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Stop the bullshit – how rational benefits are gaining importance vs. emotional benefits in consumer marketing

One of the longest standing debates in the marketing world is whether advertisers should appeal to the consumer’s emotional or rational side. There are many schools of thought on this topic, which vary vastly by geography, company, and product. In a dream world, companies will only create quality products, which are marketed rationally, and in turn purchased by consumers that need them. Emotional marketing disrupts this utopia.

First, let’s take a look at the differences between the two tactics. Emotional marketing pulls on the consumer’s heartstrings and elicits feelings of sadness, warmth, anger, friendship, and love among others. Emotional messages are abstract and intangible. The assumption is that individuals buy based on how products make them feel, as opposed to their features and benefits. When corporations utilize emotional marketing tactics, they are hoping to establish a relationship and connection with their consumer base, so that they feel compelled to buy the product. Though emotions can be a powerful driver behind certain behaviours, this method of marketing doesn’t speak to the features or benefits of a product. ThIs misleads consumers into purchasing a product that may not be suitable for them. A can of minestrone may remind you of a touching commercial where a sick boy was fed canned soup (this prompting you to buy it), but it may not be the product you want or need.

Rational marketing on the other hand, focuses on the actual product, as opposed to the emotions associated with it. Does the product simplify your life? Does it make you healthier? Does it work better? Does it save you money? This method of marketing speaks to the functionality of the product, and how it will benefit the consumer using proof. The rational appeal is honest, direct, and informative. Through testimonials, demonstrations, facts and statistics, information about the item is shared effectively and efficiently, allowing consumers to make an informed choice.

Organizations that are trying to sell quality products based on their superior functionality, price point, or benefits, often utilize the rational marketing principle. Health & wellness companies like Kiehl’s and lululemon, who are leaders in skin care and active wear, have chosen to spend their money on product development as opposed to advertising campaigns with all of the bells and whistles. Kiehl’s and lululemon’s products are innovative and have incredibly high standards for quality. Their marketing approach is straightforward, because the caliber of their products speak for themselves. Through traditional approaches, like grassroots word-of-mouth marketing and in-store sampling, both companies have come to be known as trusted and reputable brands.

All too often, brands that have an undifferentiated product will rely on emotional marketing tactics to push said items. In a sense, these companies are tricking consumers into believing that their product is superior or the one for them based on irrelevant factors. This method is dishonest and misleading. Consumers want the facts, not to be duped into creating an opinion based on the wrong reasons.

Smaller companies are starting to understand this shift in mentality, and adopting the rational-based marketing approach. From a business perspective, it makes a lot of sense. It allows them to clearly differentiate themselves from the competition and also means that they can market their product across several different geographies. By authentically communicating the product’s price point and features, a common marketing campaign can be shared across a widespread demographic. This tactic appeals not just to people that need a product or service, but to those who want it as well because they are compelled by the cold hard facts.

Rational marketing is logical. There is a reason for it. Emotional marketing is intangible and often deceitful.

In this day and age, consumers are looking for the best product at the best price point, they don’t want to be sold on emotions, but on rationale. Theodore Levitt, an American economist and professor at Harvard Business famously said “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” Companies should want to communicate how their product differentiates itself from the competition. Consumers want to understand how the product will positively impact their life, as opposed to how they feel when they look at it. With these two concepts in mind, utilizing rational marketing is a win-win. Sounds rational, right?


The Author: Daina Kenins

Daina is a lover of all things health & wellness related; a health food connoisseur, an avid marathon runner, a certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher and a spin studio manager. She is ambassador for healthy eating and loves to create and share recipes on her instagram page @thepaleobean.