Emotional Marketing: A few lessons from the HOW Design Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the 2018 HOW Design Conference in Boston the first week of May, where we learned more about emotional marketing. Filled with inspiring and educational classes, it was nothing short of amazing. Not to mention eating fabulous food, attending a game at the green monster and hanging out with my favorite Associate Creative Director. But one of my favorite moments made me cry. Literally. In fact, the majority of the room was discretely wiping tears from under their cool spectacles. 

The session I am referring to was entitled “Designing with Emotion.” And it started with this:

Which leads me to one of the most important principles of good marketing and design: understanding the emotions and behaviors of your audience. 

This means that you must start from the bottom up. By understanding what moves your audience, you begin to understand why they behave the way they do. This is emotional marketing. What motivates them to act? And how can your product or service improve their life? If you don’t communicate in a way that moves your audience to action, you are just exchanging information. Marketing should not talk “at” the consumer. It should start with empathy. Empathy is “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”

Before starting a design or marketing project, ask three questions:

What emotion do I want to elicit?

What triggers that emotion in my audience’s real life?

How does my brand contribute to that emotion?

Let me provide a concrete example. Idaho Housing and Finance Association, a wonderful client of 10+ years, engaged Stoltz Marketing Group to create a Spring marketing strategy and integrated marketing campaign to raise awareness for its home loan products. This year, our net communication strategy was to show that “Idaho Housing offers home loan products with the lowest monthly payment in Idaho.” Sure, we could have crafted straight messaging and visuals that demonstrate this point. But instead, we put ourselves in the mindset of the audience: first- and second-time homebuyers with incomes under $90,000 who could qualify for these loans. Home buying is an emotional process filled with highs and lows. We wanted to understand why our audience feels anxious, hopeful and excited when purchasing a home. These feelings are often spurred by the uncertainty of qualifying for a loan or being able to afford the American dream. These real-life problems affect marketing for emotion.

Our creative solution can be viewed here:

To-date, this campaign (consisting of video, audio, digital and social tactics) has resulted in:

  • Loan referrals increasing from 3 to 256
  • Mobile display paced 2.5 times the national average
  • OTT viewer completion rate was 95%
  • Website views increasing by 5,000
  • Click through rate was 263% the national average for SEM

Why does this data exist? I believe we created a campaign that caught the attention-and emotion-of our target audience, while clearly communicating how Idaho Housing can provide a product that helps them reach their homeownership goals. In marketing and design, you should never underestimate the power of understanding the feelings of another human being. By moving your target audience, you will start a memorable (and touching) conversation.