By Peter Lowy
While conventional wisdom holds that success in the business world is tied to rigorous analysis of numbers—market size, net profits, return on investment, etc.—one shouldn’t ignore the role that emotion plays. Yes, the numbers are important and you ignore them at your peril, but you run the risk of falling behind if you ignore emotion.
Emotion in business is directly tied to the brand you seek to establish or enhance. In simplest terms, it’s the response—and feeling—that your company name provokes when people hear it.
Say “IBM” and people think “dependable.” Mention “Oxfam America” and many will think “doing good.” Utter “Chrysler” and more and more would prefer not to think about it at all.
Note that these responses don’t describe products or services, but rather reflect qualities associated with the providers of those products or services. IBM develops information technology solutions for business, Oxfam seeks to solve hunger and poverty, and Chrysler makes motor vehicles.
While there is no correct emotional association, the goal is to strive for an immediately positive response. Accounting firms and lawyers seek to be regarded as trusted advisors. Lenders do well when they’re perceived as problem solvers. Although everyone’s in business to make money, if your key audiences primarily view you as all about profits, you’re in trouble.
The emotional response your company generates offers a good clue about your brand and market position. A positive response is good, but a uniquely positive response is better, because it separates you from other well-regarded, but similar, competitors.
Question: Are you eliciting the response you want or, better yet, need?
First, learn how you are perceived. Different audiences may attach different values to the same perception, but that’s not necessarily bad. Many regard Microsoft as highly aggressive; that pleases the stock market and spurs competitors to compete harder.
Then, if your brand isn’t generating the emotional response you want, find out why. Ask customers and others who know you why they regard you the way they do and what you would have to do to change their mind. Making the changes required to improve your image can be demanding, but the pay-off is likely to be significant.