Why the best marketing is all about fame and emotion, not brand

Businesses are missing significant growth opportunities unless marketers discard their obsession with brand, and focus instead on the power of emotion to connect with customers to drive growth, a marketing expert told the latest Prime Academy in Sydney.

WATCH: Leif Stromnes: Why the best marketing is about the fame and emotion.

“People don’t want to think about brands… people don’t care enough about brands to buy you,” said Leif Stromnes, managing director of strategy and innovation at DDB Worldwide.

“We are all emotional and it dominates everything we do. Unless you embrace that, you’re missing the opportunity for growth.”

Brands that connect with customers’ emotions by harnessing the power of fame and storytelling are significantly more successful in achieving double-digit growth, even in the current climate where most marketers are battling to achieve growth of more than 1-2%.

Stromnes urged delegates to give up trying to “win a category” using rational thinking and instead, recognise the power of using emotion and feelings as levers to change consumer behaviour.

“Brands that try to behave emotionally and play on that are far more effective than the ones that are rational. The data is now unequivocal,” he said. Here’s how:

Recognise the power of fame

There is a “direct correlation between fame and market share”, regardless of the category or audience, Stromnes said.

He pointed to the success of a 2012 British Heart Foundation campaign as an example of the power of fame. The foundation teamed with former professional footballer Vinnie Jones to develop a community campaign about how to do hands-only CPR without giving rescue breaths.

The campaign, leveraging the fame of the former Wimbledon and Leeds player, was highly successful – and has been shown to have saved lives.

“That’s fame. Fame is the name of the game” – then factor in amplification through social media, and the campaign has achieved enormous growth, he said.

Harness the element of surprise

Stromnes said Patagonia’s “Don’t buy this jacket” campaign brought fame to the brand using the element of surprise in its key messaging.

The campaign, which reminded consumers of the environmental impact of unnecessary purchases in the lead up to Christmas, also urged customers to repair their old jackets, which Patagonia would help them do.

While reinforcing the company’s core values around the environment and sustainability, the campaign also boosted sales significantly, according to Stromnes.

Emotion conquers thinking when consumers make decisions

“Positive emotion is the driver of business and decision making,” said Stromnes.

He said the data clearly demonstrated a direct impact on revenue where campaigns primed customers emotionally and generated positive feelings.

He said DDB always starts client conversations by asking: “What emotion are we trying to provoke? What is the feeling we are wanting to promote?” because campaigns that generate positive feelings always achieve growth.

By way of example, Stromnes challenged delegates, if they had an opportunity to be philanthropic, which foundation would they prioritise: the Fred Hollows Foundation v the Shane Warne Foundation? He said the answer was almost universal pointing to the positive feelings generated by donating to the Fred Hollows Foundation.

“If I can drive excess share of feeling in my category, the data shows us in the next period, that the brand will grow.”

Understand the power of storytelling

So how do we move from mass marketing to mass mattering? Stromnes described storytelling as one of the most powerful yet under-leveraged techniques available to marketers because it primed consumers emotionally.

“Stories are the most accessible way to make sense of things… don’t have a story for your brand at your peril,” he says.

He used UK department store John Lewis to demonstrate the power of storytelling and their annual marketing campaign which was launched to reinvigorate sales in an otherwise challenged retail sector.

The store’s story-based campaigns of the past four years, which have included a snowman’s quest for a gift for his lover, a bear and a hare, Monty the penguin, an elderly man on the moon, and the most recent, Buster the boxer, have boosted Christmas sales an average 16%, according to The Guardian. And the number of Christmas shoppers visiting a John Lewis store between 2013 and 2015 soared by more than 50% from 926,000 to 1.4 million.

“In a category that is declining, their department store is smashing it,” says Stromnes.

“If stories are such a powerful way to drive emotion and stories are how people make up their mind about the world, every brand needs a story.”

Long-term fluency beats short-term wins

Stromnes urged marketers to avoid one of the common mistakes DDB Worldwide sees among their clients – focussing on short-term wins.

He said businesses needed to appreciate the long-term nature of brand building which was where long-term growth really kicks in.

“We make so many mistakes in this area…. Brand building is a longer build and once you have a powerful brand it lasts for a long time,” he said.

WATCH: Leif Stromnes: Why the best marketing is about the fame and emotion.

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