The more people feel, the more people buy. That’s the clear conclusion from the last decade of work by two of Britain’s top marketing analysts, Les Binet and Peter Field.
They delved into the IPA DataMine – a huge database of ad effectiveness case studies – to find out how advertising really leads to meaningful business effects, going beyond short-term sales spikes to look at profit growth and market share gain.
So what is the key to effective marketing, and how can businesses apply this to their marketing techniques to boost sales and grow profits? We asked Tom Ewing to explain;
Binet and Field’s research found that emotion is the key to successful marketing. In the long term, campaigns that tap into people’s emotion are almost twice as likely to result in very large business effects.
Their study is one reason why so many marketers are getting interested in emotion as a driver of business success. For conversion, retention and brand building, people are coming round to the idea that seduction beats persuasion, every time.
At System1 Research we’ve spent well over a decade exploring emotion and marketing, drawing inspiration from behavioural scientists. Our work is summarised in our new book, System1: Unlocking Profitable Growth.
To help you capitalise on this work, here are our 5 top lessons from psychology for harnessing the power of emotion in your business.
1. Speak to System 1
People have two modes of thinking for making decisions, according to behavioural scientist, Daniel Kahneman;
- System 1 is the fast, instinctive, emotionally-driven one,
- System 2 the considered, slower one.
When we try to persuade people we’re right, with logical arguments and lists of facts, we’re pitching to System 2. But System 1 is faster and more powerful, and in most cases has already decided.
All those persuasive arguments are likely to go ignored if System 1 isn’t already on your side. So always have System 1 in mind when you’re trying to win business or build your brand.
You speak to System 1 by making yourself easy to choose. According to Gerd Gigerenzer, another behavioural scientist, human beings like “fast and frugal” decisions – ones that don’t take too much time or energy.
Creating positive emotion is one vital way you can make yourself easy to choose. It could be as simple as using brighter colours or more smiling faces on your marketing materials – if people come away feeling good about you, that will be more help than any single product feature.
2. Make yourself fluent
Another way System 1 makes decisions is via pattern recognition. We humans evolved an amazing capacity for recognition – as evolutionary psychologists are fond of saying, if you can recognise something, it hasn’t killed you yet!
The quality that makes something easy to recognise and mentally process is called fluency, and psychologists are now learning quite how crucial it is for innovation and influence.
For instance, one group of researchers analysed 17 million scientific papers to work out what made the influential ones stand out. They discovered the biggest “hits” were the work that combined a kernel of surprisingly new material with a great real of ‘reassuringly familiar’ existing work.
We see the same pattern again and again – if you want people to accept your new idea, you have to make yourself fluent. Take the novelty and make it feel familiar – think of how Uber made getting into a stranger’s car feel as easy and familiar as hailing a taxi!
3. Be emotional
For most of human history, we communicated mainly by emotion – grunts and grimaces designed to warn, scare or win over our fellow primates.
And emotion is still the core of marketing effectiveness. But which emotions? Psychologist Paul Ekman has travelled the world looking for universal emotions – ones which every culture has in common, that show up in the same way on the face.
This shared emotional DNA boils down to 7 core feelings;
- Disgust, and
What we’ve found via testing thousands of brands and ads at System1 Research is that the most powerful emotion in advertising is Happiness.
Negative emotions have their use – see point 5 below – but ultimately the job of marketers is to leave people with a positive mental association, which pays off when it’s time for those rapid, easy System 1 decisions.
When we test for the seven emotions, we include an eighth, Neutrality – for ads, products or ideas that leave people feeling nothing.
In a way, Neutrality is the worst emotion of all. If you feel nothing, most likely you’ll do nothing. But it’s surprising how many marketers are happy to leave their audiences emotionally inert!
4. End on a high
Imagine you’re flying off for a holiday in the sun. Which would you prefer – an eight hour delay on your flight out, or a six hour delay on your flight home? The second one is shorter, but from a System 1 perspective, it’s a lot worse.
According to Kahneman, we tend to remember experiences as a rough average of their “peak” – the most intense part, good or bad – and their “end” – how they finished.
So if an experience ends badly, that has a serious impact on the overall emotion you feel about it. Which may be why staying friends with exes is so hard!
This “Peak End Rule” applies to marketing too. If you end a pitch with a smile or a joke, it’ll pull up the overall emotion people feel. And in advertising, it’s why it’s so vital to resolve negative emotions.
5. Be dynamic
For long-term brand growth, positive emotion is the key. But what about short-term sales boosts?
Emotion has a big role to play there too, according to our work at System1 Research. But in the short term, any emotion is better than none.
The most effective ads for activation – click-throughs, likes, shares, and immediate purchases – are ones which take the customer on an emotional journey, mixing positivity, a few negative emotions, and a big dose of surprise.
The psychology of emotion is deep and complex – the differences between types of Happiness, and the way different negative emotions work, are the subject of many psychological studies.
But any business can tap into the power of emotion, by aiming their marketing at people’s System 1 brains, and remembering that the more people feel, the more people buy.
About the author
This article has been written for ByteStart by Tom Ewing. Tom is a Senior Director at System1 Group, and co-author of new book System1: Unlocking Profitable Growth which is out now, priced £12.99.
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