Connecting with your customers' emotional drivers

As people we do everything for a reason – because of our emotional drivers. If anyone’s observing and trying to understand why, it might not be immediately obvious. In fact we might not consciously understand it ourselves!

If you can understand your customers’ emotional drivers you can better influence their behaviour and their perception of your brand.

Image of a happy woman driving a convertible - understanding emotional drivers help influence behaviour and perception
What are emotional drivers?

Emotion influences our behaviour. The way we want to feel – emotionally and physcially – are highly influential in our decision making, including our buying decisions.

We all have different emotional drivers, and some influence us more than others.

Your customers make their purchase decisions based on their emotional drivers. They’ll also be influencing your customers’ perceptions of your brand.

Emotional drivers can be satisfied positively and negatively. They’re largely connected to psychological pleasure and pain. So we move towards the pleasure and move away from pain – whether that’s pain that already exists or pain that we anticipate and want to avoid.

(This idea is covered in a couple of great blog posts by Tony Robbins talking about leadership and understanding people’s ‘metaprogrammes’: ‘Finding the right key‘ and ‘How to get through to someone‘)

Our emotions or feelings have been proved to have a direct link to our physical feelings. Described as ‘the feel good factor’, when we experience positive emotions and are in psychological comfort, we’ll often feel physically well. The opposite is also true – when we’re experiencing negative emotions, feeling down, we’re in psychological discomfort which can show as a physical illness.

The vast majority of people want to feel positive and enjoy it. Positive experiences create happy, fond memories. That’s the main reason why having a consistently positive customer experience is important.

Emotions influence your customers’ decision making

Decisions made based on emotions are usually fast, intuitive, unconscious – gut instinct. We don’t necessarily have to process much information. Chances are decisions based on emotions may be irrational!

If you’ve ever heard of System 1 and System 2 thinking, some of this may sound familiar.

System 1 thinking is unconscious and instantaneous decisions that we use a lot every day, like picking out a snack, choosing a seat on a bus, picking up a bottle of milk in the supermarket.
System 2 thinking is slower, considered, rational and requires attention and effort. We tend to use this for bigger decisions, less often, when we look for information to support our decision-making including reviews, reports, statistics and talk to others before making up our minds.

(There’s a great book about this: ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow‘ by Daniel Kahneman)

Don’t confuse System 1 thinking with emotional drivers! Not all System 1 thinking is emotional. It’s just as much about deeply embedded memories, like muscle memory, which mean you operate on ‘auto pilot’ and have effectively switched off your analytical brain. There are no emotions involved in this.

Examples of emotional drivers

There are two ways of looking at this – 

  1. A list of emotions that your customers want to experience or avoid: happiness, pleasure, hope, excitement, regret, fear, anger and so on.
  2. A list of aspirations that stem from the emotions they generate: to be healthy, to gain social advancement, to save time, to avoid embarrassment, to be good parents, etc.

There’s no real right or wrong way of looking at it. If you Google ’emotional drivers’ you’ll find results for the 8, 10, 22, 40… emotional drivers and they’re a mix of both of these.

What makes sense to you? 

Which of these are going to be easiest to understand and use effectively for you and for anyone you share your customers’ emotional drivers with?

I know my clients want to be happy. But what makes them happy? Having less to worry about, knowing that they’re doing what they can to save embarrassment poor reviews can bring, having a profitable business, and several more.

Image of a happy woman driving a convertible - understanding emotional drivers help influence behaviour and perception
How to find out what your customers’ emotional drivers are

Talk to your customers – formally or informally. Find out what motivates them. Then ask ‘why?’

So if someone says “I try to buy products that have less plastic in them because I want to do my bit to protect the environment”, their ‘why’ is likely to be that they feel they have a duty (doing their bit for the common good, taking responsibility) to protect the environment for the future generations including their own children (being good parents) and stop the suffering and extinction of wildlife (acting with compassion and living a meaningful life).

Think about ‘compassion’ for a moment. What does that mean in terms of behaviour? When you feel compassion, you want to move the person or animal away from the pain that you see them suffering. You want to move them towards an end to their suffering, even to happiness, safety, security and a hopeful future.

How to use your customers’ emotional drivers

Leverage the emotions that you know will drive your customers’ behaviour to the outcome you want.

For example, if you’re a charity that cares for wildlife under threat of extinction, using the example above, you’ll want to illustrate the good you do, the responsibility you have and your audience share, trigger compassion by showing the plight of the wildlife and give your prospective donors a way that they can act now to do their part, highlighting the difference they can make.

Using your customers’ emotional drivers you can …

  • create more emotionally compelling adverts
  • write better product descriptions that have a list of benefits directly relating to emotional drivers
  • be the brand that comes to mind first because of the positive associations you’ve created through advertising and PR
Take the time to understand your customers’ emotional drivers and make your marketing more effective. Add them to your customer persona or avatar. Use them well.