Jeff Kirk of Corporate Magic

Real vs. Perceived Emotional Experiences at Events

Event expert Jeff Kirk of Corporate Magic looks at the power of perception in creating indelible events--it can be as meaningful as an actual experience

Jeff KirkIn the examples I used in last week's article, customers had a real experience. They actually felt the wind in their hair as they rode on their Harley, or they actually enjoyed sitting in a comfortable chair in a bookstore.

Real experiences are powerful, but they are not the only emotional circumstances that can drive sales. A perceived experience--or one that customers merely imagine--can also create excitement around products and services.

When Marlboro started using a cowboy to sell cigarettes, it was a hit. The Marlboro Man was the definition of rugged: handsome, strong, relaxed. Advertisers truly captured the image of old Western movies when they created the Marlboro Man. Little boys who grew up wanting to be John Wayne instantly identified with the cowboy in the cigarette ads.

Now, would smoking Marlboros turn people into an attractive cowboy who always gets the girl? Of course not. But the stereotype created a huge spike in sales as consumers longed to feel as though they were just as cool as the Marlboro Man.

The same technique can be seen in jewelry commercials, specifically DeBeers Diamonds. DeBeers linked diamonds to marriage and marketed them as “forever,” just as a marriage should be. Brides-to-be immediately jumped on the idea that a diamond was the only stone fit for an engagement ring because of what it meant. Would a diamond guarantee a lasting marriage? Of course not. But the mere idea of it sent DeBeers’ sales--and revenue--through the roof.

CREATING AN IMAGE Creating an emotional experience is similar to creating an image for your brand. After all, an image is how people will identify with your product or service. How will consumers see themselves when they drive the car, wear the clothes or drink the champagne?

That image evokes emotion. People want to appear a certain way. Someone who longs to feel sporty will buy Nike shoes. Someone who wants to feel luxurious will buy a Rolex. Even if they do not live those lifestyles, consumers will respond to their emotional desire to feel a certain way when using products.

EMOTIONS IN UNLIKELY PLACES You might think that some decisions you make have nothing to do with an emotional experience, but you would probably be wrong.

Think about the pharmacy you use. Why do you go there? Pharmacies all do the same thing: They sell plastic bottles that hold pills or liquid medicines. And there is no shortage of pharmacies; in many areas, you will see drugstores right across the street from each other.

It is not the product itself – the plastic bottle of pills – that leads you to the pharmacy. It is the emotion you connect to those pills. Perhaps those pills bring you relief from pain or help with depression. Those pills might represent happiness. Your emotional attachment to the feeling you get from the medicine is pushing you through the pharmacy door and to the counter.

Further, you have probably had good experiences at the pharmacy you frequent. Those positive associations keep you coming back.

In his next installment, Jeff will discuss practical applications of harnessing the power of emotional experiences

Jeff Kirk serves as chief operating officer for Corporate Magic Inc., a Dallas-based event production and message development company specializing in one-of-a-kind projects.

Known as an innovative marketing strategist with a keen understanding of the role digital content and technology can play in building brand preference, Jeff brings nearly two decades of experience to his leadership role at Corporate Magic. In addition to managing the company’s day-to-day operations, Jeff is in the process of forming strategic alliances and recently spearheaded Corporate Magic’s entry into global markets. In mid-2015, the Dallas-based company will be producing the Salvation Army's 150th International Congress at London's O2 Arena.

Over his nearly 20 year career, his clients have included IBM, Accor, Aflac, Suzuki, JCPenney, Jaguar, Mazda, Land Rover/Range Rover, M&M Mars, Prudential Real Estate, Berkshire Hathaway, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Club Corp, Ford New Holland, Dallas Cowboys, GSD&M, Boy Scouts of America, Xango, YMCA, Sherwin-Williams, Uncle Ben's, Southland Corporation, George W. Bush Foundation, Rite Aid, Salvation Army, Ramada, Quaker State, Pizza Hut, Proctor & Gamble, Nike, NCR, Kraft, Kawasaki, Bayer, Campbell's Soup, Coors, Wendy's, FTD, Tournament of Roses and Republican National Convention Host Committee (Tampa 2012).

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