The world is a pretty sad place.
As a global community, we’ve never been more connected. Yet, as a country, the United States is divided, angry and unsatisfied.
Marketing: Becoming the Change
Negative emotional states driven by fear or stress tend to cloud judgement and cause irrationality in decision making, causing people to make poor, and even harmful, decisions (Gino, 2013). As marketers, it’s our job to help people make decisions in their purchasing power, and we come up with a multitude of visuals, statements, rhymes, jokes and even gimmicks to sway those choices. We expect people to react a certain way when they experience our messaging, yet how often are we considering their initial emotional state before we start communicating with them?
Marketers assume their goal is to help businesses sell products. But there is a broader, more principled aspect to marketing that, when embraced, allows us to become a catalyst for an ideal that the world needs now more than ever: joy.
When people are exposed to a stimulus that makes them feel joyful or relaxed, they are more apt to make sound, fact-based decisions (Gino, Schweitzer; 20085). If we assume, as marketers, that we aim to influence the behaviors of others, then we have a social responsibility to ensure that their decisions are made in good conscience.
In order to present a message that influences others, we must first understand, empathize with and take into firm consideration the probable emotional state of our buyers – before they hear our message.
We have documented studies telling us that the people of this world, both near and far, are unsettled and discouraged. If we step back and take into account the state of the world, we can make a significant impact in how our messages are perceived and acted upon by first evoking feelings of peace and safety through images and examples of hope and joy.
Where Starbucks Succeeded – And Failed
In 2015, Starbucks decided to shake up their expected seasonal cups in favor of plain red. After so many years of providing a consistent experience, the joy people feel that first day of the Starbucks holiday season became an eagerly anticipated moment. When people opened that door expecting to see images of the season, only to be greeted by plain red cups, they felt let down and even betrayed. They felt as if their joy had been taken from them.
Starbucks won big and created a branding juggernaut with their holiday cups. They set themselves up for everlasting business. Their failure was in changing things up too drastically, too quickly, during a time of year that is already known to be exceptionally stressful. They failed to take into account the emotional state of their patrons prior to making drastic changes, and in doing so, they robbed people of a simple joy. They caused further discord in the emotions of their patrons, and people reacted with clouded judgement fueled by the discomfort they felt. They were driven to protest rather than purchase.
Infectious by Nature
In May of 2016, Candace Payne took the Internet by storm with one simple act of unbridled laughter. Better known as Chewbacca Mom, Candace’s video featuring her infectious laugh behind her Chewbacca mask has been viewed over 160 million times on just her original Facebook post. Copies of the video spread across news networks and social media channels. She became an instant Internet star.
In 2006, neuroscientists at the University of London set out to discover whether laughter is truly contagious. The study concluded that, regardless of culture or socioeconomic status, one person’s joy triggers shared laughter along with mimicked words, facial responses and even brain patterns. Furthermore, when joy is present in conversation, people seek it out and then freely share it with others.
When Chewbacca Mom laughed for Facebook, all of Facebook responded in kind. Her laughter wasn’t staged. It was real. Because people crave that authentic feeling of joy, her video spread across the world… and its hit count is still climbing a year later.
Connecting Products with People
It might seem that marketing technology products and services through joy is difficult—or maybe even impossible. But when you are able to connect with customers on an emotional level while communicating your value, you’ll find the sweet spot where your solution improves lives.
Cisco launched a campaign in 2015 called “The Internet of Everything” that demonstrated real solutions to solve people’s pain points. By showing how their networking solutions would soon drive the Internet of Things and how that would impact all of our lives, they linked what would seem to be a sterile set of racks, wires, and servers to the improvement, enrichment and progress of society as a whole. They made their technology products tangible and important in the eyes of the viewers. They showed how real people from every walk of life could benefit from a Cisco solution.
When you connect your technology products to your customers in real, life-changing or enriching demonstrations, you show the market that you’re committed to the mission of joy. In Cisco’s case, they showed ambulances that knew about accidents as they happened, and that alerted the right doctor during patient transport. They showed trains that knew a concert ran long, thus they held at the station to make sure people got their rides home. The depicted a future where trees communicated with scientists about air quality.
These types of human connections with technology show the world that tech products are more than cold steel and electric impulse. They are game-changing, life-enriching solutions that bring greater joy to the lives they touch.
Harnessing the Power of Authentic Joy
The stories of Starbucks cups, Chewbacca Mom and Cisco demonstrate how captivating joy can be. However, staged joy isn’t enough. In each of the cases above, the emotions evoked were either spontaneous or authentic. They capture or depict real moments, widely shared and collectively experienced.
When companies market technology brands, they tend to tell the story of what their products and services do from a features-and-benefits standpoint. But in reality, the reason we create technology and offer services is to improve and enhance the lives of people.
However, in a world where messaging is mostly staged, scripted joy gets lost in the noise. Consumers are desensitized to the canned messages that they see and hear every day. It takes more than just a witty script to captivate the modern consumer.
What do we do now?
When creating a marketing campaign, focus on people, rather than things. First, understand the pain points of your consumer, and then determine how your brand brings joy. Strive to capture real, authentic moments where people react to the benefits of your brand, and spread that message.
If you capture authentic emotional responses to your brand, rather than manipulating the actions of consumers through staged and scripted advertising, you create inward significance. You connect with consumers on a deeper level, instilling trust and providing a spark of the type of joy the world is craving. When you put the emotions of the consumer at the forefront, you’ll have accomplished your mission of joy.