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Boost Your Emotional Marketing Potential

Why do people buy your product? If you stack up enough benefits to outweigh the costs of purchasing it, do you automatically close the deal? It doesn't always happen, does it? Consumers are not calculating machines. They are soft, warm, breathing humans with emotions that assign meaning and personal significance to your products. How do potential customers evaluate your products (or services)? How do they trade off various factors before deciding? How are their emotions involved in the process? Consumers--whether they realize it or not--use up to six categories of emotional criteria when they decide to purchase your product. Technical criteria Technical criteria relate to what your product does. Every product performs a function. It may also perform additional functions or have features that make it easier to operate or use.

If your type of product has been around for a while, everyone assumes it will perform its basic function. Marketing battles are fought on the ground of extra features and ease of use. Does your product perform its core function better, faster, or more smoothly than your competitors' products? Have you enriched your product with additional features? Is your product easier to buy and simpler to operate? Economic/sacrifice criteria Economic/sacrifice criteria relate to price. Consumers live in an approach/avoidance world. Your product's benefits are in a tug of war with its price and the effort it takes to purchase it.

For most consumers, the psychological cost of paying for your product reduces their enjoyment of it. Several emotionally significant factors influence the maximum price you can charge for your product. How closely does your product relate to the buyer's needs? How unique is your product? Do you charge a "fair" price? Is paying the asking price socially acceptable for your customers? Legalistic criteria Consumers are also guided by what others demand or want. Some potential buyers must obey legal requirements and this loss of control may be frustrating. Consumers also feel obliged to consider the needs and desires of others, like their spouse or children. Does your product help your customer comply with any legal requirements? Can your product be made more appealing to your customer's children or spouse? Integrative criteria How does your product or service fit with your potential customer's social group or personal identity? Consumers belong to social groups. They face potential embarrassment if they don't conform. So they constantly try to strike a balance between group membership versus visibility and self-esteem. Any product or service that increases their self-esteem is emotionally satisfying. Does your product help your customer express their identity? Can your product be described as "upscale" or "exclusive"? Adaptive criteria Consumers want to minimize any risk that they will regret their purchase later.

The easiest solution is to avoid responsibility completely and trust the advice of others, preferably an expert. Consumers also lower their risk of future regret by imitating the buying habits of others that they assume are "in the know," by looking for guarantees, or by basing their decision on your reputation. Are you able to offer endorsements from recognized experts? Do you have testimonials from satisfied customers? Do you offer a strong guarantee? Is it possible to offer a free trial or sample? Intrinsic criteria Intrinsic criteria relate to your product's basic nature--how much the consumer "likes" your product. Appeal to your customer's senses. How does your product look, feel, taste, smell or sound? Curiosity is another intrinsic criterion. Consumers are always looking for something new and different. Familiar products are reassuring, but they are also boring. The trick is to not go too far. Every consumer has an optimal level of novelty and complexity that maximizes their curiosity and their desire to satisfy it. If you push beyond the optimal point, they will return to the familiar.

Is your product "refreshing" or "alluring"? How about "enchanting" or "elegant"? If you focus only on rational behavior, then you choose to ignore enormously powerful emotional forces that ultimately make your customer's final decision. The rational argument should already be won by your product's high quality design. Creative innovation, savvy pricing, and persuasive presentation will win your customer's emotions. *The six categories of emotional criteria were developed by John O'Shaughnessy, and Nicholas Jackson O'Shaughnessy, The Marketing Power of Emotion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).


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