Everything Runs on Emotion

[January 19, 2010]

The basic premise of opening a brand channel on Facebook is simple, in a complex kind of way. It has its roots in our shared capacity to turn external objects into symbols of comfort and well-being, through association with positive emotions.

Grow up in a family where Dunkin’ Donuts, let’s say, is a the treat that routinely appears at festive events—and you won’t be able to stop yourself from associating those pink and orange Ds with happy thoughts. Even in cases where festive family events turned dysfunctional, the imprint has been made—and DD is permanently linked to a rush of emotion.

Knowing that, it’s a simple step to realize that people are eager to channel those ingrained emotions through discussion about the brand on Facebook—where they’re already sharing personal opinions, announcing milestones or proclaiming their allegiance to cherished causes.

Into this delicate bubble-dome of remote trust and distance intimacy step cautious brand managers. Those who succeed recognize the true value that digital community members bring to the table. Sure, social media marketing is, at base, still about boosting sales—and it’s useless to argue otherwise. But the task of the moment is to strengthen and expand the scope of the emotional associations consumers already have with the brand.

Many factors, including dumb luck, factor into maintaining an effective social footprint, but most of them, I’ll wager, boil down to:

• Giving consumers a voice
• Responding directly and honestly
• Acting on suggestions whenever practical
• Rewarding participation with real value

In the end, this is simply another way of saying, “drop the mask” and speak to real people as a real person. It doesn’t matter if your company lacks a charismatic leader (and Lord knows plenty of effective leaders lack the Hollywood gene). Reliably telling the truth generates its own kind of animal magnetism—especially when it costs you a few lumps along the way.

To see the process in action, read a few snippets of recent conversation over at the official Dunkin’ Donuts Facebook group page, where counter employees and customers kvetch and commiserate:

View Excerpt 1

Here customers express compassion for downtrodden workers, clearly identifying with a shared experience: Working is…somewhat unpleasant.

In another excerpt, a customer expresses affection for the brand and a appreciation usually associated with military troops or first responders.

View Excerpt 2

And then there’s that final exchange, where the conversation veers off in the direction of social injustice—hardly part of DD’s brand universe.

All in all, the level of emotion, the degree of identification with the brand and its representatives shows just as much about the power of brand advertising and strategy as it does about the inherent power of social media. Because the link these people feel is to the product and the experience themselves, not its presence on Facebook.

Undeniably, DD’s Facebook presence succeeds as a lightning rod for the wave of emotion associated with the brand. It does so, you’ll notice, by allowing consumers to interact with employees, real people. And like real people, employees have emotions of their own about their interactions with customers. The surest sign the Dunkin’ Donuts “gets it” is the way these exchanges have a free-flowing life of their own.

That, as I see it, is the “take away” traditional advertising media must grab onto as quickly as possible. Yes, a print ad can’t have interactive dialogue, but it can speak as directly and in equally human terms—provided it drops the decades-old patter of “copy that gets results.”

Because when it comes to communication, nothing refreshes like honest emotion.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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