One of the most overlooked, yet most powerful component in the branding of places is the role of emotional benefits. This was recently the subject of considerable discussion at Strengthening Brand America between Glenn Myatt – Brand Truth, Tom Buncle - The Yellow Railroad, and myself.
Emotional benefits are the positive feelings that people receive from a place. While the tangible benefits may be enticing and important and help validate a logical decision, they can’t create a deep relationship. Emotional benefits have the ability to connect with people and influence the way they feel and bond with their deepest needs and desires. They should fulfill the state of mind that visitors or customers are seeking, such as enrichment, romance, escape or adventure, etc.
Here is a summary of the comments on Strengthening Brand America:
Bill Baker: “From time to time place marketers tend to overlook the valuable role that emotion plays in the decision making of their prospective customers. This makes no sense and is like the buyers of new cars relying on a vehicle's Specifications Manual to base their purchase decision. If emotion plays no role, almost all brochures, advertising, photo images and videos could be removed from marketing budgets because all that will be needed are lists of specifications. Emotion is front and center in all of our brand strategies irrespective of the size of the community. Among its many roles is to provide filters for the selection of appropriate images that reflect the brand and better connect with prospective customers.”
Glen Myatt: “Bill's car analogy is spot on. Deciding on a car or a destination are both high involvement decisions. Typically people use extensive information searching to make their decisions. They will claim they make measured, rational choices because of this. But for cars econometric research has shown that advertising has a far greater impact on actual choice than buyers consciously believe. This lines up with some of the more recent findings in consumer psychology which see that in many situations people will develop an emotional attachment to a choice based on a simple, often irrational factor.”
Tom Buncle: “The only thing I'd add is that, like cars where most people have a limited understanding beyond basic functionality, so too do they when choosing a destination, even if they've been before. This is because each holiday is different and the visitors' experience depends on their relationship with the destination. After a highly rational information search has narrowed the candidate destination set, an unknowable set of expectations is generated about a holiday, thereby creating a gap. Emotion and imagination tend to be quicker to fill this gap than rational analysis - hence the larger role that emotion plays in holiday decision-making compared to most physical products.”
In all of our brand building work we always advocate that the most powerful, meaningful and appropriate benefits - the emotional rewards - should always be at the forefront. Avoid talking about the city, region or downtown as a series or list of locations, attractions, and things to see and do. Instead, bring it to life as an experience and make customers feel as though they are already there sensing and feeling it whenever they read, see, or hear your communications. Make it easy for people to see themselves in the picture.
You can contribute to discussions like this at Strengthening Brand America.