Brands must be better at delivering Emotional Benefits not just promising them.

Brand owners need to step up their game and start to deliver the psychological benefits that their advertising has, for years, been promising

Is your brand delivering on its promise to your consumers?

Alain de Botton philosopher, author and essayist argues that while much advertising appears to offer us perfect lives the brands and products then fail to deliver.

Alain’s argument was not that the products advertised fail to do what they are supposed to – the new watch will be very beautiful, very stylish and even keeps accurate time – but that the advertising awakens within us deep seated psychological desires “they show us families that are happy together, lovers who remember to be grateful, friends who delight in one another’s company”. The advertising is very effective in relating these emotional rewards to the goods that they sell – unfortunately the watch does not actually make our life any better. (Click here for Alain de Botton’s original article in Marketing Week)

I am often reminded of de Botton’s article when viewing advertisements, but never more so than as Christmas approaches. Particularly this year with so much focus upon the rising cost of living de Botton’s article seems even more relevant.

De Botton is not criticising the industry for overselling but simply arguing that brand owners need to step up their game and start to deliver the psychological benefits that their advertising has, for years, been promising. He argues that capitalism succeeds when it delivers what consumers want. He goes on to argue that we are “in the odd position of having rather too much of everything: shoes, dishcloths, televisions…” but that the economy cannot be called properly mature if we as consumers are not able to find the things that make us truly happy.

At times like now when consumers are forced to review their purchasing, reduce their spend and choose a little more carefully between brands, own-label and other alternatives they are more likely to stick with those that deliver for them and drop those that don’t.

We cannot dismiss his argument with the bland statement that “things” will never make us happy (after all our advertising has been implying that they do for years now) we should in fact be thinking about how our “things” can make our consumers happy. Technical improvements may make our products perform better, faster, make them smaller, last longer etc. consumers may even like this improvement, but do we understand which attributes of our products actually make our consumers happier and how we can improve these?

Even a brief consideration of Maslow’s hierarchy shows that there is plenty of scope: The first two levels ‘Physiological Needs’ and ‘Safety’ are largely about “things” to feed, clothe, support and protect us. The next two levels, ‘Love and Belonging’ and ‘Esteem’, are more psychological than physiological but from a marketing perspective can often be seen as, at least partly, being delivered by ‘the meaning of things’ – the well-considered gift, a family day out, a shared meal, the expensive watch, the nice clothes… Even at the top level of ‘Self Actualization’ products can play an important role – I cannot be the best athlete without great running shoes, to be the best cook I can be I need the best ingredients…

So how do we maintain consumer loyalty as purse strings are being tightened. We can cheapen our products to keep them competitive or we can strive to ensure that they deliver what we promise. We can improve the way that we make our consumers feel.

Our advertising has been promising all sorts of emotional benefits from our products for years. Perhaps now is the time before we write our advertising and communications briefs to ensure that our products actually deliver the benefits that we are promising.

Chris Lukehurst is a Director at The Marketing Clinic:

Understanding the connections between the consumer experience and emotional responses.