I recently read an article that attacked the notion of making marketing decisions based largely on consumer research. The writer made a compelling argument: cognitive and neurological science has demonstrated that a large percentage of our decision-making process takes place unconsciously. So how can consumers honestly tell you how they came to make a purchase decision?
New Coke: A Cautionary Tale
One of the greatest marketing disasters of all time was the introduction of New Coke. An extensive array of consumer research and taste tests showed that New Coke would be a hit. In reality however, the consumer backlash over New Coke was unprecedentedly negative. The product was taken off the shelves just a few months after its introduction.
Why did the consumer research fail? It’s because the mind is organized in terms of networks of associations, and these associations are purely emotional in nature. As a result, our thinking process does not follow a logical, linear path.
Emotional Appeals Are Important, But…
As direct marketers, we know the power of emotional appeals: fear, envy, greed, desire…these appeals are staples of a strong direct response message. But direct marketers also know that these emotional appeals must be combined with a logical, rational reason to act now: a great offer, a free gift, a powerful product comparison, a limited time opportunity.
Fundamentally, logical arguments provide an excuse for the consumer to make an emotional decision.
Logic gives consumers a reason to take immediate action in a way emotional appeals never can. Direct response television for Save The Children is a great example of this. It’s the ultimate emotional appeal – saving the lives of children around the world. But when it comes time to close the deal, the DRTV spot cites statistics on what percentage of the dollars donated go directly to the children, offers an immediate opportunity to sponsor an individual child, and points out that it only costs about a $1 a day: logic-based arguments to support a highly emotional decision.
In direct marketing, emotional appeals hook the prospect, but logical appeals close the deal.