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Throughout my research, what has stuck out for me is the systematic error that marketing practice* models have made. The constant default position that demands logical explanations for consumer behaviour then uses statistical models to interpret those behaviours and finally relies on mathematical methods to calibrate economic levers with the ambition to shape or influence that behaviour.

The evolution of marketing thought* (as well as psychology, sociology and behavioural economics) repeats – time and time again – that people make choices based on desires, values, beliefs, and yes sometimes even their genetic make-up! Understanding this is a first step; and that first step is one that most people and companies have willingly taken. The problem is with the next step…

A business’s goal is to achieve the bottom line: some form of monetary result that has been established as satisfactory and desirable. Usually, that bottom line is achieved in a sum of multiple single transactions to achieve revenue targets – ideally, without further customer service costs (which are considered overhead and impact the balance sheets).

Though businesses have agreed that emotion plays a role – and have added metrics to measure the impact of emotion to the end result – the measures of success remain generally numerical with little true regard for the value of interactions, the depth of interactions and the true value of brand ambassadorship.

In order to get to the heart of the matter, it’s critical to understand how to genuinely tap into the emotional side of a consumer interaction — which can play a dual role of hook & close.

Emotion is the complex psychophysiological experience of an individual’s state of mind as interacting with biochemical (internal) and environmental (external) influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves “physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience.” Emotion is associated with mood, temperament, personality and disposition, and motivation. Motivations direct and energize behavior, while emotions provide the affective component to motivation, positive or negative”

(according to Wikipedia.com)

Other definitions also highlight emotions as the resulting feelings from natural human tendencies of balancing approach and avoidance. For example: you want to go to a party (approach) but it’s Monday night and on Tuesday morning at 8am, you are asked to attend an executive policy review meeting (avoidance).

For a marketer, this understanding is critical. It basically tells us: individuals are making decisions (i.e. to buy or not to buy) based on their emotions (approach & avoidance conflicts). I would even go out on a limb and say – they are making decisions based on their emotions only.

Allow me to explain:

If I need a car, and even if I say – I just need a car to get me from point A to point B (a rhetoric I hear frequently), emotion is still the catalyst of the need. A variety of situations may have caused the actual need (not want) for the car (i.e. I moved outside of the transit area; I have children or animals; my work demands it; etc.…). Each of these situations in turn creates the need and come with their own set of emotions, which cannot be denied. It is as those emotions arise that the consumer “needs” come to the surface and must then be acted upon.

So, even without actually looking at what has traditionally been identified as emotional triggers – i.e. colour, brand name, status, etc.… – we have already tapped into an emotional catalyst for this need.

I propose that the key for success in any business that needs consumers (and which business doesn’t?) is therefore to ensure that the resulting emotion from making a decision is a positive one. Since Pavlov (1901: reflex conditioning) and Skinner (1904: operant conditioning), we’ve known that an action, which delivers positive emotion, is likely to result in repetition of the action. You see, it’s always been about emotion; and we’ve known this for over a century!

As more people understand this, there is a higher demand for actions that result in positive emotion (as opposed to frequently used fear tactics). This requires businesses to adjust their perspective in order to provide the customer with multiple “positive emotion points” in order to continue to reinforce the value of the relationship between the brand and the consumer. In turn, this will lead to repeat transactions, brand ambassadorship and – ultimately – consumer loyalty.

Measuring success will require more than mathematical models – traditionally referred to in business as ROI models (return on investment). A wise twitter friend – Ted Rubin – refers to a new set of metrics: ROR (return on relationship). What Ted proposes are a set of measures that look at – not only the number of people who follow or “like” you in social media, but also who interact and share your content… people who are engaged. Ted’s focus is on social media, but the theory of expanding measures from pure number of interactions to the reach and influence that specific interaction had can be applied beyond the Internet.

I believe that companies will succeed as they realize that they are not operating within communities; they are a part of those communities… citizens within.

So, again, I re-iterate the drive for this blog series:

The true marketing revolution will elevate the role of the business from making money to satisfying consumer needs and desires to making genuine contributions in their communities (local, national and global).

* See this post for the difference between marketing practice & marketing thought

**Photo source: http://bit.ly/m18vJs