Emotional Marketing at the Ballot Box

Abena Perryman
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More than Just a Ballot

I’ve never been one for politics. One might classify me as a “socialist- capitalist”. Or fiscally conservative while being socially liberal. With less than 7 days left to the US presidential elections I am glued to the media. I am following the twists and turns with bated breath. There’s the obvious interest in the platforms and what each candidate represents. Understanding their positions on economic growth, racism in America or the pandemic response. But of more interest to me, is:

  1. The amount, and
  2. Type of marketing that is bombarding every media channel.

I never really paid attention to the emotional marketing that is required to get a candidate elected. And frankly, it is fascinating.

Emotional Marketing in Full Display

Obviously elections are about:

  1. Selling a party – aka a company’s product or service. Then
  2. Creating a platform – aka the brand’s main message. And then finally
  3. Connecting with enough citizens – aka customers – to drive votes (aka revenue).

But until 2016 and now again in 2020, I didn’t draw the parallel to a brand’s campaign. In fact, I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of designing an experience for customers that tap into their senses to drive your desired outcome. That’s where emotional marketing comes into action.

Tapping into Emotions to Make Customer Connections

The book “X: The Experience When Business Meets Design” by author Brian Solis, talks about creating memorable experiences for your target customers. It outlines the ability to create a memorable brand is only as good as your ability to elicit strong emotions from your customer base. And the most powerful emotions: Happiness, Hope, Fear, Anger. This is echoed in Robert Plutchik’s research and the resulting wheel of emotions. This emotional marketing strategy is being used relentless in campaigning.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen political messages tap into the emotions of their respective bases. Over the last 40 years we’ve seen these emotional marketing messages used as campaign slogans. These emotional messages tap into the feelings in the electorate. In 1980 Ronald Regan used “Let’s Make America Great Again” while in 1998 George H.W. Bush used “Kinder gentler America”. More recently, President Obama was effective at  “Change we can believe in” for his 2008 campaign. While Donald Trump  achieved success in 2016  revitalizing and tweaking Regan’s slogan – “Make America Great Again”.  In this current campaign I am struck by how starkly different the messages are.

Regardless of your politics, it is clear to see the emotional marketing strategy behind each campaign. In this race, the Red taps into feelings of: insecurity, anger and pride. The Blue taps into feelings of: hope, happiness and community. Whether we agree or disagree with the tactics used is for another debate all together. What is clear is that emotional marketing is effective in creating communities and harnessing action.

Experiences Built on Emotions and Storytelling

So if emotional marketing can be used effectively in politics, then it is safe to say it can be harnessed for brands. To successfully build a company’s brand or marketing campaign, you must tap into an emotion that makes people take action. And it’s true. The stories I remember and share are the ones that either made me laugh, cry, smile from ear to ear, or get angry. Mediocre, or unremarkable won’t get talked about. So what feelings does your brand tap into? What feelings are associated with your company that spark action. Are your customers angry, happy, fearful…??

Regardless of how you’re voting, any marketer worth her salt will be watching this “Emotions Marketing 101 Course” that is playing out right in front of our eyes. There are marketing lessons to be learned every single day. What are the emotions that drive action for your brand?

Interested in understanding how to use emotional marketing in your marketing activities? Checkout these other helpful resources:

  1. Hubspot 
  2. Digital Marketing Institute
  3. Market Group
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