Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hit 'em in the Gut. Part 2

One of the biggest problems in assessing advertising and marketing communications is that creative executions can’t be reliably judged by using logic and reason alone. Advertising that makes perfectly good sense to the rational part of the mind is often dull and predictable on a gut level. “But is it effective?,” I hear the MBAs screaming. To which I counter, “Did you ever try to bore someone into buying something?” It doesn’t work.

If you want to employ creativity in your communications, you have to learn to loosen up. Don’t be afraid to entertain “peculiar” ideas, especially ones that seem scary. Use bright, inventive language to give fresh expression to old, familiar things. Be enthusiastic, but don’t try to force emotion, because then it will have a whiff of desperation about it. People can smell a phony a mile away, so if you can’t swing free and easy and connect on a gut level, hire someone who can, because nothing is more pathetic than a caricature of an emotion.

Of course, I’m not advocating creativity for its own sake. Unfettered creativity can be quite destructive at times. Today’s global financial catastrophe is firmly rooted in the creativity of mortgage underwriters and the seductive but worthless securities that a cadre of geniuses created out of thin air. To be useful, creativity has to be disciplined by good judgment and uncommon sense, the kind that comes from innate talent.

If you want to hit Baby Boomers in the gut with your message, your creative executions must be built on a solid strategic foundation. Then you have to creatively massage that strategy until it yields the emotional appeals that you can use to motivate browsers to become buyers.

Once you’ve got a grip on the gut level appeal you want to use, you have to put the primary emotional benefit right up front—in your ad’s headline, in the first three seconds of your radio and TV commercials, on the envelope of your direct mail. In short, you’ve got to take a straightforward approach to hit ’em right in the gut.

Sudden emotional impact has real stopping power that engages the audience and motivates them to take action. This leads to more than just increased sales and bigger profits, it also helps build customer loyalty, because Boomers will feel that you understand them on a level that few others do.

Ultimately, to get to that special place that I call the Boomer Buying Center, where purchasing decisions are made, you have to be half Gerontology Counselor and half creative communications genius. If you’ve got both of those things going for you, you’ll understand how to discover and stay on the right wavelength in a way that will resonate with Boomers, making them far more receptive to your messaging.

Of course, attaining this skill level doesn’t happen overnight. Not only do you have to have an inborn creative spark, you also have to learn to tap into the source of your creativity, and that’s not easy. The best way to learn how to do this is to pretend you’re a Gerontology Counselor in training.

Begin by getting in touch with yourself. Jump into the deep end of your emotional swimming pool. Learn to recognize what a genuine emotion feels like, how you react to it and how your reactions affect others.

Once you’ve learned to take your emotional pulse, keep your finger on it. Learn to express your feelings with a colorful and diverse vocabulary. Talk about your emotions. Write about them. Draw what you feel. Be genuinely expressive! Do this consistently, and you’ll begin to realize your creative potential. Make a real effort, and your natural creative spark will explode into brilliance, illuminating every aspect of your life with a richness born of limitless creative possibilities.

If it sounds like a lot of work, well, it is. That’s why most people won’t bother. That puts you in the driver’s seat, however, because even if you end up with results that aren’t quite magical, you’ll still be miles ahead of the rest.

Too many people try to substitute academic degrees and book learning for true creative exploration. That’s why so much of today’s advertising and marcom is pablum. The truth is that creativity comes from the depths of the spirit not the pages of a book. And seemingly safe executions are actually dangerous to your bottom line, particularly when you’re going after Boomers.

So, if you want to increase profitable sales, you’ll have to learn to be more creative, not more rational. You can’t “think” people into buying. Emotions have far more impact and persuasive power than mere logic and reason. To create more effective communications, then, start with a sound strategy, vest it with genuine emotion and hit ’em in the gut.

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