Monday, July 20, 2009

Hit 'em in the Gut.

Advertising and marcom are more memorable when they evoke visceral emotions, especially when you’re targeting Baby Boomers. It’s not that Boomers aren’t well educated or intellectually sophisticated enough to make well-reasoned judgments. It’s that all of us have a tendency to use logic in order to justify decisions that are rooted in emotion rather than pure rationality. So, if you aim to communicate effectively with Boomers, you’ve got to hit them where they live. Pow! Right in the gut.

Conventional wisdom says that we’re logical, level-headed people who make enlightened choices based on our ability to analyze information. But it’s closer to the truth to say that emotion is reflected in every facet of decision making. Still, we persist in embracing comfortable illusions. So whether you’re a sixty-something grandma who’s a seasoned shopper or a hard-nosed executive, you probably believe that when you buy something, you’ve done your due diligence and made a businesslike decision, after reflecting on all the facts in the cool, calm light of reason. Not likely.

Just remember that when you’re trying to sell anyone anything, you’ve got to give them good reasons to buy, or they won’t. And the fact is that more often than not “good reasons” tend to be highly subjective and emotional rather than objective and factual.

Boomers are self-centered individualists with outsized egos, so the most effective communications appeal to what those subjective egos need or want to believe about themselves, others and the state of their world. “Objective” facts are important when they support the Boomers’ emotional needs, desires and choices.

Like everyone else, Boomers are highly selective about the facts they use to rationalize and support buying decisions they’ve already made at the gut level. Even purchases that seem based on a straightforward thing like saving money are more often linked to what saving money means to the buyer’s ego than to the actual value of the dollars saved.

That doesn’t mean that emotion has to ooze from every pore of everything you communicate. In fact, your greatest challenge is to portray the emotional appeal in such a subtle way that it works its magic quietly.

And keep in mind that ideas and words aren’t the only tools you can use to elicit an emotional response. Any technique that helps you tap into the Boomers’ emotions will help you touch the spiritual child that lives within each of them. That’s the part of their being that’s more playful, less reasonable, less uptight, more spontaneous. You can help create that emotional appeal with colors, shapes and designs that engage and challenge the imagination. You can use rich imagery that conjures up complex feelings that even the most agile mind can’t quite grasp intellectually but can certainly discern at a gut level.

In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll talk a little more about the role that creativity plays when you want to hit Boomers where they really live.

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