Activate Their Little Devil

red-devil-bigThe super-ego is the part of our psychological makeup that’s responsible for making you behave in a socially acceptable manor. While your id plays the role of the devil on your shoulder, begging you to do whatever your little heart desires, your superego works to override those urges. It keeps you from acting on impulse. It’s the part of your brain that says “no” when your id tells you to burp in a nice restaurant.

Unfortunately, the superego is also the enemy to those of us in the marketing profession. Giving people all the logical reasons to do something, regardless of how poignant they may be, will only engage the part of our brains that works to PREVENT action.

In the consumer world, creating an emotional urge to buy is the gold standard. If consumers were analytical we wouldn’t have terms like “retail therapy” and no one would drive a Scion.

Social movements don’t develop because people start balancing the pros and cons of revolting against an injustice. Movements are described with words like “fever” and “momentum.” They’re collective emotional outbursts not premeditated events.

Furthermore, it’s been proven that people are more likely to donate money (and more of it) when they’re in an emotional state of mind. There’s a great case study on the subject as described in the book Made To Stick written by Chip and Dan Heath.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon conducted a test in which they sent out two versions of a donation request letter to a pool of respondents. The first version of the letter showcased statistics about problems facing children in Africa similar to: “more than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.” The second version of the letter focused on one young girl. “Any money you donate will go to Rokia, a 7-year old girl from Mali. She is desperately poor and faces the threat of severe hunger.”

The people who got the letter about Rokia donated twice as much money as those who received the other letter did. It’s been well documented that people identify more with an individual than an indeterminate problem, but what’s particularly interesting about this case is what the researchers did next. They tested a third letter that combined the statistics AND the personal story and found that the letter about just Rokia still outperformed the combined letter by a factor of 2.

The researchers theorized that when people are fed statistics they are put in an analytical state of mind and are thus less likely to act emotionally. So they conducted the study once again. This time, they primed the respondents to think analytically before reading the letter by asking them to do math problems. And amazingly, the average gift of those who read the Rokia letter was cut in half!

People who think analytically are dramatically less likely to chip in than those who are emotionally activated. And yet we still see so many communications that force people into that kind of thinking.

People don’t respond to abstract, they respond to people. That’s why social movements work. That’s why we hate dealing with employees who act like robots. It’s always tempting to build a case based on all the “right reasons” that people should donate, volunteer, or contribute in some way, but we must put those aside to appeal to the real reason they do. Empathy is an emotion all humans share – It’s just a matter of finding it more often.

For help activating people’s emotional side contact BRANDEMiX.

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One response to “Activate Their Little Devil

  1. Totally agree, Geoff.

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