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  • Dr. Sharon Livingston

Emotions vs. Emotional End Benefits – Part I



We hope all of our clients recognize that people buy benefits rather than features. For example,

-Time release products are purchased because they are long acting -Clear bottles let us see the purity in color and consistency of waters -Dissolving tablets allow us to take medicine on the go -Roller Ball pens write faster -Rubberized handles on scissors provide a sure grip

And, many marketers would agree that we buy products and services that enhance our positive sense of self esteem, in some way. They believe that all brands, products and their features are associated with a rewarding emotional payoff. Moreover, all features and benefits are linked to emotional end benefits.

Think of iPod, BlackBerry, Fiji Water, Poland Spring, Mercedes, Ford, Starbuck, Dunkin Donuts, Hershey, Godiva, Tiffany, Kay, Disney Land, Maui. We seek out these brands with their USP’s, features and functional benefits because we like the way they make us feel and what they allow us to communicate about ourselves. -Claritin quick dissolve ladders up to sharp thinking and insightfulness -Fiji’s clear bottle and purity communicates a sense of spirituality -Time release analgesics allow us to accomplish more -Alarm systems sell because people want to feel safe and secure -Mercedes appeals to a need for recognition -iPads sell because people want to show how smart they are -Albert Einstein’s theories appeal to people who like feeling sophisticated, brainy and unique

But let’s back track for a moment. People get confused between emotions and emotional benefits. There is an important distinction between them.

An 'Emotion' is best defined as a state of physiological arousal to which we attach a cognitive label. There are only four core 'emotions' ("Mad", "Glad", "Scared", & "Sad"). Of course, there are various gradations, combinations, and shades of grey regarding all of the four core feeling states. Sad includes disappointed, gloomy, heartbroken, distressed, etc. Mad includes frustrated, raging, bitter, annoyed. At an even simpler level, we either feel 'good' or 'bad'. [How often have you been frustrated in a research project when someone responds to your sensitive plea for their feeling response by energetically answering, “It makes me feel Good/Better/Great/Wonderful!!!”]

Knowing how our brand, features and functions or brand activity (concepts, advertising, names, taglines, etc) make someone 'feel' is only minimally useful. We definitely want to know, does our new commercial make people feel 'Glad' or 'Bad' but that is ONLY a measure of valence, it does little or nothing to lend direction to our creative efforts. It tells us nothing about how to set the mood and tone for our advertising, or even necessarily how to FIX any bad feelings which emerge.

It is the "Emotional Benefit" and NOT the raw "Emotion" which is most informative, motivating, and useful for brand development. An emotional benefit, not a physiological state of arousal with a simplistic label, is an often complex, positive, cognitive statement which our respondents are able to make about themselves due to their use, display, and attachment to our brand and its features.

More succinctly, an emotional benefit is nothing more than "Something nice I can communicate about myself because I use your product or service".

The critical differences between emotions and emotional benefits are:

-Emotional benefits are entirely cognitive, whereas Emotions include a state of physiological arousal. -Emotional benefits are specifically attached to brands, their particular features, and marketing applications. In contrast, Emotions are more diffuse human physiological reactions with a limited set of simple labels. -Emotional benefits relate directly and powerfully to enduring self-concept while Emotions are more closely associated with temporary and instinctual physiological reactions.

This last distinction is most important, and most closely identifies the reason that emotional benefits are so vital to branding.

Emotional marketing helps us link our brand to our target's enduring self-concept. We want a lifetime relationship with our target, and this is only possible if we understand their core values.

© 2020 The Livingston Group for Qualitative Research