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MOVING people

So the Brand Wheel of Fortune spins again.

Round it goes, past Persuasion and Seduction, Promotion and Devotion. Past Engagement. Past Behavioural Economics. Past both Physical and Mental Availability.

Finally, it starts to slow. Looks like it’ll be Purpose. It’s going to stop on Purpose.

But no, one last click and it crosses over… into Emotional Connection.

Who’d have thought! All the way round and we’re back on holy ground.

Everywhere you look at the moment, people are saying the same thing. Brands need to make an emotional connection.

Something is different, though. This time round, the talk is all about generating an emotional response. Somehow the temperature of the emotion has increased dramatically. The emphasis is less on emotion and more on being emotional.

Take the recent UK campaigns for Sky and BT. Sky’s Christmas ad shows a mother and daughter watching ‘The Sound Of Music’ together over the years, as the girl grows up.

Eventually, and inevitably, the mum is sitting watching the film on her own, looking mournfully at a postcard from Thailand, when, of course, at that very moment the daughter arrives back home. The film ends with mother, daughter and now granddaughter thinking about a few of their favourite things. “Nothing brings people together like a movie at Christmas.”

BT cuts out the middlemum and brings together granny and grandchild, in this case a boy called Luke. He and his granny re-enact scenes from their favourite films and programmes, from Peppa Pig to Star Wars. Luke is next seen standing nervously in front of his new school. “May the force be with you,” says granny and Luke uses his Jedi powers to open the (automated) gates.

Eventually, and inevitably, it ends up with an older Luke visiting his granny in hospital. Roles are reversed and now it’s him saying “may the force be with you”, as she’s wheeled off for an operation. She’s fine, of course, and they end back at home watching the telly. “Great TV brings us closer.”

Emotionally, the films are the same. They’re about togetherness, bonding, family. There’s no real link to the brand in either case. Instead, their aim is simply to get a big old emotional response from the viewer, preferably a lump in the throat. They want to move you.

But where to? Presumably to watching more TV on Sky or BT. Or to think about getting Sky or BT if you haven’t already got them. Or maybe, more realistically, to sow the seed of that thought in the back of your mind for the next time you see one of the hundreds of promotional ads for Sky or BT. To make you predisposed to buy.

That’s the other thing that’s different this time round. Brands running emotional campaigns seem to expect them to work instantaneously on behavior. For them it’s about short-term sales rather than long-term brand building.

Just look at all the Christmas retailer advertising this year. You couldn’t get a more emotionally-laden sack of schmaltz coming down your chimney. It’s like a review I read recently of Sam Smith’s new album, which said it was like someone “shouting at you to feel.”

But do these Christmas ads really make people decide the next day to go to one store rather than the other? Hmm. Increasingly, it all comes across as one massive amorphous campaign desperately trying to get you not to leave your Christmas shopping to the last minute and/or Amazon.

So if more brands are now returning to the idea of building an emotional connection, and I hope they are, it’s time to remember the basics.

1. Be clear on which emotion is central, but therefore generic, to your world of interest (the central need)

2. Understand all the different emotions at play within this, not just the ones that bring a tear to the eye (the different need expressions of that central need)

3. Find the one that links best to your brand and creates a meaningful point of difference (the need opportunity)

You’re not done. You’ve still got to quantify this opportunity, identify the target, discover the insight, develop the positioning, create the communication, ideate the innovation and deliver the experience. But this way you won’t just end up moving people, you’ll move them closer to your brand.

‘Moving people closer to brands’. Now there’s a thought.

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