Marketers should have been be the experts when it comes to connecting with customers and new prospects to provide good business leads. Ironically, their current market research approach make it almost impossible to execute.
With all the lip service paid to appeal to emotions, business routinely make multi-million dollar marketing decisions on the false premise that B2B respondents in survey research can consciously explain the unconscious origins of their actions. They fail to recognize that most of the business of life happens through our emotions, below the threshold of awareness.
As the neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor puts it,
“We live in a world where we are taught from the start that we are thinking creatures that feel. The truth is, we are feeling creatures that think.”
The word “motivation” and “emotion” share the same Latin root, “movere,” which means to move. Emotions are automated actions. They evolved not for our amusement but as purposeful behavioral responses to ensure survival. The challenge for marketers is that they originate without our knowing. We don’t consciously choose our feelings. They often choose for us.
For too long, standard marketing theory has had it backwards. The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!
We need to generate smiles, tears, or goose bumps—not significant differences correlated at the 95% confidence interval! These are the things that these data tabulations will never capture, but they are also the things that make us buy brands.
I’m not saying we must measure ads through brain scan research to determine their effectiveness. But we should recognize the shortcomings of traditional approaches and heed the lessons from cognitive science.
What we need to do is to rouse hearts, not heads. And inspire the part of us that seeks connection, not separation—through that elusive emotional relevance that marketers say is so critical but also make so difficult to create.