Heart & Sold

Want consumers to open their wallets? Start by getting them to open their hearts.
Magazine Contributor
8 min read

This story appears in the May 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Win the hearts of consumers, and their minds will follow.

Marketing success starts with the heart. The supreme challenge is not merely to market a better product but to build into your marketing plan a message that speaks to consumers on a personal, emotional level.

You're not sure how strong the pull of emotion is? Then flash back to a memory you have of an important moment in your past. You're probably flashing back to an emotional moment. You might have laughed. You might have cried. But you remember that moment because it triggered an emotion.

The pull of emotion. The power of the heart. It's a power that we as marketers can harness.

Consumers won't admit it, and most often they don't even realize it, but the heart overrules the head in almost every purchase decision almost every time.

The Emotional Hook

Vest your product with emotional interest, and you can have a winner in the marketplace. Some examples of this:

The alcoholic beverage industry learned long ago the power of the emotional sell in the product. In the liquor business, a "call" brand should look and sound good when being requested. Why? Because consumers want to feel special for being smart enough or cool enough to order it.

Pet food and baby food producers have learned a marketing trick: big eyes. The most effective packages in this category feature babies and puppies with eyes that are wide, large and open. There's something in our genetic programming that makes big eyes irresistible.

In service industries, the best salespeople do much more than sell services. They create relationships. Smart service marketers bond with customers. They make them feel comfortable and gain their trust.

I call this emotional involvement with a customer the product's Share of Heart.

Share Of Heart

Share of Heart is how consumers respond to your product emotionally, as opposed to intellectually. It's the connection you make with your consumers--an emotional state in which the consumer responds through feelings rather than cold, hard facts. You achieve Share of Heart when you infuse your product with something of great emotional and personal value to the consumer.

Share of Heart answers the two key questions that are part of almost every purchase: 1) How is this product going to "reach out and touch" the buyer? and 2) how is it going to improve the buyer's life?

Consider TheraFlu, a cold medicine that is meant to be taken hot and at night. It's sort of a 1990s update of chicken soup. Although there's no scientific proof that TheraFlu works better, the imagery is strong and unique. Mothers can relate to the steamy hot ingredients soothing a cold away. By appealing to the emotions, TheraFlu's astute marketers have parlayed this simple product into a business that threatens NyQuil--the first on the block with a nighttime cold medicine.

In some circumstances, you have only one opportunity to sell. This occurs in certain direct sales of products that a customer does not buy frequently, in telemarketing pitches, and in infomercials. In these situations, if you don't make the sale immediately, the emotion of the moment is gone. Here's how Share of Heart can close one-shot sales:

  • Pique your prospects' interest by learning about their needs.

  • Sell them on how your product can enrich their lives.

  • Excite them throughout the pitch by showing what the product has done for others.

  • Reinforce the emotion of the pitch.

Successful infomercial producers are masters of emotion. Hard-sell inserts are placed into their "programs" three or four times at approximately six-minute intervals, usually at the commercial's most uplifting moments. They simply wear you down with their enthusiasm.

Logic Is Not Enough

Consumers buy products for two reasons:

1. The logical reason. One product provides better benefits or services than another.

2. The real reason. The product provides emotional satisfaction.

That's why branded items are preferred, on average, 10 times more than store brands. Ask consumers what they think about Johnson & Johnson products, and they'll tell you that Johnson & Johnson cares about you. It's a simple premise, but it's enormously powerful and profitable.

If you're looking for logic, you're on the wrong path. Sure, all of America is on a diet. But a good percentage of these dieters buy Häagen Dazs. And the people who won't allow themselves the fatty ice cream buy Häagen Dazs Sorbet. It may not be as rich, but the buyers enjoy the same psychological reward.

When people want to treat themselves well, they often turn to the most prestigious, and usually priciest, brands in a category. Häagen Dazs is considered one of the most self-indulgent of frozen desserts. The foreign-sounding name contributes to the experience. By the way, the name Häagen Dazs is strictly a marketing ploy. Do you know what Häagen Dazs means? Nothing. Do you know why Häagen Dazs puts the two foreign-looking dots over the a? Because it looks foreign. The product is made in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

It's human nature to want more than we have. That's why a low price can sometimes hurt sales. Consumers usually want the best they can buy. Notice I didn't say the best they can reasonably afford.

Perception Is Reality

The principle behind Share of Heart is simple: If consumers think something works better or tastes better, then it does work better or taste better. The consumer's perception of your product is everything, even when it's wrong.

Back when compact discs became the standard, the D.A.T. tape system was introduced. These were magnetic tapes that rivaled CDs in quality, but because the medium was tape, consumers didn't feel the D.A.T. system could deliver the same audio quality they could get from the bright, shiny CDs. Consumers were incorrect, but it didn't make a difference. Only a handful of sound engineers buy the product today.

The Key To Impulse Sales

In an impulse product, the rationality of the purchase decision is completely short-circuited. The consumer has no time to think, only to react. That's how L'Eggs pantyhose, with its cute plastic egg-shaped container, became the dominant force in the women's hosiery market.

An impulse product must sell itself once--but big time. You have to grab the browser with a searing emotional hook. The name should trigger an emotion with consumers. The package should act like a beacon on the shelf. Your positioning should call out the consumer's name and lifestyle. Say Godiva, and you instantly call up glitzy foil and ribbons. Say Chivas Regal, and you are talking about a prestigious drink.

Having a new product that works better is not enough anymore. You've got to feed the ego. Consumers need to feel good about themselves. It's a basic human need.

Turn A Negative Into A Benefit

Somebody's negative can be someone else's positive. Natural foods is a huge industry created on a negative. The products aren't standardized; the prices are higher. But there is a huge audience that wants only natural foods and is willing to pay a higher price. People believe if a health-food store carries the product, it must be something special. Perceptions belie reality--again.

Or consider these examples:

  • Caffeine, which was once considered a negative, is now being added to [water and] new soft drinks for an extra "kick."

  • Larry's Italian Fruit Ices have pits left by the manufacturing process. Larry points to them proudly: "So fresh and fruity, it even has pits."

Recipe For Success

The good news: Smaller brands can overcome the tried-and-true by using Share of Heart. AriZona (iced tea) and Mistic (juice beverage) have achieved success in the face of intense competition from megabrand soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi. Both AriZona and Mistic have created a counterculture image. It looks cool to carry them around.

A reverse Share of Heart scenario is happening with Snapple beverages. Snapple was created by a trio of marketers from Long Island. Their beverage developed cachet among trendies, encouraged by clever advertising and the constant introduction of new, offbeat flavors.

Then the business was [sold] to Quaker. This corporate monolith was totally out of touch with Snapple's consumer base. Sales plummeted, and now the brand will never be as powerful as it [once] was.

It is the totality of the buying experience that will keep your customers coming back for more. That is your Share of Heart. And Share of Heart is something special. It's marketing magic--especially to the bottom line.

This excerpt is printed by permission of Amacom Books from Marketing Straight to the Heart by Barry Feig, (c)1997 ($24.95, cloth). Published by Amacom, a division of American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. All rights reserved. To order, call (800) 262-9699.

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