Harvard professor, Gerald Zaltman (one of my old professors at Pitt), states that 95% of a purchase decision is made in the subconscious mind in contrast to economic theory that says consumers are rational decision-makers who seek to optimize benefits. The subconscious mind isn’t very rational, however, and relies on emotion. When you ensure your marketing is loveable, you tap into the subconscious to influence the vast majority of a purchase decision. The image below shows a depiction of emotional buying, which is supported by a large number of researchers as the major factor impacting buying and other behaviors, versus rational buying processes that are more cognitive. ELM (elaboration likelihood model) proposes that rather than a this or that situation, buying decisions vary based on the buyer’s involvement in the purchase as well as their assessment of the risk involved in making a bad decision. According to the theory, in cases of high risk/ involvement, people use the central route that is more cognitive and rational, while in cases of lower risk/ involvement, they use the peripheral or emotional route to make purchase decisions (and lots of other types of decisions).
Loveable marketing solves consumer problems
Consumers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems and, when marketing solves consumer problems, everyone benefits — the firm and its stakeholders benefit from increased sales, consumers benefit from having their problems solved, government benefits from increased taxes. Here, we refer to marketing in the broad sense of all four elements of the marketing mix (pricing, product, promotion, and distribution) not just marketing as advertising. That means marketers must focus on creating products that solve consumer problems, pricing at a reasonable price for their target market, promoting the benefits to consumers of buying the product, and distributing the product in a manner that makes it easy for consumers to acquire the product.
But, somewhere along the road to modernity, marketers forgot their primary directive was to solve problems and instead, focused on selling products — no matter WHAT it took. The relationship marketing concept supposedly embraced by firms sought to change the notion of selling to one of building relationships with consumers built on trust, product quality, and superior service. This change shifts the focus from the rational to the emotional connection between customers and the brand, making marketing more loveable. When Marketing is Loveable it SOLVES PROBLEMS.
Instead, it was easier (and cheaper) for firms to trick consumers into buying mediocre products from indifferent service providers and pay lip service to relationship building. Social media marketing quickly uncovered the fraudsters using this approach; finally forcing firms to CARE about consumers.
So, the question is:
How do I ensure my marketing is loveable?
Sometimes folks forget that marketing is SO much more than advertising, as I said earlier. And customer service is a good example of how non-advertising aspects of marketing deeply affect sales.
I mean, think about it. How often have you left a restaurant or store swearing you’d never return because the service provider was rude, slow, poorly trained …?
I walked out of Wendy’s last week after being ignored by a half-dozen employees who were too busy laughing at their own jokes and a counter clerk on a personal call to wait on the customers at the counter. I walked next door to their competition and I’ll remember this poor service the next time I choose to eat fast food, even if the decision is made in my subconscious without consciously remembering the incident. Face it, consumers have LOTS of choices and you’re just not that special. Mess up and I’ll just give your competition my money. When you multiply this by the number of customers getting bad service, you see the monumental impact of poor service on profits.
2. Build a brand personality
Did you know brands need a personality that resonates with the target market the same way a person has a personality that attracts like-minded people such as friends, colleagues, and spouses?
Here are some examples of firms that express a personality that matches one of the archetypes identified by researchers.
Clearly define your brand’s personality traits, values, and characteristics. Consider how you want your brand to be perceived by your audience and what emotions you want to evoke.
According to the American Marketing Association,
Story marketing taps into narrative, connecting with an audience on an emotional level, in order to help them empathize and understand the problems your business solves on a deeper level. It is a powerful way for brands to cut through the noise. Psychologist Jerome Bruner discovered that when stories are used to communicate a message, people remember them 22x more than facts and figures alone.
A great way to do this is through authentic storytelling and social media is a perfect medium for telling brand stories.
3. Understand what customers want
How can you solve consumer problems and give them what they want if you DON’T UNDERSTAND them? Obviously, you can’t. But, when was the last time you spent significant effort trying to understand your target market? Not, tracking the effect of your advertising on customer attitudes and resulting sales but really getting to know your target market?
Once you understand your customer, create a customer experience that wows them. The image below gives you some ideas for how to do this. The product isn’t necessarily what creates an unbreakable bond between a consumer and a brand. It’s all about the customer experience.
Treat a consumer well and make them feel special enough, and you can rest assured that they’ll remember your brand. You’ll also have earned yourself a customer for life.
My guess is it’s been a long time (or never) since you really tried to understand your target market. People point fingers at Apple products because they’re too expensive and not as good as other brands. All true, yet Apple sales soar while Microsoft posted its first quarterly loss earlier this month. Why do people buy expensive, inferior Apple products, such as iPhone, rather than less expensive, better-performing alternatives, like Android phones? Because Apple understands its target market and gives them exactly what they want.
In the age of digital marketing, you have even more avenues for learning about your target market than ever before. A good listening program that goes beyond simply categorizing social media posts according to positive or negative attitudes is a perfect way to learn more about what’s important to your target market.
4. Innovate, innovate, innovate
Customer problems, technology, and the environment change over time. If you’re still offering the same great products you’ve offered over the last decade, you’re losing ground. Intel, for instance, states that most of its income comes from products that didn’t even exist at the beginning of the year.
But, just innovating isn’t enough. You have to use your customer understanding to create innovative products to solve consumer problems, find new ways to serve them, and hot buttons to use in advertising your brand. New isn’t the goal. Solving new problems or solving them better is. Look at Zuckerberg (Meta). He wasn’t a freakin’ genius. Facebook wasn’t a NEW idea. What was new was the interface that made creating a profile and connecting with “friends” intuitive. And this is what made Facebook a huge success and squashed MySpace like a bug. It remains to be seen if he’ll do the same to Twitter with his new app.
Consumers are PEOPLE, not numbers on a spreadsheet. Engage them in conversation. Ask their opinion. Have them create content for you.
Look for opportunities to create emotional connections with your audience. Engage with them on social media, respond to their comments and messages, and show appreciation for their support. Use emotional triggers such as humor, nostalgia, or empathy in your marketing campaigns to forge deeper connections.
Building a community is a two-way street that involves generating authentic conversations with your community. Their feedback is essential if you want to improve your performance and you should be open in responding to criticism and lavish with thanks for the praise. Below is some advice from SEMRush to guide your storytelling strategy.
A study by the Harvard Business Review found that building an emotional connection with buyers has a greater impact on loyalty and is a significant driver of future purchases than other factors that impact loyalty, including product quality. Consumers who have an emotional connection to a brand are also more likely to recommend the brand to others.
6. Be a good corporate citizen
Gone are the days when consumers would accept corporations that polluted our environment, made their products in sweatshops (ie. Nike), treated employees or partners unfairly, and endangered consumers with bad products. Marketing is loveable when corporations act responsibly.
For example, I go to McDonald’s most of the time when I want fast food. Granted, their food is only mediocre and their service minimally acceptable, but they’re GREAT corporate citizens. Not only does McDonald’s support the Ronald McDonald House, but it also donates to many local and national charities through corporate donations and in-kind donations of food. Restaurant employees are encouraged to “Adopt” a road to clean trash thrown out by consumers because trash bearing your logo is bad business. McDonald’s also voluntarily reduced the calories and increased the nutrition in their Happy Meal by reducing the size of the fries and adding sliced apples.
The worldwide percentage of consumers who make purchase decisions at least in part based on shared values is over 50%. Some consumers, especially younger ones, are even willing to pay more for products they see as sharing their values.
7. Keep your promises
Keeping your promises is a key element of when marketing is loveable. Keeping your promises means delivering high-quality products consistently and meeting the promises you made to customers in terms of performance, delivery, price, and suitability for the task at hand. Of course, keeping your promises isn’t always easy and failure is sometimes unavoidable, especially in service marketing where the product is often produced on the spot.
Be authentic, transparent, and deliver on the values and promises you make to your customers. Consistency and reliability are essential for building trust and loyalty. But, it takes more than simply putting up a statement of values, you must live those values. For instance, Starbucks only sells fair trade coffee, which means that growers make a reasonable profit for their efforts in growing the beans despite the fact that they are mostly small growers in developing nations without the power to negotiate on prices. Or, firms that allow their employees to spend work time in volunteer efforts like beach cleanups, sponsor a road (to keep it clean), or read at a local school. It also takes more than money to show your values. Look at Disney, which is currently engaged in a battle over LGBTQ+ rights in Florida to counteract the new laws designed to hurt that group of consumers.
For instance, bad weather might delay a flight or slow down delivery of a product. No one can control the weather but you can control the message. As soon as you detect a delay, be open and forthcoming in sharing up-to-date information with customers rather than trying to hide behind a corporate veil.
So, now you see how marketing is loveable. I hope you try some of these tactics soon. Let me know how it goes. Loveable marketing doesn’t happen overnight, but, over time you should see sales increase. Be forthright and honest.
Notice that the seven tactics I laid out to make your marketing loveable aren’t independent but fit together. Sometimes it’s even hard to separate one tactic from the next. The most important thing isn’t to determine tactics to fit each category but to make sure your marketing is loveable in every tactic employed.
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