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Build Emotional Benefit Into Your Brand

Have you ever been really, really happy after buying something? You give your money for a product or service and come away from the exchange in a truly joyous mood? Ecstatic, even. According to basic economics, it should never happen. After all, Econ 101 describes commerce as an exchange of equal values. The joy you feel at getting the thing you just bought should be mitigated – in equal measure – by the sadness you feel for the loss of your money. You should feel emotionally ambivalent about the exchange. And yet we know that some purchases make shoppers downright giddy with happiness. Some of that has to do with bargain hunting, of course. Who wouldn’t be happy to buy socks for 80% off? But that’s not an exchange of true, equal values. The joy one takes in getting away with a “steal” is different from the joy of getting the thing itself. What’s harder to explain is that lots of people find great joy in paying for more than what an item is worth. Everyone knows that luxury items, like perfume, exotic sports cars and yachts are all over-priced. Yet buyers happily line up to get them. Even everyday items like home computers and smart phones thrill people to the point that they’ll shell out more than what the product is worth. (Looking at you, Apple.) So most purchases are more complex than a simple exchange of equal value. The seller gets the money. They buyer gets the item … plus. What is that plus? It is an emotional benefit that goes beyond the worth of the item itself.

Whenever launching a new business or a new product, one has to consider how this new entity is an innovative solution to an existing problem. What purpose will the market have for this new thing? With all the marketing noise in the world, why wouldn’t people screen this item out just like they do with 99% of what’s out there? What would make them allow this existence into their lives? If it is indeed a superior solution, a better mouse trap, one could expect to attract a great deal of customers just because they’ll recognize and value that superiority. But if the item’s defining feature makes it a distinct but not necessarily superior solution, it may have trouble attracting a wide customer base. It may only attract those customers who have a preference or a need for that specific distinction. But, in either case, the wise marketer will be looking to define and emphasize the emotional benefit consumers are likely to feel when they make the purchase.

To that end, marketers may choose to de-emphasize the market problem their product needs to solve. Instead, they may do better to ask how consumers want to feel and whether the purchase of the proposed product can make them feel that way.

Work with Boardwalk to innovate the
true emotional benefit of your product.

People seem to have a need for many types of emotional benefits. Billion-dollar brands have been built by offering products and services that make consumers feel:

• Rich
• Accomplished
• Experienced
• Tasteful
• Classy
• Knowledgeable
• Beautiful
• Sexy
• Adventurous
• Daring
• Intelligent
• Superior
• Authentic
• Secure
• Reliable
• Confident
• and more

To take the first benefit on the list, for instance, a man may purchase a Lear jet. He may rationalize his need for such a vehicle – security, convenience, business, etc. But, in his heart of hearts, he’s thrilled just to know that he can buy such a thing. He likes counting himself among the few who can afford to do so. He enjoys the respect and deference with which people treat a man who owns his own private jet. He enjoys the feeling of feeling rich.

I’m sure you can think of similar stories for each of the listed benefits. People who take a class from Berlitz and learn French, feel accomplished. People who wear cowboy boots from Justin and jeans from Wrangler and are confident they’re revealing their authentic selves. Etc.

It all comes down to the most basic emotional benefit of all, feeling cool. We all want to feel cool in some way or another. It’s a state of being that is hard to define, impossible to achieve and yet universally desired. Every item on the list above is a pathway to cool – for somebody.

The emotional benefit is vital to building a strong brand. It’s what makes the brand “sticky”. It’s what gets people addicted or, at least, dependent on your product or service. It’s what gets people to march right past your competitors to knock on your door. They like the feeling they get from buying from you and they want to repeat it as often as possible. So it’s important to know what kind of emotional benefit your brand delivers. Once you know it, you can make it stronger.

So when you’re mapping out your go-to-market plan, think of your end buyer and get innovative. What makes your purchaser feel cool? What emotional benefit can you offer that would make them feel that way?


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