There are studies and billion-dollar industries built around conversion. How can we convince the client to buy? Much of the research focuses on clients making emotional decisions. In a lot of ways, this approach has led to the hair-on-fire, fear-mongering tactics that have become a major way of communicating. We see this in advertising, of course, but this “quick-catch” style is also present in many news outlets, in political platforms, and on social media.
Emotion (or panic specifically) will get people to purchase, this is true. But I feel like there is more to decision-making than that. And certainly more to building a trusted and loyal client base that won’t also walk away because of another emotional decision.
Emotions are often tied to memory. If a person decides they want to purchase a coffee with whipped cream, that decision is likely based on a memory of something sweet and warm, making them feel good. However, they may feel emotions of guilt or depression from a sugar crash that will alter the memory for future purchases. The next time they see that drink, will they decide on something with more coffee and less sweet? What has changed in their decision-making and what other factors are coming into play?
Take a look at the choice matrix chart below. There are decisions that are made in active emotion and in passive emotion. When someone makes a choice in passive emotion, multiple memories can come into play and the value proposition increases. Building large amounts of fear or excitement in your messaging can lead to an immediate response. However, incorporating satisfaction and resolving sadness with your messaging can lead to a committed and loyal conversion because the decision-maker is relying on multiple emotions, multiple memories, multiple needs, and making a choice based on value.
When you add multiple experiences or memories to a decision, value starts to play a larger role. So how do you build your brand on emotion, value, and answer the relevant goals of meeting functional, economic, and social needs?
Take the coffee example. The coffee is meeting immediate needs: I need some coffee to stay alert. Adding the sugar would also make me happy...until it doesn’t, which leads to a deeper emotion of regret. So, I’ll choose a less-sweet coffee to fill the need. Then there are social and economical factors: What if I could save money in the long-term by making my own coffee? (economical). What if I could impress friends with an espresso machine? (social status). Now I am feeling that I am ahead of the game!
Meeting immediate, economic, and social needs in a passive emotional state is where we start to see the importance of value. This is how someone goes from a $5 coffee to a several-hundred-dollar coffee machine (and why coffee shops sell both). Think of a recent espresso machine commercial you’ve seen and examine the messaging. The messaging is calm, satisfying, and luxurious.
It is also important to consider that people making decisions under active emotion can change their minds as easily as they change their emotions. If the experience goes wrong, people may feel like they were tricked or taken advantage of, which leaves memories of deeper emotions like resentment and mistrust. When decisions are made under passive conditions, there is more personal investment (i.e. the ability to decide or make a financial investment) and that will lead to a stronger defense of the decision. This means that speaking to passive emotions can also build trust and create ambassadors who will continue to defend this choice.
So what is the best approach? Really, that is up to the brand and marketing strategy you want to build, and dependent on your long- and short-term business objectives. Even whether it is more cost effective to have more or less client turnover (and for some businesses, more turnover is better). Active emotions can help people understand the risks of making another choice, or help get them excited about the prospect of working with you. However, for the long-term client relationship, incorporating passive emotions into your brand creates a deeper investment upon conversion.