Have you ever had to wipe away tears after a commercial?
You feel sort of silly. It’s just marketing, after all. You quickly reach for a tissue and wipe away the evidence. Whether it’s Folgers’ “Peter Comes Home for Christmas” or the famous “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial, there are brands that have successfully tapped into an emotional connection in a matter of seconds.
And they don’t always pull your heartstrings. A brand can use humor, evidenced most recently by the comedic tug-of-war between brands like Allstate, Geico, Progressive and Liberty Mutual. Being seen as funny is an interesting direction for the serious subject of insurance, but for consumers struggling to see any difference between insurance companies, it may come down to which kind of humor tickles your funny bone.
It’s A Fine Line
Even so, when you’re creating your marketing strategy, you can’t help but wonder, when does marketing start to lean into manipulation? If you can cause your audience to experience fear, for instance, it might help your sales. It’s a tactic that could be tempting in some industries, such as those in financial segments or healthcare.
When you’re being funny or heartwarming, it’s also possible to manipulate in those formats. But that doesn’t mean that all marketing is manipulation, and there are ways to make your strategy stay safely in the non-manipulative zone.
Focus on Value
One of the hallmarks of a non-manipulating marketing strategy is one that focuses on the needs of the consumer. You’re not simply trying to make money; you’re trying to solve a problem or answer a question for your customers.
In order to understand the distinction, it may help to provide an example. Have you ever seen ads for companies or individuals that promise to tell you how to improve your life, make a quick fortune or learn the inside secrets to an industry? This is often a form of manipulative marketing that doesn’t provide anything of value, but simply is created to dupe consumers long enough to make a buck.
Your marketing efforts should be solidly based on the ways in which your product or service offers a valuable solution to your customers.
A marketing plan that celebrates authenticity also helps you crowd out any potential for manipulation. How do you infuse your strategy with authenticity? Here are a few ideas:
- Embrace user-generated content as part of your strategy. Invite employees, satisfied customers and business partners to contribute to your content. This can occur with testimonials, an Instagram contest or simply by posting conversation-starting posts on social media.
- Invite unfiltered views of you and your brand. This can look a lot of different ways, but it could include participating in some live videos or webinars. These offer your potential customers a way to see you and your brand where there is no potential for editing, filtering or otherwise altering what they see.
- Do a behind-the-scenes video that shows off your employees and what they do. This is a simple way to let your audience get a true picture of what goes on at your company.
Balance Storytelling With Facts
Every brand has its story and telling it effectively generally requires some emotional connection with your audience. When you pair your story with some discussion of your product features or benefits, it helps your audience make an emotional connection while still feeling equipped to assess the value of what you offer.
For instance, if you’re a family-based business, that should be highlighted, but along with images of your family working together, it’s recommended that you also show how that hard work is benefitting the customer. Otherwise, it’s a story without any context. You need a story that creates a bridge between your brand and the customer.
Don’t Go to the Opposite Extreme
Avoiding manipulation doesn’t mean that you avoid emotional connections. You can make the mistake of being so straightforward and factual that your audience doesn’t recognize why they might want to do business with you.
Instead, think about how you can connect with your audience, and focus on the positive emotions that your brand may inspire. For instance, a brand in the financial industry would want to focus on security and financial freedom, never fear of financial insecurity.
Emotional connections are critical for marketing, and if you’re not sure if yours is veering into manipulative territory, contact us at SJC Marketing. We can help you work on a strategy that makes meaningful emotional connections without ever abusing them.