Demographically and geographically, potential targets may appear similar. But purchases often are made from the emotional part of the wallet, according to Richard Goldsmith, chairman of The Horah Group.
In that can lie some significant differences — as well as the keys to a purchase. At the Direct Marketing Association Financial Services Council’s 28th annual conference last month, Goldsmith cited “Body of Truth: Leveraging What Consumers Can’t or Won’t Say.” The author, Dan Hill, contended that traditional approaches to marketing have overestimated the power of reason, while failing to account for how prospects think and make decisions.
Attitudinal-based pitches allow a marketer to go beyond trying to make the right offering at the right time at the right price. By appealing to the senses, they encourage a target to make a purchase for the right reason.
Sandy McCray, a vice president at market research firm Yankelovich Inc., pointed out an archetypal — if extreme — example of what can happen when rational marketing trumps emotions when she spoke of the failure of New Coke, an attempt by the Coca-Cola Co. to overhaul its flagship brand.
“All the time, money and skill poured into New Coke could not measure the passion for original Coke,” McCray quoted the president of Coca-Cola as saying after the launch fizzled.
There is more of a pressing need to appeal to the heart now than ever before. In the 1970s, consumers were exposed to between 300 and 500 advertising messages a day. Now they face 10 times that, said McCray.
During that time the consumer has changed, too. According to Yankelovich research, consumers today value quality over quantity, intangibles over tangibles and time over money. They are more responsive to messages that make an emotional connection.
Marketers, alas, aren’t using these changes to differentiate their messages. McCray cited Lester Wunderman, who in a 1993 speech declared, “Direct marketers target the right people, but they send the same message. Wunderman somewhat derisively referred to this phenomenon as “mini mass marketing.”
Emotional plays draw on a series of characteristics — Yankelovich’s system uses 32 unique segments — which recognize differences in values, even among people in similar demographic clusters. Take a “realist” family, comprised of several kids and a stressed-out parent or two, and a “family centered” family, which views children as an obligation. They might be the same age, and live in the same area, but the emotional trigger required to stimulate college-funding plans in both would be very different. The “realist” might be more responsive to a sweepstakes offer that provides a dream, while the “family centered” prospect would respond better to a practical letter that details the plan’s benefits.
Neither McCray nor Goldsmith advocated abandoning traditional demographic or lifestyle information, or even RFM analysis. But they both stressed that adding the emotional component can boost returns.
“This is where science and art meet,” McCray said.