Imagine you could boost sales from your most satisfied customers by 52%. No need for pushy up-selling or elaborate cross-selling techniques either. By simply creating an emotional connection with your customers, sales skyrocket and loyalty deepens, according to recent studies.
This is causing a radical shift in advertising where campaigns with purely emotional content perform nearly twice as well as those based on rational content. Emotions are reverberating throughout all areas of marketing and branding now too. From the ‘feel’ of a website to the tone of customer service, businesses are seeking to make stronger emotional connections with their customers.
And it’s not just Hallmark and Disney that benefit from sentiment. Emotion-based marketing is helping automotive companies, banks, and even B2B firms boost the bottom line.
Set the Tone
Every communication with customers is an opportunity to create an emotional connection. The challenge is in setting the right emotional tone and managing it within a dynamic marketing environment. It’s about selecting the right words and then making sure there is a harmony with the images or background music for an ad.
Text is particularly challenging. Lacking visual or audio cues, text can easily become ambiguous, where a harmless message is taken to be sarcasm, for example. Beyond that, words meant to convey an ‘optimistic’ or ‘friendly’ tone can feel aggressive if they are in ALL CAPS. Consistency is key, mixed tonal messages can create a negative emotional feel and harm your brand.
One Size Does Not Fit All
As if managing brand tone consistency across all customer touchpoints wasn’t challenging enough, you also need to consider your target audiences for each message. An Internet security firm selling fear to motivate sales might want to emphasize a more positive tone for recruitment, for example.
One of our clients is a delivery service company seeking to develop an emotional connection to its three key audiences. First, it wants to excite customers to use its service and foster repeat business. Second, it wants to energize partners with merchandising opportunities. Lastly, it wants to attract and retain great employees. By defining content by audience, the company is able to set and manage the tone for each, while maintaining an overarching tone for content that reaches all three audiences.
You might have different target audiences even within your customer base. A global hotel chain, for example, is leveraging emotional marketing to create stronger customer connections for each line of business. The tones are nuanced to appeal to high-end travelers for its luxury resorts and the price-conscious set for its economy properties.
To Reach Millennials, Get Emotional AF
It’s not just different audiences that create challenges – and opportunities – with brand tone. You also need to consider how you reach across different demographics. In fact, the generation gap is only widening as highly digital Millennials become a primary audience for many businesses. Raised in the digital age, Millennials are highly comfortable with technology, emojis and popular acronyms. (These are valuable tools for creating stronger emotional connections with this group, IMHO). They also prefer strong language that can turn off older generations, particularly Baby Boomers.
Consider who you are trying to reach with each communication and leverage the phrases, images and generational cues that can create stronger emotional connections. Make Baby Boomers feel groovy, let Gen Xers know they are awesome and tell Millennials they are hot AF.
Recognize also when it’s better to use a generic tone that transcends all demographic groups. Even Baby Boomers keeping up with the latest lingo and ‘tonal’ cues might be turned off by the popular ‘poop’ emoji that is all the rage among Millennials.
When in Rome
Managing brands across multiple geographies further add to the challenges of emotion-based marketing with deep cultural considerations. As if accurately translating content wasn’t difficult enough, the key here is making sure the brand tone comes across the same way across all geographies. All about consistency.
Where emojis might be popular and even work-appropriate in some cultures, they are perceived as whimsical and even immature in some contexts within others. It’s important to look at the emotional tone through the cultural lens.
Even something as innocuous as the color choice could connote different emotions in different countries. Yellow, for example, is often seen as a happy or optimistic color in the US. In Germany and much of France, it’s associated with jealousy, which could strongly affect brand tone.
Overcoming the Brand Tone Challenge
We know that emotional tone is a central and even driving component for successful brand management, with the ability to increase sales and loyalty significantly. Beyond setting the right tone across key audiences, demographics and even geographies, the real challenge is in managing a consistent emotional brand tone. Short of employing neurolinguistics and psychologists from each country where you operate, this requires an automated approach with Artificial Intelligence that can understand tonal meaning across demographics and cultures. In fact, it’s pushing marketing into an exciting new direction.
Fortunately, there are products coming to the market that employ Machine Learning and AI to help manage the daunting task of brand tone management. From corporate home pages and company blogs to marketing collateral and sales outreach, there are tools that can help to proactively manage brand tone and control the emotional connection you seek for your customers.
In fact, this is part of a whole new way of looking at text and content in general. I recently saw a funny tweet that proclaimed, “Strings are where data go to die.” Unfortunately, that is all too often true and has a significant impact on brand consistency and tone. But just as we developed tools, platforms, and applications to better manage code, a new school is looking at better ways to manage text. And while that’s my next article (stay tuned), suffice it to say that the ability to manage text and emotional tone at a granular level will provide businesses with a whole new level of control over their brands. IMHO, it will be a competitive advantage, propelling those who embrace it to jump ahead and leave those that don’t in the dust behind.