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the magic connection
As consumers grow more cynical about marketers' claims, the persuasion industries are researching and refining methods to reinforce an emotional attachment between Americans and the brands they buy. Commenting on what can create consumer loyalty that is "beyond reason" are Kevin Roberts, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide; Bob Garfield, columnist for Advertising Age; Clotaire Rapaille, market researcher; Frank Luntz, corporate and political consultant; and Andy Spade, Song Airlines' creative consultant. These excerpts are drawn from their extended FRONTLINE interviews.

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Kevin Roberts
CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide.

…How do you go beyond the brand?

You have to really dig in to emotional connections with consumers. The rational side of life isn't enough. We've got too much information. We do not live in the information age anymore, nor do we live in the age of knowledge. We've gone hurtling past that. Once everybody has information and knowledge, it's no longer a competitive advantage. We live now in the age of the idea. What consumers want now is an emotional connection. They want to be able to connect with what's behind the brand, what's behind the promise. They're not going to buy simply rational. You feel the world through your senses, the five senses, and that's what's next. The brands that can move to that emotional level, that can create loyalty beyond reason, are going to be the brands where premium profits lie. ...

How do you find emotional information?

You've got to dig deep and go into homes, and you've got to have people who are curious, who are really interested and who can get on with the consumer and can really understand them, can predict, can interpret -- not just a lot of quant[itative] stuff. And you've got to be able to figure out how do you feel what they're thinking, rather than how do you enumerate it? ...

What's the importance of this emotional connection to a brand?

The goal of any marketing manager should be to create loyalty beyond reason for their product, to create loyalty beyond reason, because that means you can appeal to heavy users forever. You make all your money with your heavy, committed users, not through new users. Toyota makes its money by selling to people throughout the range, from a Scion through to a Prius to a Lexus -- customers for life. You want lifetime customers, and you want them to have a love affair with you so that no matter what the competition do, no matter what Wal-Mart is offering cheaper, they will stay with you and they will pay a premium, just as you will stay with your wife or your husband over 30 years because you have towards them loyalty beyond reason, something bigger than a product attribute, bigger than a brand benefit, OK? That's the role of marketing.

The deepest emotion of all is love. It's not trust, it's not respect; these are table stakes. You need those, so you need to trust and respect your brand. You've got to have fantastic performance. But what will ultimately differentiate Nike, Adidas and Reebok is not their performance, and it's not their athletes; it is the emotional connection they can build.

I'll give you an example: Nike. Nike started life as a product -- a lighter running shoe. [Bill] Bowerman introduced that at the University of Oregon versus Adidas. And so athletes, Steve Prefontaine and these guys, frankly ran faster. It soon turned into a trademark because they put the swoosh all over it, and then it turned into a brand with great advertising from Wieden & Kennedy and "Just do it." Some of the best advertising I've ever seen.

And then one act with Nike turned this into a Lovemark, an emotional connection, and that was Michael Jordan. He single-handedly took Nike from being a brand to being a Lovemark. He took the price of Nikes from $70 to $200. People didn't care anymore; you had loyalty beyond reason. And Michael retired, and then all this Asian sweatshop drama came into play, and the love ebbed. So probably today Nike is a very powerful brand, but it hasn't yet found the next emotional connection after Jordan.

You've got to keep it up to stay a Lovemark.

One of the important things about a Lovemark is that it has to be full of mystery. So when we watched Mike, we knew we weren't going to be Michael Jordan, but we wanted to be like him. There was mystery in it: How did he do this? What about all these crazy things they have in their shoes? What is this stuff inside there? Most brand managers are obsessed with explaining their product in the minutest detail and nobody could care less, because once you know everything there is to know and there's nothing left, who cares anymore? I mean, even Einstein said that, that the more you know, the less interesting something becomes, right? Most brands and marketers overload information, and that's not what they want.

If you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend and they wear the same clothes every night, and they eat the same food and they respond the same way, the relationship gets boring pretty quickly. There's got to be mystery. So you've got to be constantly innovating; you've got to be constantly entertaining, constantly stimulating, not just through product innovation. I think the marketing innovation in the world today has gone to sleep. All the marketers do now [is] wait for incremental initiatives on the product side, and they've given up the great marketing ideas in the past. ...

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bob garfield
Columnist, Advertising Age.

…Is Kevin Roberts onto something with his book, Lovemarks?

No. To be honest, I haven't read Kevin's book, but he's just belaboring the obvious, from what I've read. … that there's emotional connections between brands and consumers and that it's not just intrinsic qualities that motivate people.

Well, OK, fine. Sometimes you can make emotional connections. AT&T has done it. Hallmark has done it. Coca-Cola has done it. But mostly the people who have tried to make emotional connections with consumers over the years, by far, the vast, vast majority have failed.

Since time immemorial, advertising agencies have been trying to create emotional reactions to goods and services. But there is no magic string for the puppet; there is no Svengali spell; there's no poison gas; there's no magic wand. Advertising works, and sometimes good advertising campaigns work, especially, but they are not controlling your mind, they're not controlling your heart, and they're not controlling your glands. What they are doing mostly is failing again and again and again.

So you don't think we can get to our "lizard brain," like Clotaire Rapaille argues.

Clotaire has worked on I don't know how many brands, but none of them is dominant. Tell me exactly how many cars he's sold. The answer is, not that many. There's just no poison gas. There happens to be something about cars which does generate a response. I own a Miata that I put about 2,000 miles on per year because I really love those 2,000 miles. I love the wind in my hair. When I'm in my Miata, I don't even go fast, and I feel like I'm sailing. But it wasn't a Miata ad that did it for me; it was something intrinsic to the car. And, you know, fundamentally, people armed with information make decisions of self-interest. This is not The Manchurian Candidate, where they're responding to messages buried deep within their psyche that they don't even know are there. There's a lot of people in the advertising industry who would like it to be that way, and there's a lot of people outside of the advertising industry who imagine it to be that way, but it ain't that way. …

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Clotaire rapaille
Market reasearcher.

…One of my discoveries was that in order to create the first imprint of a word -- when you learn a word, whatever it is, "coffee," "love," "mother," there is always a first time. There's a first time to learn everything. The first time you understand, you imprint the meaning of this word; you create a mental connection that you're going to keep using the rest of your life. And to create this mental connection, you need some emotions. Without emotion, there is no production of neurotransmitters in the brain, and you don't create the connection. So actually every word has a mental highway. I call that a code, an unconscious code in the brain. ...

Do these imprints have to happen as a child?

Well, yes. They don't have to, but if you don't have an imprint when you are a child, and if you get the first imprint later -- for example, I'm trying to speak English, but my first imprint of language was French, because I was born during the war in France. When I start learning English it was later. I was already also grown up, so I will never have the same imprints with English that I have with French. Most of the time, when children don't learn a foreign language before they are 7, they always have some kind of an accent. The brain is very available if you want at an early age to create this mental connection.

When we [are] born, we have the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain is there already. It's part of survival; it's breathing, eating, going to the bathroom. But then, in relationship with the mother, we develop the second brain, which is the limbic brain -- emotions -- and these emotions vary from one culture to another. In the relationship with your mother, you're going to imprint, make mental connection about what means love, what means mother, what means being fed, what means a home, what means all the things that are very basic for survival. [These] are transmitted by the mother to you, and you create this mental connection in the brain -- like a reference system, if you want, that you keep using. After a while, this system becomes unconscious. You do not even think about it. You know "Oh, this is a house; of course this is a house." Well, for a lot of people around the world, this is not a house. A house might be a tent or made of ice or whatever, but this is not their reference system. It might be different for others. ...

What's wrong with traditional market research?

They are too cortex, which means that they think too much, and then they ask people to think and to tell them what they think. Now, my experience is that most of the time, people have no idea why they're doing what they're doing. They have no idea, so they're going to try to make up something that makes sense. ...

I will not criticize too much marketing research. I would say some people are good, like everywhere. Some people are not that good. But in terms of the way they approach people's behavior, I think you need to go beyond words, and my training with autistic children is that I had to understand what these kids were trying to tell me with no words. So that's part of my training.

How can I decode this kind of behavior which is not a word? My theory is very simple: The reptilian always wins. I don't care what you're going to tell me intellectually. I don't care. Give me the reptilian. Why? Because the reptilian always wins. ...

How do CEOs recognize or understand this phenomena?

It's absolutely crucial for anybody in communication -- and that could be journalists, TV, media, all of it, or marketing people -- if you want to appeal to people, it's absolutely crucial to understand what I call the reptilian hot button. If you don't have a reptilian hot button, then you have to deal with the cortex; you have to work on price issues and stuff like that.

Example: You didn't eat for two weeks, right, and suddenly there is some food here. Are you going to negotiate the price? Your reptilian brain says, "I need to eat, I need to eat," so you don't negotiate the price. The reptilian always wins. You cannot impose something that goes against people's reptilian.

In the kind of communication I'm developing and using, with 50 of the Fortune 100 companies who are my clients, almost full time, it is not enough to give a cortex message. "Buy my product because it's 10 percent cheaper": That's cortex. Well, if the other is 15 percent cheaper, I move to the others. You don't buy loyalty with percentages. That is key. It's not a question of numbers; it's the first reptilian reaction. ...

Are marketing people muddling their messages?

Some people are getting there now. Some people understand the power of the reptilian in a very gutsy way. They don't do all the analysis of the three brains, but [they get it]. For example, the Nextel campaign, "I do, therefore I am." Right, bingo. This is not "I think, therefore I am." And the campaign for the Hummer -- the Hummer is a car with a strong identity. It's a car in a uniform. I told them, put four stars on the shoulder of the Hummer, you will sell better. If you look at the campaign, brilliant. I have no credit for it, just so you know, but brilliant. They say, "You give us the money, we give you the car, nobody gets hurt." I love it! It's like the mafia speaking to you. For women, they say it's a new way to scare men. Wow. And women love the Hummer. They're not telling you, "Buy a Hummer because you get better gas mileage." You don't. This is cortex things. They address your reptilian brain.

They appeal to the logic of emotion.

Right. This is the connection between the limbic and the reptilian, what I call the logic of emotion, which is how the emotions deal with the urges, the instincts, the needs we have. ...

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Frank luntz
A corporate and political consultant.

…You think emotions are more revelatory than the intellect for predicting these decisions?

80 percent of our life is emotion, and only 20 percent is intellect. I am much more interested in how you feel than how you think. I can change how you think, but how you feel is something deeper and stronger, and it's something that's inside you. How you think is on the outside, how you feel is on the inside, so that's what I need to understand. ...

…Traditional market researchers are cold and calculating and scientific. In this business of language, you have to have a heart, and you have to have emotion, and you have to be willing to become what you are studying, no matter what it puts you through.

So the main point is emotion.

It's all emotion. But there's nothing wrong with emotion. When we are in love, we are not rational; we are emotional. When we are on vacation, we are not rational; we are emotional. When we are happy, we are not [rational]. In fact, in more cases than not, when we are rational, we're actually unhappy. Emotion is good; passion is good. Being into what we're into, provided that it's a healthy pursuit, it's a good thing.

But if emotion is the main point, why go for the words?

Because the words provide the emotions.

Words are keys to the emotions?

Yeah. You call it keys, but my job is to look for the words that trigger the emotion. Words alone can be found in a dictionary or a telephone book, but words with emotion can change destiny, can change life as we know it. We know it has changed history; we know it has changed behavior; we know that it can start a war or stop it. We know that words and emotion together are the most powerful force known to mankind. …

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andy spade
Creative consultant for Song Airlines

… I think what differentiates Song is the emotional component of it. If you look at other airlines, especially in North America today, I don't see anyone doing anything that really has resonance, on an emotional level, that really makes me feel something beyond what's logical or what's practical.

You can obviously look at an airline and say, "Okay you have more legroom than they do." And on one level I think that's great, but it doesn't stick with me. The next month I'll see someone else who has another two inches of legroom. So overall you're competing for a small benefit -- in my opinion, a small benefit. Those things add up to something greater, obviously the TV and the food and those [other things]. But at the end of the day a lot of airlines can copy other airlines, it's not illegal to suddenly go and hire a chef and create your own menu that's unique to you. So what really differentiates something from another thing? I think it's creating something that communicates to people on another level, beyond a logical level.

When I look at Apple and I look at Volkswagen, obviously they both have great products, but there's something about, you know, the humor and the irreverence of those things that I identify with. I kind of think their end of the commercial should say, "We know you're out there." I love that they're irreverent, I love that they're intelligent. I love that they're smart and they're innovating and they're doing things. Apple for example, it's definitely product advertising but it's so much brand advertising. The iPod advertising is great, it's all about a product, but it's doing it in such an interesting and emotional way.

There are five to 10 different brands right now that I can speak to, that do that well and they become a part of culture. And I think at the end of the day you want to become a part of culture. When you get to that point, you've created a huge success. The Song airline, it didn't exist 10 years ago and now I think about it today and it's really changed the way that people think about things. And we've become a reference point. It would be great to have other airlines using them as a reference point and say, "Let's look at Song and see what they're doing."…


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posted nov. 9, 2004

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