Seduction and Justification: Why Emotions Need Content to "Tell and Sell" the Story

We may be seduced by our left brain, but we justify with our right. 

"The red Corvette is sexy. But, it also has great gas mileage and a decent tax writeoff. Where do I sign?"  

Brands who can seduce first and justify second are in a strong position to win the everlasting battle between heart and mind. This is why the brand story – the first point of contact – is so vitally important. In Debbie Millman's series of interviews, "Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits", Phil Duncan, Global Design Officer of Proctor & Gamble calls this "the first moment of truth", or, the moment when a consumer decides to purchase a particular brand, to invite them into their cupboard, or medicine cabinet, or glovebox. Maybe the first moment of truth comes from a covetable form of product packaging, or through words of mouth that later manifests as brand recognition. Either way, these 60 seconds are make or break.

From point of purchase onwards, Duncan says, the relationship evolves in unison with whether or not the brand meaningfully speaks to the customer's values and aspirations, however static or dynamic they may be. 

Emotional appeal + rational justification = a match made in heaven. 

Marketers know that disrupting habits is a daunting task that must be orchestrated at just the right time and place. Why would I decide to choose cinnamon flavored toothpaste over peppermint on any given Tuesday, anyway?

Turning point life events like births, deaths, graduations, moving, or retirement are all cause for disruption, a way to appeal on an emotional level by providing cause for security, novelty, or trustworthiness at a time when everything else is uncertain or in stasis. This "golden moment" or "moment of truth" can chart a course for brand loyalty for decades. That is, until the next turning point worthy of disruption.  

Emotion tells the story. Content sells the story.

If emotional targets are the "hooks" that seduce our left brain, then intriguing content and magnetic storytelling are the "lines" that justify our right. And, if emotional targets are the first glance that gets our attention, then stories are what keep it focused. Orchestrated in harmony, and it's clear why – and how – prospects convert to customers.

If a product or brand can make our hearts flutter, but bring us back down to earth with tangible benefits worth the asking price, customers will see a product worth inviting into their homes. One method of storytelling, such as message triangulation – or brand benefits told from three empathetic points of view rather than the top-down – can help customers toe the line between head and heart. 

But brands, a word of caution before we get caught up in the moment. 

Note that Duncan calls this the moment of "truth" for a reason. We must appeal to the emotions through authentic stories that focus on an emotional targets. Otherwise, attempting to make an emotional appeal through inaccurate, inauthentic, and impersonal hooks can leave a trail of terrible backlash, resulting in feelings of resentment towards a brand they trusted at first blush. Is embellishing the truth at a pivotal moment worth the risk of losing out on a potential lifetime of "moments" together?

In the end, it's how you make them feel that determines whether they fall in love – but it's why you make them justify the act that determines whether they bring you home.  

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