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Brands and Creating Emotional Appeal

6 Jan

Brands that elicit emotion attract devotion—and loyal followers.

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Image from U.S. National Library of Medicine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophisticated measurements—even MRI’s as described by Martin Lindstrom in Buyology—can track individual emotional reactions and the brain’s response to the appeals of marketing. Neuromarketing is all the rage now thanks to self-described brand futurist Lindstrom, and the revelations from his $7 million study are fascinating on the surface. It sounds as if many of our decisions that were thought to be driven by, well, thought, for such a long time, are in fact driven by instinct, deeply embedded and hard-wired into our nervous systems. I am looking forward to reading more about it and learning how I can shut off that part of my brain that likes Boden so much. Something resident in my reptilian brain no doubt.

Ethnographic studies follow or record consumer interaction with brands. I remember one study that monitored women’s processes of getting ready (“faire sa toilette” in French…sounds more glamorous) in the morning. They discovered that many women actually climb on top of their sinks so they can best see their faces for tweezing activity and makeup application. Imagine how this changed expectations around makeup packaging and accessories.

But describing and quantifying emotional connection to brands is different than feeling the connection. What’s the sensory experience of holding the sleek, rounded casing of the iPhone and flicking between album covers to choose a new playlist? The “ahhhhh” relaxation of sinking one’s head into a Tempurpedic pillow (or mattress, for the lucky few) at the end of the day? The feeling of unwrapping a Lindor dark chocolate truffle and eating it whole before it melts. Or hearing the crushed paper in metal wastebasket, slam-dunk sound of an old document being moved from the desktop to the trashcan on your Mac? (SFX: Resolute crrrrrrunch.)

Lovemarks, coined by Saatchi and Saatchi, describe the beyond-brand nirvana of sensory connection to products. Lovemarks are in the upper-right corner of the quadrants formed by the love and respect continuums, squarely defined by high love/high respect. I like the concept of lovemarks because it incorporates appreciation for the sensory experience of brands—and the feelings brought about by brand interaction.

One brand that’s leveraging the lovemark and Alsop’s seventh law is Ohio: The State of Perfect Balance. This is Ohio’s brand, now on driver’s licenses and being implemented across all areas of state government. From the economic development perspective the concept behind this brand is that business leaders can build their business AND love their life—something that’s clearly not possible on the coasts and in areas that require large commitments of time for commute. Place branding has the power to draw more people to Ohio through emotional connections.

Take a minute to think about the brands that evoke reactions for you that don’t involve thoughtful analysis. Comfort. Inspiration. Hope. Love. Protection. Relaxation.

What gut-level reactions do you associate with different brands? When you consider how persuasive emotion can be, I wouldn’t be surprised if you came up with a unique list.

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The Power of Place

31 Aug

IMG_0583Spatial memory is a powerful thing. It brings hummingbirds back to Ohio every year from the Caribbean, and it evokes emotional memories for us humans.

What is it that makes places so deeply etched in our minds and hearts? My thought is that it’s because of the sensory experience. Unlike an object, which could be remembered for its static qualities, a place is full of three-dimensional and dynamic sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes.

This is why we return home and feel comfort at the end of a long day. Memory evokes the senses that yearn for the smell of the fireplace in the living room, the velvet upholstery of the favorite armchair, dinner cooking in the kitchen and clean sheets on the bed at night. Places like home, a friend’s house or a spiritual setting like a church, mosque or synagogue elicit emotions that feel good and keep us coming back.

Why do so many visit New York City every year, for the first time?  The reason is place anticipation—spatial memory in reverse. The many attributes of “The City” are known far and wide: opinionated and metropolitan people, high-end boutiques, the best plays and live music, museums, Central Park, street vendors, five-star restaurants. These are the many facets of New York City’s place brand, and everyone knows them. Reading about them or seeing them on television is not enough. The value is in BEING there, experiencing the brand of New York City—close up and in person.

Place branding fuses economic development practice with the strategies and tactics of branding. The goal is to create anticipation for locations that are less well-known—or places that are perceived inaccurately. More cities, states and nations are investing in a place-branding strategy to incentivize capital investment and expansion in their locale. Dubai, Wales and Queensland are prime examples—even my own Ohio. The key in place branding is to focus on the overall economic development strategy and leverage marketing and communications to deliver on their promise.

I am particularly interested in the experiential aspects communicated virtually through place branding. It’s tough to get at all of the senses when separated by distance. Words and pictures can help to tell the story, but two-dimensional impact is not as powerful as being there in person. This interview conducted by CEO Ed Burghard of the Burghard Group with Robert Govers—an expert in place branding, image and tourism—explores the possibilities. In particular, question and answer number 5 address the concept that place branding’s product development is all about managing the experience, in person and online.

As we become more of a global economy and can leverage technology to activate our senses in anticipating place, I wonder how our impressions of places will change as we are exposed to more information about places we thought we knew. Will the so-called “hot-spots” for young talent, families and couples change—both in terms of vacation sites and places to call home? I’m guessing that there are places still off the map in the minds of developers and travelers alike—not because they’re uncharted but because they’ve been overlooked or under-appreciated.

The Bee’s Knees and Vintage Style

11 Jul
Photo of Bee Jackson, courtesy of Phrase Finder.

Photo of Bee Jackson, courtesy of Phrase Finder.

Talk amongst yourselves: What is the real-world definition of “the bee’s knees?”

I found a site today that fits the bill for this interesting phrase: Queens of Vintage. This is a light-hearted take on all things fashionista, historical and cultural–including interiors, clothing and zeitgeist–about the mid-20th century. One of my favorite periods, for all things about its “look and feel.” The only thing missing is some commentary on my friend Ben Storck’s Modern One, a furniture source for mid-century aficionados.

Here are some of the undeniable benefits from the so-called “mid century:”

  • The fedora hat
  • Red lipstick
  • Fashions for women not requiring starvation or extreme diets..except for the latter 50s and into the 60s (we can overlook that)
  • A magical time in American history, with innumerable innovations and forward-thinking positive attitude

Now that you’ve had a few moments to reflect on the meaning of “the bee’s knees,” I will spill the beans. This information, quoted directly from the Phrase Finder, includes origins from an Ohio newspaper and a 1920s flapper who was the World Champion Charleston Dancer. There are also additional word-lovers’ nuggets here too important to ignore, including a phrase often-used by my grandmother, “snake hips.”

So I’ve included the long excerpt, along with the site’s photo of Bee Jackson’s famous knees. Read on and enjoy….

There’s no definitive origin for ‘the bee’s knees’, but it appears to have been coined in 1920s America. The first printed reference to it I can find is in the Ohio newspaper The Newark Advocate, April 1922, under the heading ‘What Does It Mean?’:

“That’s what you wonder when you hear a flapper chatter in typical flapper language. ‘Apple Knocker,’ for instance. And ‘Bees Knees.’ That’s flapper talk. This lingo will be explained in the woman’s page under the head of Flapper Dictionary.” [an ‘apple knocker’ is a rustic]

Clearly the phrase must have been new then for the paper to plan to take the trouble to define it. Disappointingly, they didn’t follow up on their promise and ‘the lingo’ wasn’t subsequently explained. Several U.S. newspapers did feature lists of phrases under ‘Flapper Dictionary’ headings. Although ‘bee’s knees’ isn’t featured, they do show the time as being a period of quirky linguistic coinage. For example, from one such Flapper Dictionary:

Kluck – dumb person.
Dumb kluck – worse than a kluck.
Pollywoppus – meaningless stuff.
Fly-paper – a guy who sticks around.

There’s no profound reason to relate bees and knees other than the jaunty-sounding rhyme. In the 1920s it was fashionable to devise nonsense terms for excellence – ‘the snake’s hips’, ‘the kipper’s knickers”, ‘the cat’s pyjamas’, ‘the sardine’s whiskers’ etc. Of these, the bee’s knees and the cat’s pyjamas are the only ones that have stood the test of time. More recently, we see the same thing – the ‘dog’s bollocks‘.

(Note: knickers weren’t underwear then – even for kippers. At least, one would hope not – the edition of the Newark Advocate above also had the headline ‘Bride Wears Knickers To Wedding’.)

One possible connection between the phrase and an actual bee relates to Bee Jackson. Ms. Jackson was a dancer in 1920s New York and is credited with introducing the dance to Broadway in February, 1924, when she appeared at the Silver Slipper nightclub. She went on to become the World Champion Charleston dancer and was quite celebrated at the time.

It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that the expression was coined in reference to her (and her very active knees).

Now, armed with your new 1920s lexicon, go forth with dropped waist and meaningless lingo that will confuse all your friends. Personally, I am eagerly awaiting my next opportunity to leverage “the sardine’s whiskers.”