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 Are your Emotions being "Exploited" by Marketers?    (Part 1)

By John Alexander


Are your emotions being exploited today?

Here is the answer to the question and then let's talk more about it.

Without a doubt, your emotions are definitely being exploited by some out there today. 
But not just on the Internet. On the opposite side of the coin, there are some Internet Marketers 
out there who do not "exploit" your emotions. But the key word to understand here is "exploit."

But let's back that up a bit and explain why we are even discussing "emotions" at all and then pick a specific definition for the word "exploit." Emotions are not SEO or SEM, so then why even discuss it?

Emotions are an important part of just being human. We are emotional human beings. 
If you are not aware of it, our emotions are what usually trigger our reactionary responses. How each of us "feels" about something is important to us. 

If you are upset or angry you will choose to take a certain action. While this is true, the opposite is also true.

If you are smiling and feel good you may take a completely different action. We like to think that we make our choices based on "logic." But the truth is, we often react to experiences based on emotion rather than respond to experiences based on logic. How many people have ever said..."I just don't feel like going to work today." I don't feel like getting up and going to Church today....(or what ever.) Yes, feelings and emotions are very important. While most people don't live by only just doing what they "feel like," emotions still play a bigger role than many realize.

Our brains are very complex and science shows that there are literally neural pathways that are established and often much of the way we think, is a result of our sum of experiences. Without going too much into the technical detail of all of this, the bottom line is that we are uniquely "wired" based on our experiences. A child attacked by a dog, may experience a fear of dogs (naturally understood) because of the one terrifying experience. Unless somehow a new neural pathway is forged by some greater experience that is strong enough to cancel the first, the child may be afraid of dogs all of their life.

This article will explore both the good and positive side of working with your Web site's emotional content. 
Then in part 2 of this article, we will get more into negative side of how sometime we are having our emotions exploited and what we can do to become more aware and stay safe.

Emotions in the real world:

An employee is continually late coming to work and it affects the workflow in a negative way. Each time the employee is late, the boss gets more and more angry. (If the boss gets angry enough - he might fire the employee.) While legally a boss may not decide to fire an employee (just on the basis of being angry,) when the employee continually fails at his work obligations (assuming timeliness is one of them) the anger plus a reason for non-performance definitely would most likely result in termination. How big of a role do you think the emotion of anger contributes to the final decision?

However, if we feel good about something or are experiencing some level of happiness, that also greatly influences your decision making processes, but in a positive way. 

That same boss has an opportunity to advance one of his staff. He must choose who gets the promotion. 

Is he going to advance his star performer who is never late and always gets the job done in better time than he expects? Or will he advance the person who tends to be late every day and makes him feel angry? You guessed correctly, the loyal performer gets the promotion. The incompetent performer looses what opportunity he had and may get the boot.

How many millions of dollars per year do you suppose that traditional marketing companies spend on trying to get their brand to equate to an emotion. Let's see if you can guess the brand for the following slogans without - telling you the company name:
  • Buy a bucket of chicken and have a barrel of fun  (who wants to have more "fun?")
  • Finger-lickin' good       (emphasis on an action that most can relate too)
  • Come to where the flavor is   (here's one a little dated - but convincing you of more flavor)
  • Good to the last drop    (often a line quoted by everyone emphasizing goodness - do you remember the company?)
  • You can trust your car to the man who wears the star  (Very old - but attempting to invoke "trust"
  • Snap! Crackle! Pop!   ( Just sounds....yet they call to rememberence a specific product?)
  • It's GREEAAT!          ( What animal attempted to convince you of "greatness" of this product?)
  • The Greatest Show on Earth   (This phrase is easier to recall than the name behind it.)

(The answers at the end of this article)

Whether you realize it or not, you are often making decisions all day long based on emotional feeling. Traditionally radio and TV commercials plug jingles into our head and why do they continue to do it? They work because they persuade us to react over and over again or sometimes even subliminally.

Have you ever been on the way home from work when you hear a jingle like "I feel like chicken tonight!"

Up in Canada you may be ahead of schedule and are thinking of stopping off somewhere for a cup of star bucks or Tim Horton's coffee. You ask yourself, "I wonder if I have time to stop for a coffee?" There in your head is a jingle "You always have time for Tim Horton's." So into Timmys you go for a cup of their great brew. But what influenced you?

These are not necessarily bad things, but be very aware of the fact that everyone out there is appealing to your emotions. This does not mean your emotions are being "exploited" though. After all is everyone not doing the same thing?

Okay, so next let's define the word "exploit" for the purpose of this article. 

According to this dictionary reference we have 3 meanings so 
I want to fine tune what I am talking about by being very specific. 
The definition I am using is this for the term exploit: "to use selfishly for one's own ends."

So let's re-ask the question this way:
Are your emotions being exploited (used selfishly by someone for only their own ends?)

Let's get back to talking about the world of the Web and web pages and the Internet now.

The fact is that most people make a buying decision when they "feel good" about something. This is not new, but traditionally, marketers have understood the importance of this for years. 

Radio advertising and television have been around a lot longer than the Internet, but the principles all still apply. TV commercials range from being downright silly to quite the opposite. A range of "emotionally moving" music, broadcast voice and dialog are all prepared to set the mood to appeal to us. 
Maybe you ask, "I don't understand why anyone would create a silly commercial?" It's the same deal. If you it makes someone smile or make them laugh or they feel good - it's going to be much more effective marketing.

Okay, with these truths about "emotional content" in the forefront, 
the next question might be:

So does that mean using "emotional content" is bad or wrong? 
After all, everyone has some product or service they are trying to sell? 

No, that's not quite it.

Using good emotional content is good wisdom for the purposes of communicating and relating effectively to your readers or viewers. In fact I agree that the better you relate to your readers, the more effective your results will be. 

Good communications to accent the benefits of your product or your service is smart and good and so it does not qualify as "exploitation." Web sites should be created with the idea of building genuine relationships and communication excellence. If you use emotional content that helps you effectively relate and bring understanding to your visitors - that's great. 

Exploring the good and positive use of emotional content:

One of the biggest missing ingredients we see in Web sites today is good emotional content that helps your readers understand and relate to the benefits of a quality product or service. Many people miss relating to their readers all together because so often we are only focused on grammar or sentence structure. For most of us, when we were back in public school growing up, we were never taught how to dialog with our writing style or communicate in writing naturally. 

I know of many Internet Marketers who are wonderful (and even gifted) communicators. 

While they do relate well to their readers emotions to sell a product.... 

They also care about their readers and would never sell anything unless they knew it was worthy and helpful. But this is not "exploitation." This is not
"to use someone selfishly for one's own ends." This is a genuine marketer who plans to be in business for a long, long time and is cultivating long term relationships. 

The important ingredients are first: 

1. Having a product or a service or something that has legitimate value. 

2. Second, the person conducting the business should care about their customers above all else.  

It is no different than in the real world sales industry. You help someone out, you earn a commission and you build a great reputation for being helpful. The customers that you serve. literally will ask for YOU to serve them again, because they benefited from the last experience. 

In time, you build greater experience and you build trust because your readers experience value by what you offer. How many very reputable salesmen in the traditional marketplace have great referral business or repeat business because their customers prefer to deal with them, based on the first experience. Fair enough.

Coming up in Part 2: Are Your Emotions Being Exploited By Marketers?

We will take a look at the nastier aspect of emotional content being used for "exploitation" by some people AND what you can do to become more aware of these things and protect yourself.

Here are the answers to the earlier branding quiz: (I hope you got all of these  ;o)

  • Buy a bucket of chicken and have a barrel of fun
    Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC
  • Finger-lickin' good
    KFC again
  • Come to where the flavor is
  • Good to the last drop
    Maxwell House
  • You can trust your car to the man who wears the star
  • Snap! Crackle! Pop!
    Rice Crispies
  • They're GREEAAT!
    Kellog's with Tony the Tiger
  • The Greatest Show on Earth
    Barnum and Bailey Circus

About John Alexander
John Alexander is Co-director of Training at Search Engine Workshops offering live, SEO Workshops with his partner SEO educator Robin Nobles, author of the very first comprehensive online search engine marketing courses. John is author of
an e-book called Wordtracker Magic and has taught SEO skills to people from 87 different countries world wide. John is also Director of Search Engine Academy with localized Search Engine Academy training centers where the Complete SEO Mastery Workshop and 6 Month Mentoring program is taught locally to business owners and individuals in communities across North America and Internationally in Asia

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