The Irrational Truth

by colbert | August 5, 2010

I Second That Emotion
Image via Wikipedia

All major decisions in life are made emotionally. It’s a statement once made by Bob Minihan, Holland-Mark’s ECD during the late 90s. And it’s true.

Who you marry, who you hire, the job you take, the house you buy — emotion is the central driver of the decision. For all of our fixation on the rational, the functional, the tangible, at the end of the day it’s feeling that brings people towards our brands, gets them to stay, and prompts them to come back. Now there’s a role for the rational stuff, for the facts, they’re just secondary to the need for visceral engagement. And if you want proof regarding the power of emotion and the supporting role of proof, two different but affirming bits of research.

The first is a University of Michigan study referenced in a recent article by Joe Keohane at the Boston Globe. The research asserts that when people are presented with facts that refute their belief about something, the absolute proof actually makes them believe what they believe more absolutely. Oh my. It turns out that we hate to be wrong more than we value the truth. The emotion of losing is simply anathema and we will override all logic to avoid the feeling. Double oh my. The study and Joe suggest that this Maslow-motivated psychology (neurosis?) also makes us willing to accept bad information, facts we fundamentally know are not true, if they support our beliefs. Makes you realize why people don’t seem to care about the quality of user-generated content as source material and the lack of fact-checking behind it (including this post I suppose…).

The second study referenced a while back in Scientific American reveals that when people meet other people (or brands) for the first time they subconsciously assess two things, in this order: warmth and competence. Feelings first, then facts. In our brand strategy work we extend that construct one step: emotion, facts, emotion. You are attracted by what you feel, you seek facts to confirm those feelings, and then you move forward with those feelings as the overriding context for your relationship/association with the brand.

All of this points to the need/opportunity to position your brand and engage emotionally. Regardless of what you’re marketing and who you’re marketing to, the doorway you want to offer into your brand should be emotionally crafted. Emotion motivates, facts validate.

Think about it. Or don’t.

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