Anyone who has ever brought a new product to market faces a crucial choice: do you tell the world about it with a rational story, or an emotional one? Do you use facts and logic to make your case, or do you rely on beautiful images and design to imply how your product will make people feel?
Do you appeal to your customers’ hearts, or their heads?
It’s a choice as difficult as it is impactful, and the price of choosing incorrectly can be enormous. History is no help, because any marketing maven can cite examples of spectacular successes and equally spectacular flameouts for both approaches.
And in the past several years, another variable has made the equation even more complicated: the role of consumers. No longer willing to be talked at, they will participate in the marketing process, whether you want them to or not. In social media, on blogs, on review sites, and in countless other ways, the stronger they feel about your product, good or bad, the more likely they are to tell the world. If a revolution is going to happen – if your product is going to change the world – it’s going to be a revolution started and led by consumers. So you have to give them something worth starting a revolution for.
And if you ask me, in today’s world, revolutions start in the heart far more readily than they start in the head.
I’ve seen this firsthand at Powermat. Initially, we thought it made sense to market our wireless charging stations as efficient, environmentally friendly, and safe – a perfectly persuasive, rational argument. But we quickly found that people were buying them because they were beautifully designed, futuristic, and just plain cool, and that’s all heart. We were fortunate; we saw what was happening and we were able to retool our marketing approach accordingly. Other companies have not been so lucky.
Consider Better Place, a company that attracted a lot of attention here in the Israeli investment and innovation community over the past couple of years. Better Place had a great idea: market an electric car (built in partnership with Renault) that would refuel not by plugging in to be recharged, but by stopping at a service station to have a depleted battery switched out with a fresh one, a process comparable to stopping into a filling station. They offered consumer benefits that made perfect sense: convenience, efficiency, a familiar experience. And consumers agreed it was sensible…but they failed to get excited about it. Tesla, on the other hand, tells a story which is pure heart. Their car is sleek. It’s sexy. It’s luxurious. It offers a user experience you very quickly want to take part in. You want that car, not because it’s efficient or because it’s environmentally friendly; you want it because you’re practically lusting after it, six-figure price tag notwithstanding. And an emotional story quickly becomes a success story.
We’ve seen the same thing in the cell phone market. Remember when sensible, reliable Nokia was synonymous with cell phones? Until everyone’s head was turned by the brilliantly designed Apple iPhone. Finland versus California pretty much sums it up. Sensible versus fun.
The great news for businesses is that not only will consumers gravitate towards the product that appeals to the heart, they’ll happily pay more for it! Offering them an experience that makes them feel good even enables you to charge a premium price. Amazing.
The lesson, in a nutshell? People like products that are efficient and sensible. What’s not to like? But they love products – they buy products – that offer them beautiful design and a great user experience. They buy products that make them feel good. And if they make them feel good enough, they just might start a revolution.