Higher Education

Marketing to the Emotions: In a cluttered world of advertising, here’s how you stand out.

Every adult consumer in the U.S. is exposed to anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 marketing messages (all depending on how you count), daily – a colossal clutter that makes it difficult to stand out. I like to describe marketing campaigns as buying time share in consumers’ brains.

After all, what marketers really want is to temporarily own or lease a piece of the audience’s brain, to ensure the pure focus on their message. The challenge is to create a campaign that will capture the attention of your audience, inspire them emotionally, and cause them to act in the manner that you prescribe them, and all that in about three to five seconds. So, how do we do it?

The first phase in developing a successful marketing campaign is assessment. This is where you determine, together with the client, the overall objective and the desired outcome. A lack of a clear objective can cause the entire campaign to unravel.

During this assessment, it is important to not only pay attention to what the client says about the objective and goals, but also, and even more importantly, to how they talk about it. Body language, hesitations and tone of voice can all be indicators of the client’s emotions and passion, and inspire the tone of the campaign. These markers help develop the soul of the campaign.

Defining the target audience and truly understanding them is a vital part of the initial planning process. Their lifestyle, personality and behaviors will set the tone for the campaign and inspire the messages, visuals, language, voice, and overall strategy.

In determining their environments, it’s not enough to just ask about their behaviors, preferences, etc., but rather dive in and experience their lives first hand. We don’t try to put ourselves in their shoes, we lace them up and walk alongside them. We start gathering information about the audience by doing research and speaking directly with individuals.

Here we develop a better understanding for the environment in which the target audience navigates, and how we can position ourselves within this environment. When we’re in this phase, we act as the consumer for a week.

We expose ourselves to their culture, lifestyles, behaviors and environments, truly taking on that persona. This way, we develop a holistic picture of who the target audience is, what they like, how they talk, what they value and what emotions guide their decision making process.

Now we enter the brainstorming phase as we conceptualize and develop the messages and overall voice of the campaign.

Involving as many people at the agency as possible in the brainstorming sessions is an effective way to generate creative ideas. I believe that creativity and inspiration do not belong to any title.

Everyone is capable of coming up with amazing ideas. Throughout the brainstorming process, we define the campaign’s cognitive context. The context conditions the audience to understand our messages through our controlled frame of reference.  Once we establish the context, we can focus on the emotions we’d like to evoke.

This is where the target audience research comes into play. The time spent acting as the consumer, gives us a better understanding of what is important to them. The key is to bring out an emotion powerful enough to elicit our desired action – the ultimate purpose of any campaign.

Let me give you an example. When we began working with the City of Chula Vista, the second largest city in San Diego county, our goal was to change the city’s negative perception among San Diego residents. As we entered the assessment phase, we immersed ourselves into the lives of Chula Vista residents. We spent time in the city strolling the streets, listening to the merchants, and talking to city officials.

City officials were eager to combat the misperceptions about the city with facts regarding its safety ranking, educational system achievements, etc., but the undertone of their messages revealed intense feelings of pride and love for their city. The same emotions, in similar levels of intensity, were evident in the residents’ and merchants’ voices. This inspired us.

We are all drawn to genuine emotional expressions. We consciously or subconsciously want to experience these feelings. We believed that if we were able to encapsulate these feelings of pride and love into a compelling message, it would resonate with our audience quickly and effectively. 

We wanted people to feel remiss for not being aware of what Chula Vista has to offer. Instead of being defensive and tout who we are not, we created an unapologetic campaign, bursting in confidence. From this stemmed the campaign name, THIS is Chula.

Chula in Spanish means beautiful, cool and hip; attributes that were never associated with the city, but now, through our ‘THIS is Chula.’ campaign were boldly brought out. This also inspired the direction for the creative part of the campaign. We showcased the nature that lived throughout the city, the cultural richness, and the adventures that were waiting to be explored.

We wanted to attract our audience to this sense of pride through the images and messaging, and create an emotional affinity that would lead them to change their perception about the city. We wanted those that weren’t familiar with the city to feel as though they had missed the opportunity to be part of it, evoking a feeling of remorse and curiosity so strong they’d take action and visit the city.

Not only did the campaign drive more of our audience to the city, but it ignited an even larger sense of pride within the city. It turned residents into avid supporters of the campaign. The ‘THIS is Chula.’ campaign generated buzz for a city that had been around for over two hundred years, but just needed a cohesive voice and catalyst to bring it back to life.

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Doron Malka
Doron Malka is the founder and president of Ameba Marketing, a San Diego-based, branding and marketing agency. Since launching Ameba marketing, Doron has personally crafted and managed cutting edge brands and campaigns for local, national and international clients, including: Sharp Health Plan, The City of Chula Vista, Hewlett-Packard, Jungo, Nation-E, California Department of Managed Healthcare, Resmed, Tiny Love, Lulyboo and Cortechs Labs, to name a few. Doron’s debonair approach to marketing reflects his multifaceted education, professional experience and worldly upbringing. Doron is the author of Brandcebo – the Placebo Effect of Brands and How It Impacts Us Emotionally and Physiologically, which will be out this summer.
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