As marketers, we spend a great deal of time dissecting the customer experience and attempting to define the moment where a prospective customer takes the plunge and commits to a purchase. While many aspects of this decision making process stem from a very tangible and quantifiable side, there is an emotional and psychological component as well. Emotions play an enormous part in how buyers act and react. They propel decisions and instill a personal connection between the buyer and the brand that extends beyond the transaction itself.

At their very core, brands that evoke emotion are creating a deep personal connection with their customers. The root of this connection is the trust we feel. At some point, we want to be able to purchase without taking the time to research. If we have established a relationship with a certain brand and trust that whatever they produce will be in line with what we want then we can make decisions and purchase quickly.

Even at work, we have preferences around who we buy from. Perhaps we want to source from locally-owned or organic suppliers. Or minority owned firms. Or vendors who are aligned with causes that we support. Or companies who can certify that no forced labor is used to produce the goods and services they sell. Sadly, there are more than 30 million forced laborers around the world today. The good news is that my company is stepping up to break it, leveraging more than 16 years of transactional, relationship, and community-generated content to help companies find out where slavery might exist in their supply chain and wipe it out.

When I think of the psychology behind marketing, I categorize techniques into one of two categories: nostalgia and ‘feel good marketing’. The nostalgia technique is fairly straightforward. We’re drawn to brands and products that feel familiar and remind us of a simpler, perhaps, happier time in our lives.

Take Legos for example, an admired brand whose fundamental product and design has remained unchanged in the 80 years since its establishment. Legos is a remarkable example of a brand that remains extremely relevant despite keeping their core product unchanged. The brand taps into cultural events (e.g., Harry Potter and Star Wars) to sync up with their younger audience while still evoking feelings of familiarity from the adult purchasers. This is a prime example of the power behind multiple brands, and how older and theoretically less modern brands are leveraging the modernity and popularity of newer brands and attractions to generate results.

Feel good marketing takes a different approach, it taps into our inherent desire as humans to “do good”. It evolves around the idea that consumers will lean towards brands that make a positive social or environmental impact on the greater world versus those that strictly offer products that benefit the customer.

Take for example, Beauty Counter, a beauty brand that places the emphasis on safe, environmentally conscious ingredients. They offer insight into the cosmetics industry and the potential implications that come from many commonly found ingredients. And at the end of the day, they offer a safer alternative that you can feel confident in using. This is the same concept as “eating clean” and the motives that drive us to purchase organic, safe food and mirror those that drive us to select skincare products with safe ingredients.

Recently, I hosted a luncheon for Women in Leadership during SAP Ariba Live in Madrid. One of our guest speakers, Elena Corchero, the founder of Lost Values, a creative lab focused on smart materials and wearable technology, reminded us of the irrefutable truth that emotion will be a key player in the future of technology as well as buyer behavior. Elena showed several of her notable innovations, including a wedding dress created with artificial flowers that literally bloomed as the bride became nervous while walking down the aisle. The technology reacted to the user’s emotions and the effect was remarkable and a reminder that the capabilities we have with connecting innovation to human emotion and behavior are unbridled.

Over the past year, at SAP Ariba we have been tapping into the needs and emotions of our customers. With over a dozen new innovations introduced in 2016, we are partnering to solve problems for our customers so they can be game changers in their industries and ultimately part of a community that wins their hearts and gains their brand loyalty. There’s nothing more memorable than an emotional reaction to a brand. Companies that leverage and learn from their customer’s behaviors and emotions will be the ones we look to as examples going forward. The confines of what we define as “consumers” are blurring and the relationship between consumers and brands now transcends the actual buying process. Loyalty is the goal and brands that invest in cultivating an emotional relationship with their customers will come out on top.

Alicia Tillman is Chief Marketing Officer at SAP Ariba. Follow me: @aliciatillman

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