March 1, 2012

Emotional marketing

This one time, at Starbucks.

Every single day of our lives, Justin & I get in the car and drive fifteen minutes each way past at least three Dunkin Donuts to pay probably double the price, just so I can hold that cardboard cup (with the weird, green, semi-inappropriate mermaid on it) in my hands. Because I like the way it makes me feel. From my very first day of law school- when I’ll be honest with you I didn’t even really like the taste of coffee, but everything else in my world seemed to be spinning out of control- it was that cardboard cup that made me feel like in that moment, I was living the collegiate dream. Like I was Elle Woods, Perry Mason and Judge Wapner all rolled into one. And that maybe, just maybe, somewhere deep down… I could do this.

And ever since Starbucks and that cardboard cup made me feel something, not about them mind you-but about myself, I have been what Kevin Roberts calls in his book Lovemarks “loyal beyond reason” to them. When you think about it. it is not reasonable for us to get in the car every day and drive past three other coffee shops in the pursuit of just one. It is not rational for me to pay double the price, when I could get a very comparable product elsewhere for half that amount. It is not logical for me to go out of my way daily to talk and tweet about this company, when I’m already giving them a good portion of my hard-earned money. And yet, thank goodness for Starbucks buying is not about any of those things. Because what my experience will tell us, what the concept of “loyalty beyond reason” will tell us, is that buying is not a cold, calculated, rational, reasonable or logical endeavor. Buying is emotional.

Justin & I have been giving talks for a while now on this idea of emotional marketing: that the more they feel… the more they talk, the more they buy, and the more they go out and convince others to do the same. That when we can get our clients to feel something, we are basically raising up an army of evangelists hundreds strong that are going out into the world and saying our names. It’s pretty powerful stuff. What we believe is that “emotional marketing” is actually made up of at least five smaller types of marketing that feed into making our clients feel something. They are: trust marketing, connection marketing, experiential marketing, validation marketing and storytelling (or feel-good) marketing. Today, I want to focus in on that last one: Storytelling Marketing. So how do you go about telling a story that will actually make your clients feel something and want to go talk about you? There are 3 steps.

1. Figure out exactly what it is that you want them to feel. Be specific.
Please don’t say to me that you want your clients to feel “romantic” or “beautiful” or “in love.” It’s too general. It just blends you in with everyone else. And it’s not a real story. On the other hand, tell me that you want your clients to feel romantic in that John Cusack holding up a boom box sort of way, and now we have something we can work with. Make it as specific, and as one of a kind as possible.

2. Facts that connect, Descriptions that compel, Plots that Inspire.
Once you know what it is that you want your clients to feel, now you have to go about giving them the stories that actually make them feel that way. So what are the components of a story that make people feel something? They are: a) facts that connect people, b) descriptions that compel people and c) plots that inspire people.

If I told you right now that I grew up poor in a trailer in West Virginia, are those some facts that just connected me to a few more of you out there? Probably. If I took the time to describe to you the dirt floor, the caved in roof, the old wood stove, that musty smell that hung in the air and clung to your clothing….and your dignity like a badge of dishonor, are those descriptions that would make my story more compelling to some of you? I would hope so. If I then told you about a father, a logger, who went out every single day in the rain, in the snow, in a full on blizzard…that every single day no matter what, he went out and cut the trees so he that could build his daughter’s future…is that a plot that would inspire you? Would it matter to you? I’ll tell you what, it matters to somebody. It matters to me. And that’s the kind of story that I want to be a part of. It’s the kind of story that makes me feel something about the people who are involved.

3. It has to be honest.
If you put on your marketing hat right now, and say well, this is what I want my clients to feel, so what’s a story I can make up that will make them feel that way? trust me, you are going to lose. People will see right through that, and they’ll see you coming a mile away. Never underestimate people’s ability to cut through the BS. So instead of making up a story that you think sounds pretty or will attract the kinds of weddings & couples you want to be getting, why don’t you just try telling a story that’s real?

For Justin & I, that real story we wanted to tell is simply that the way that we see love in this world comes first from how we see love together. And all the specifics that go into it and make it what it is. The quiet love. The day in-day out love. The working side by side to build a life together sort of love. So on our blog, in our about page, and in our promo video, we talked about our love. Together. And…we were real about it. I talked about how Justin leaves every kitchen cabinet door standing wide open until it starts to look like that scene from the Sixth Sense. How I have this really bad habit of leaving milk out on the nightstand until it turns into….gouda. How Justin likes to drink orange juice with his chocolate cake. And about how we do the dishes together. Side by side. And how that You wash, I’ll dry mentality has become not just a division of labor, but a mantra for how we take on this life. Together. That was the story we wanted people connecting with.

Because what we wanted, more than anything, was for the people who were hiring us to feel like we could tell their story like no one else could. That we alone could take what to the rest of the world might look ordinary, and tell it for the epic love story that it really is. And, that we could do it in a way that the rest of the world might finally and for the first time understand. Because the people who feel something from that story, those are the people I want out there saying our names. Right now, I’d like to share with you our promo video. I know some of you may have seen it before, but this time I want you to look at it through this lens of storytelling marketing. Pay attention to the story that we’re telling. And what it is that we’re trying to make people feel.

a photographer promo // meet justin + mary from stillmotion on Vimeo.


At the end of the day, we could all go out and try the same poses, shoot with the same gear, buy the same lighting set ups, and apply the same Photoshop actions. But the one thing we will never be able to do, is to tell the same story. Because the way that I see the world is different from the way you see the world. And thank goodness it is. Because that is what makes us all irreplaceable. Make no mistake about it: buying is very emotional.

So whatever you do, make sure you’re telling a story that makes people feel something.

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