The Sentiment Factor

We marketers have always known that people respond to emotional appeals. We've known that if we can get beyond the rational benefits of an offer and deliver a deeper, emotional sentiment, the result is a more enthusiastic and memorable buying experience. We don't just deliver higher sales, we also deliver a connection that has the potential to turn into advocacy.

First of all, if you just read the above paragraph and it doesn't completely convince you that you always need to be investing in your brand, you've got your head in "a very dark place." Because while message and offer can deliver a sale, only your brand can deliver on this emotional factor that leads to true advocacy. It doesn't matter that you're selling ball bearings to a distributor. We always buy based on emotion.

We Always Buy By Emotion

In presentations to B2B marketers (who are notorious for saying brand doesn't matter), I put their customer's decision process like this:

  1. Make a list of companies that offer what we need
  2. Evaluate and contrast each of their feature/benefits sets
  3. Narrow it down to a short list of those that best meet our needs
  4. I like this sales person the best

This list highlights two things. One that, people try to remain rational in their decision making, but the final decision comes down to emotion. And two, the only brand you build with a weak-branded promotion is the brand of your sales representative (or retail outlet) — who, by the way, will be working for your competition next month and take the client with her.

Loyalty is always built on relationships. So if you aren't sacrificing a little of your ROI in each promotion to build that sentiment of affection for your brand, the customer will build that relationship somewhere else, usually with the rep they deal with or the store they buy from.

The Inspiration Of A Holiday

Now why am I on this kick today? Because Veteran's Day has reminded me of our never-ending appetite for the sentimental.

Unless you grew up in a military family, Veteran's Day probably held little beyond a symbolic importance for you. It's not that you didn't care or weren't patriotic. It's just that it didn't hold the glory of Memorial Day where we honor fallen soldiers. It just honored service. Important, yes, but still kind of routine.

But now, because of social networks, we in the US have discovered a vast national consciousness for the holiday. Those of us with real sentiment for it are tapping into the rest of our emotions with personal remembrances and stories, raising the brand of Veteran's Day to something approaching a civic duty.

Essentially, the power of sales has been placed in the hands of marketing. Veteran's Day no longer needs to depend on one-on-one relationships with vets to build it's appeal. Now personal sentiment can be shared broadly by multiple voice in a multitude of personal circles, expanding the perception of the day beyond the personal to the universal.

This is the power of a brand. It transcends personal experiences and affects our perceptions of right and wrong. And while it's an intangible in terms of ROI, it raises all boats. Just try to get away with saying Veteran's Day is an unimportant holiday now. You'd have a chorus of voices against you in seconds. So too with your marketing programs. Because when you promote with a strong brand, you go into a receptive relationship that's further down the decision-making process. You're already at the "I like this sales rep brand the best" stage. Your brand's name has become equal in importance (maybe even greater) than your representative's name. This, in turn, helps to solidify advocacy for your brand's selling points and ensure that there's a measure of loyalty to your company along side the personal relationships with your people.

So what's the sentiment your customers hold for your brand? It's a question worth asking.

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