Take "emotional connection." It's all the rage these days, on the lips of senior marketing people as they explain the brilliance of their efforts.
Just last week, two BigBeer marketing guys were all over it speaking from the podium at an industry conference. Said one:
"... the way you get consumers into your franchise, the way you get new drinkers is that you emotionally connect with them."(Emphasis ours.)
It sounds so... insightful. Who can argue with it?
Unfortunately, it seems nobody ever directs no-nonsense business questions to the podium. Like: "What exactly do you mean by 'emotional connection?'" Or: "How is it measured so I can correlate it with my market results?"
Mush without measure
The emotional-connection concept did not originate in beer marketing, or in any sort of marketing for that matter. It's sourced in the study of relationships between people. The self-help website life script ("Health with Heart") back in 2008 defined emotional connections as "a bundle of subjective feelings that come together to create a bond between two people." Awww.
But don't subjective-feelings bundles sound a little mushy for business?
That's not the half of it.
More problematic, marketers simply have no accepted way to quantify Dr. Phil-like notions like this. Exactly what emotions make up the connection? (Aristotle listed fourteen emotions; modern relationship websites show nearly ninety!) How do you compare one brand's emotional-connection strength with its competitors? If you can't measure emotional connection, how do you even know you have it? And if it really is un-measureable, how can you ever determine its contribution to your business? Marketers are supposed to know stuff like that, am I right?
A mushy idea you can't quantify may sound like rubbish, but believe it or not, for some marketing honchos, it's absolutely perfect.
Who sells this nonsense? Who buys it?
Pepper your remarks at a conference with "emotional connection for your brand" and you get to sound like a marketing stud, without a worry about even a shred of accountability.
This insightful-sounding-but-not-measureable character also makes buzzwords especially appealing to ad-agency people. Ad guys are always out to get their client to buy an ad, but they'd rather not have to demonstrate precisely how the ad's going to contribute to business results. It's a risk-reward thing. Selling ads to clients gets ad-agency people a bonus; accountability can get them fired.
So if the advertising types can get their client to embrace a fatuous concept like emotional connection, they win. Believe it or not, we've heard of an ad agency that convinced a particularly gullible client its brand of home water heaters enjoyed an emotional-connection advantage over its competition. According to the story, no wild laughter broke out in response.
Rx: Demand accountability
If you want to see a buzzword concept sputter and fade, simply demand that it be subjected to measurement, and then correlated to in-market results.
In this particular case, eschew the mushiness of "emotional connection" in favor of the less-hip-sounding "brand loyalty." This proven brand asset can be relatively easily measured, compared across brands, and directly related to a brand's overall business health.
Sadly, immature marketers will always have their own personal emotional-connection problem to contend with: They choose sexy over substance every time.
Paging Dr. Phil.