I opened a new jar of peanut butter last week and I relished the experience. I always enjoy when I’m the first person to pull the foil paper back to reveal the smooth top to the peanut butter. Then I stick the knife in and carve out a scoop of the creamy spread, just like in the commercials, and imagine putting a sizable spoonful into my mouth. I don’t actually eat it like that – anymore, because I finally admitted to myself that I don’t like eating peanut butter plain without other food.
The reason I started the article with this admission is because just this week I questioned for the first time why I enjoy opening a new jar of peanut butter. I wondered if it was because:
- I anticipate the delicious dish I’m about to eat?
- I feel a fondness for it because I’ve been eating it since my youth?
- The commercials say I’m supposed to feel this way?
The epiphany came when I discovered that although the first two points affect my experience, I place the most weight on the last point. I have been trained by advertising that people are always joyous when opening a jar of peanut butter. I thought about my feelings when opening a new jar and by putting them into words, I realized I was thinking “look here people in the commercial – I have my own jar of peanut butter and I can be happy just like you”.
I generally feel some pride that I don’t buy into the “newest and greatest” craze. Not that there’s anything wrong with having the latest version of a popular high-tech gadget, but I’m not one to sit in long lines and fight insane crowds for new product releases. I also try to take an objective and usually somewhat pessimistic approach to marketing claims, preferring to be pleasantly surprised when a product lives up to all of its promises. So I was amazed when I realized that peanut butter marketers had gotten past my careful defenses and caused me to believe that opening a jar of peanut butter is truly a pleasurable experience. And I had bought into that idea for years without questioning why.
I’m sure that the peanut butter industry is not the only one to succeed in influencing me without my realizing it. Careful analysis of my daily actions would likely expose a variety of activities motivated by unrecognized marketing messaging. The point I’m making is that marketing through strong visuals and emotional responses is very powerful. This has been known for a long time, but how often do we still see companies make the mistake of promoting with text-heavy messages, selling any and every point while overwhelming the potential customer.
Take a minute to think about how you’re selling your product or service. Is there a way you can build more good feelings into it? Go beyond the surface emotions (happy, sad, etc.) and think about the benefit to your customers when they feel a sense of accomplishment, security, responsibility, or when they feel organized, healthy, productive, carefree or relaxed. These positive rewards of using your service can go a long way towards increasing customer satisfaction – if you help the customer realize these benefits. On the flip side, the alleviation of negative feelings can be a selling point. If you’re a producer of snow shovels, tire repair kits, dentist equipment or flu medicine, you might sell empathy and hope so when a customer experiences an inconvenience or misfortune – your quality product can help alleviate some of the pain.
If you succeed, then perhaps you too can become the company that people rely on without consciously thinking why; a trusted brand that people recommend and remain loyal to. Then maybe one day you too can achieve the level of peanut butter marketer.
When is the last time you recognized good marketing that has influenced your decisions or actions?