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Emotional Connections As A Science

Intent drives search campaigns, and emotional connections drive intent. For the past year I have been writing about how emotions will become the next targeting signal in search and other media. Now the Harvard Business Review (HBR) has released 10 signals that significantly affect customer value across all categories studied.

Marketers understand the importance of emotional connections between consumers and brands, and many acknowledge that identifying and measuring motivators is one of the more challenging endeavors -- yet customers are often unaware of these connections. Marketers realize that emotional motivators are typically different from what customers say or type and the reasons they make the brand choices, but struggle with knowing how to apply the concept.

Motivators typed into search query boxes or verbally articulated in Google voice, Apple Siri or Microsoft Cortana -- or written in social media posts on Facebook or Twitter, or even photos uploaded and shared on Pinterest or Instagram -- drive consumer behavior. It's all about the colors in photos, color choice in purchases, and music downloaded from iTunes or Google Play Music.

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Eight years ago the researchers Scott Magids, Alan Zorfa, and Daniel Leemon set out to create a standard lexicon of emotions, working with experts and surveying anthropological and social science research. The researchers finally assembled a list of more than 300 emotional motivators and found that customers are emotionally connected with a brand when it aligns with their motivations to help fulfill deep -- and often unconscious -- desires.

Important emotional motivators that brands can leverage include desires like "stand out from the crowd." Brands can do this by understanding how they affect customer value. In this instance the person wants to project a unique social identity and be seen as special. If the person wants to "have confidence in the future," the signal identifies the person's desire to perceive the future as better than the past and has a positive mental picture of what is to come.

Brands may be liked or trusted, but they often fail to align themselves with consumers' emotions. Some brands like Disney or Apple have an easier time of it. "Across a sample of nine categories, fully connected customers are 52% more valuable, on average, than those who are just highly satisfied," per the research.

To increase revenue and market share, many companies focus on customer acquisition. The analysis shows that moving customers from highly satisfied to fully connected can generate three times the financial return of moving them from unconnected to highly satisfied. The highest returns come from focusing on customers who are already fully connected to the category.

The research also delves into the emotional motivators that vary by category and brand and across customer segments; emotional motivators for a given brand or industry and the person's position in the customer journey; and the growth opportunities that exist across the customer experience, not just in traditional brand positioning and advertising.

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