How Did It Feel For You?
“People will forget what you said…
They will forget what you did…
But people will never forget how you made them feel”
I’ve conducted endless rounds of qualitative research in my time, sitting through interviews where respondents would answer woodenly, and impatiently, to the questions about brand preference and message take-out, but brighten up noticeably when asked to describe a particularly emotional experience, often becoming animated and articulate in a matter of seconds. I used to wish you could bottle it; the verbal language they used and the body language they adopted. But, instead, it would often be reduced to a pithy quote within an otherwise uninspiring research presentation.
We became obsessed by all of the rational measures of brand performance – communications scores, awareness, salience, intentions – because it gave us a sense of a world which was ordered, predictable, logical. Scientific. It made us all feel we were in control. It has been turbo-charged by the torrent of data that has been collected online.
Even though we have since been through a couple of decades during n which our understanding of emotions – how we feel – has fundamentally shifted, we still have no consensus on the role of feeling, not even how to measure it. There have been some valiant attempts, but they still struggle to capture the complex, experiential, contextual and individualistic nature of human emotion. Maybe that’s as it should be. But sometimes, as with the above quote, we need to be reminded of its enduring importance in the marketing process.
I saw the Maya Angelou quote on a Facebook post (a big thumbs up to social media) and I think it should be framed and placed on every Marketing Director’s wall.
At the very least, it might occasionally distract them from their ever-expanding analytics dashboard. As a researcher, I never thought I’d say this, but we suffer from data overload. We have so many numbers – millions, billions, trillions, megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes – but they often come totally devoid of context. All of the things that create emotional experience can easily become erased from the picture. Instead, a kind of algorithmic homogenisation occurs and consumers become merely numbers– e.g. reach, ratings, hits – and engagement becomes something that can be measured via likes, search strings and click-through rates.
However, we should fear not. Statistics are coming to the rescue!
Parallel to the revolution in our understanding of the role of emotion and our sub-conscious, implicit mind within the marketing process, another major shift in our business has occurred. We have seen the use of advanced statistical techniques to understand the relationship between marketing investment and financial performance lead to a turnaround in many of the assumptions on how advertising effectiveness really works. And the UK leads the world in this area.
I find it truly ironic that the cold world of statistical analysis has produced so much work to demonstrate the power of emotion, the massive importance of media context, the financial returns on creativity and the long-term nature of brand payback. Think back to those PWC studies, Thinkbox’s recent work with Ebiquity, Peter Field’s seminal analysis of the link between creativity and effectiveness or the sterling work conducted by the ARF in the States.
But when you look at all those stats showing their multiple regression outputs and minute by minute ‘engagement’ metrics, just remember, it was based on how you made them feel that made it happen. Not just now, but for years to come.