to effect change. This ad reminds us that the ideas that may seem out of the ordinary are in fact the ones that transform the world.
Just Do It
This 1998 ad features 80 year old Walt Stack on his daily 17-mile run across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the first in a long series of Just Do It ads, a call to action showcasing people doing athletic feats that many of us can’t seem to find the drive or will to do. Nike could have used any famous athlete as the subject to launch the Just Do It campaign, but they chose the everyman. This simple ad is humorous, inspirational, and empowering. It compels us to get off the couch.
The Last Mile
Airing in late 2019, this commercial celebrates the retiring of the iconic Volkswagen Beetle after 70 years of production. Set to The Beatles Let It Be, it traces the full life of a man and his car set against seminal pop culture moments. It accomplishes the very human exercise of emotionally connecting the viewer to the personal memories we all harbor which have shaped our lives.
Steve Jobs was once famously asked why Apple didn’t do market research. His full response:
Some people say give the customers what they want, but that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, 'If I'd ask customers what they wanted, they would've told me a faster horse.' People don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.
It’s a confident position to take. Customers don’t always know how to articulate what they want. You must understand your audience and connect with them on an emotional level, while showing them things they haven’t imagined themselves. You have to act with your gut and be memorable. This level of confidence inspires trust with everyone who interacts with your brand. Employees, vendors and customers will notice this and respond favorably.
As human and emotional beings, we all share instinctive traits no matter what our backgrounds are or where we come from. We want to challenge the status quo, reach deep within us to accomplish things we didn’t know we could and reminisce about the past. We want to laugh, cry and be inspired. Emotion and humanity can be powerful partners with data and analytics in marketing, creating long-lasting and memorable connections with your target audience.
Take full advantage of opportunities to display humanity and make emotional connections in your brand communications. In fact, let them take a leading role.