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  • Dr. Sharon Livingston

Emotions vs. Emotional Benefits - Part III


If you were to read the benefit statements in Part II of this series (e.g. "I am a sexy person because I drive an aerodynamic car") to a respondent directly and ask for levels of agreement, you would get a much lower level of agreement than is in fact the case, and market behavior would differ greatly from what you tried to evaluate in your study. This is because of four major obstacles to asking questions directly.

-Social Desirability Bias -- the fact that respondents prefer not to reveal certain emotional motives to interviewers, and sometimes even to themselves. -Rational Purchasing Consciousness -- the fact that respondents prefer to believe that they make decisions based upon purely objective and observable criteria about the product or service at hand. Emotional motivation threatens this belief system. (Indeed, this is why so many people say that advertising doesn't affect them, despite the industry's willingness to spend billions each year) -Fear of "Hidden Persuaders" - many respondents fear that if we really knew what made them tick, we would take advantage of them and sell them things they don't really need. -And. again, the Presence of Emotional Motivation is Beyond Conscious Awareness

Because of all of the above, emotional motivation usually operates below the surface, beyond the ability of respondents to easily access and articulate. These obstacles hold true even more so for respondents in Medical Marketing Research and Business to Business, where the professional position is held by the decision maker (physicians, purchasing dept. executive, etc) for are taught to base their decision on the facts and dismiss their emotionality and personal response. People don't want to believe that they are emotionally influenced towards brands or purchase. They find the idea repugnant and aversive. That’s why many qualitative researchers encourage the use of projective techniques to overcome these obstacles.

The fact that people don't want to admit to using brands as a method of partially supporting their self-esteem forces these associations out of consciousness, and prevents them from cognitively reasoning about them or articulating them out loud. And it is THIS fact (that our consumers erect a strong barrier preventing them from becoming aware of or admitting the influence of emotional benefits), which makes them so incredibly powerful. Language is the food of the intellect. Without language (cognitive, symbolic representation), logical reasoning is much more difficult, if not impossible. When a thought is put into language and made conscious, a person's adult mind is able to make adult, rational decisions. In our analogy, when the consumer becomes conscious of the emotional benefit, it becomes somewhat nullified because they then say to themselves "Oh, I'm being ridiculous. Buying this product doesn't really make me a different person".

But the point is, most customers don't allow themselves to raise emotional benefits to this level of consciousness, so the impact remains.

In fact, many brands make the mistake of raising the emotional benefits to a level of awareness which takes away their power. They try to FORCE the psychological insight benefit by telling the consumer directly. This doesn't work nearly as well as INDIRECTLY communicating these benefits via an emphasis on specifying the features and functions of the brand which support them, while the creative mood and tone of marketing applications conveys the emotional benefit.

The mind likes to have to work to solve the mystery (aiding recall and attention), and by not forcing the consumer to recognize that they are using your brand to support their self-esteem, you are permitting them the grace of ignorance (to maintain their rational purchasing consciousness, avoid admitting socially undesirable motives, etc)

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Emotional benefit motivation is knowledge for marketers, not consumers -- yet another reason to utilize projectives and psychological exercises to delve beneath the surface.

The ultimate end emotional benefit/value is always enhanced self esteem, but that doesn’t give creatives and marketers a handle to hang their campaign on. It’s the rung just before positive self worth that provides insight and gives direction to advertising and marketing.

So just for fun, what was in it for me to write this article?

Here’s a potential ladder. I’ll do it as best I can, since of course I now know I’m about to reveal my real self! Be gentle.

Q. What’s the benefit to you, Sharon, of writing Emotions vs. Emotional Benefits?

A. Gave me a chance to sort out my thoughts on the topic.

Q. What’s a benefit of sorting out your thoughts on the topic?

A. Feels like being back in school; teaching and learning at the same time.

Q. What’s a benefit of teaching and learning at the same time?

A. Reminds me of when I was in undergrad and studying for a test by explaining it to Mom while she lay on the sofa relaxing after a hard day’s work?

Q. What’s the benefit of studying for a test by explaining it to Mom?

A. Got recognition and admiration that I was smart like my big brothers the doctors?

Q. And, what’s the benefit of recognition for being smart like your brothers.

A. Raises my self esteem and makes me feel great!

So now you know how to sell to me. What are the core values and emotional hot buttons for your customers?

© 2020 The Livingston Group for Qualitative Research