Appeal To Emotion, Not Environmental Logic

What separates human beings from other walks of life is that we are guided by emotions. While we are constantly inundated with thousands of ads every day, we often make our final purchasing decision of a product based on how we feel about it. Statistics show that about 40% of purchases are impulse buys, an action strongly linked to emotion. As a matter of fact, some product categories rely on the act of impulse buying for the majority of their sales. If this is true, then brand connection with consumers should be simple: play up to their emotions.

Despite this, it still seems as though many brands trying to infiltrate the green space don’t understand this, instead choosing to focus on the cold, hard facts about how sustainable their product or company practices are. If we are to truly make markets and product categories green, why not go with what gives “going green” the best advantage?

Some brands have picked up on this, however. In turn, they have acted accordingly and have not only seen a difference in their bottom line, but have received heavy praise from critics and consumers alike. 

Back to the Start

One of the most acclaimed commercials having to do with sustainability was rapidly growing quick service restaurant chain Chipotle’s “Back to the Start,” a short film that lived online before it aired during the 2012 Grammys. This commercial, featuring Claymation farmers returning to sustainable practices and set to Willie Nelson’s cover of Coldplay’s hit “The Scientist,” became one of the most (if not the most) talked-about items from the Grammy broadcast. In addition, Chipotle created a loyalty program that allowed users to learn more about what the billion-dollar company is doing to keep their efforts green, as well as set up specific charity efforts. To date, the official YouTube video of the commercial has received 8 million views as Chipotle continues to be one of the most promising franchises in the country. 

Coke’s Journey

Coca Cola’s decision to join the branded content movement gave the iconic soft drink a unique opportunity to promote its green efforts. In late 2012, the company reworked its website homepage into a digital magazine. This was not a simple corporate blog, but an actual news site complete with infographics, articles and opinion pieces. The benefits of branded content are just now starting to be realized, as it doesn’t seem as disruptive to consumers as traditional advertising. This gives Coke the platform to write about some of their initiatives that hit closer to home for many readers, including what the company is doing to support healthy lifestyle choices, its most recent charity contributions, and what it is doing to help veterans find jobs. 

Feeling Different

Customer loyalty expert Graeme Newell of 602 Communications has an interesting take on the success of the Toyota Prius versus its hybrid competitors. He points out that a huge reason the Prius is one of the most successful car models in the world is because it’s different – in both its marketing and its look. While many other hybrid cars are boasting about their unbelievable MPG numbers and their low fuel emissions, the Prius appeals to a person’s character. Plain and simple, if you are a “Prius person,” then you care about the environment. Prius advertising rarely highlights environmental statistics anymore. Instead, it appeals to the consumer’s psyche, such as in the 2013 Prius’ “Those Who Don’t Get It, Get It” featuring musician Raphael Saadiq, and “Hum” commercials. Each is an example of eliciting good feelings rather than bombarding the consumer with a slew of boring statistics. 

While brands have been preaching “green” for years, it is still human nature to resist change. While some consumers have adopted the transition, others have been apprehensive about the move to becoming more environmentally friendly. If we as marketers can appeal to their emotions, instead of taking the colder approach of using numbers, we will be much more successful at tapping into consumer desires.

2 comments about "Appeal To Emotion, Not Environmental Logic".
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  1. Douglas Foster from NovaLex Consulting, March 13, 2013 at 1:49 p.m.

    One thing I 'relearn' every year is that people buy on emotion and justify with reason. It's true no matter the category.

    I'm currently providing very high end data-based targeting services and find that the best results still come from an emotional message (see: So we may know how to target owners / buyers of financial products but knowing their attitudes about investing is what really empowers the messaging.

    "Green' is good but is seldom the primary reason people buy. 'Green' is a nice rational point that reassures them they made the right decision. There's a more emotional reason, however, behind their purchase behavior.

    Thanks for an interesting article.

  2. Frank Riolo from Conversation, LLC, March 13, 2013 at 5:23 p.m.

    Thanks for the comment and additional insights, Douglas.

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