Empathy maps and emotional selling….and Donald Trump

I was recently working on a display campaign that was targeted to Republican Electoral College members (a.k.a. “electors”) to get them to NOT vote for Donald Trump. If you haven’t been following the news, there’s a tiny chance that 37 electors to the Electoral College could choose to disobey the popular vote from their state and NOT vote for Trump on December 19th, 2016. This would technically and legally prevent the Donald from taking office in January. Google “Hamilton Electors” if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

The display campaign was all wrong. In fact, it was so wrong it was likely to have the opposite effect of what was intended. It was probably going to convince those Republican party officials who are the electors to get behind Trump.

Clearly, the designer of the campaign had no idea how to use empathy maps and emotional selling.

Let me describe the display ads. Picture Trump’s head wearing his signature red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap and sporting an angry expression. Then in bold letters is the tag line “Donald Trump is a Russian Stooge”. There were variations on that theme, but you get the idea of the tone of the display ads.

Now that you have that image in your head I’m going to repeat to you who the audience is: Republican party officials who are members of the Electoral College.

I can’t speak for your family but I think we can all relate to that Thanksgiving or Christmas where the Fox News watchers at the dinner table yell at the MSNBC watchers and vice versa. Neither side is capable of convincing the other side of anything and even the most rational and logical of arguments on either side, brimming with factual evidence, cannot make a dent in the armor of steadfast belief that their side is the right side. In fact, many studies show that when someone has a false belief the more evidence you present to them that their belief is in fact not true, the stronger they believe it. This is called cognitive dissonance.

So when you tell someone who cares about the Republican party enough to devote their time and effort to represent that party as members of the Republican Electoral College that their President elect is a “Russian stooge” you’re not going to influence them. You’re going to evoke the exact opposite response. You will tap into the emotion of anger at such an accusation and drive them further into the belief bunker away from your goal of sewing doubt that Trump is qualified to be President.

What this lobbying group should have done is create an empathy map for those Republican electors specifically around the controversial President elect and figured out emotional touch points that would be more appealing. An empathy map is where you profile your audience by getting into their head, walking a mile in their shoes and then mapping out what that target audience is feeling, saying, thinking and doing. 

Here’s what a super simplified empathy map outline might have looked like for a Republican member of the Electoral College having doubts about Trump.

Feeling: uncertainty, apprehension, moral queasiness, concern, worry, patriotism, faith.

Saying: “I love the GOP, but…”, “Trump is too much of a hot head to be an effective leader”, “His actions don’t reflect Christian values”.

Thinking: “Is it right to disobey the will of my state’s voters?”, “This would be unprecedented in history”, “There will be consequences if I choose to pull my vote”.

Doing: Taking long walks and thinking, exercising rigorously to de-stress, engaging in a favorite hobby, working hard on unrelated projects.

Now that you understand your audience better you can use emotion better to appeal to those troubled electors. A better display campaign might have patriotic imagery (an American flag, the Statue of Liberty, etc.) and include tag lines like “Do you love your party but doubt the qualities of the man? On December 19th vote for what’s best for America.”

One thing was abundantly clear this past election and it was that Donald Trump clearly understood empathy and emotional selling and Hillary Clinton did not. Trump tapped into a vein of discontent among working class and middle class voters and mined it rigorously for electoral gold. Hillary positioned herself as the smart choice and the rational choice. She should have taken a note from her husband who was excellent at connecting with voters and “feel(ing) your pain”.

Regardless of your politics, as marketers or lobbyists or salespeople the key to success is finding that emotional pain point and addressing it.




You win! Contest marketing pluses and pitfalls.

We’ve all seen them before, calls to do something to win a prize: fill out a form, send in a picture, tweet with a brand’s hashtag. This is contest marketing. If done correctly it can be highly effective, if done incorrectly it can be a nightmare.

The pluses: exposure, brand building, increased traffic and link building for improved SEO (if your contest is fun and notable it will get picked up by blogs and the media)

The pitfalls: potential legal problems (regulations vary by state!), contest gets hijacked by pranksters and low return on investment.

Books could be written on this subject, so I’m not going to get into this at length, but here are some non-obvious considerations.

Venue picking: do you use Facebook, Instagram, your own site? First, the more venues you use the greater the potential legal hassle so while it’s tempting to use them all keep the consequences in mind. Second, do your due diligence with some analysis to pick the right venue. How many Facebook likes do you have? Twitter followers? What are the metrics on engagement with content on your various social platforms? Third, what venue makes the most sense? Depending on what you’re asking a user to do, pick the easiest tool for the job. If you’re asking for entries into a photo contest Instagram or Facebook is the best choice, if you’re asking for people to submit user generated content your native web site might be the best answer.

Prize picking: If the goal is just to drive traffic then pick an iPad as the prize. Everybody wants an iPad. If you’re trying to build a base of customers with high lifetime value, pick what you sell. If you sell photography gear, give away photography gear.

Rules, rules rules: not only do you need to abide by Federal and State laws, and those laws do differ by state, you have to be aware of the platform’s terms of use as well. And of course, have detailed and bullet-proof terms and conditions for the contest itself. I know, the lawyers always ruin everything, but there’s a reason they make more than you do, they prevent disaster.

Exit strategy: don’t make this contest your Asian land war. Have a plan in place in case, for whatever reason, you need to pull this contest down before it’s over. Talk to the lawyers, figure out your greatest exposure and mitigate for that. Include items in the contest terms and conditions for this exit strategy.



Nuts for nuts.com

I’m an Amazon Prime guy. Amazon probably captures 80% of my online spending. But I also eat a lot of fruits and nuts and nuts.com does such a great job of marketing and customer experience that they get 100% of my spend on that category.

But why? Is the website magic? No, it’s a functional e-commerce site that’s nothing special to write home about. Is the product amazing? No, they sell a commodity – nuts. I defy anyone to tell me the difference between a $4 organic fair trade cashew bought at Whole Foods and one from a Planters can other than sanctimony and guilt. Are the prices the lowest? No, they’re about average. I’ve found lower, but I continue to give my business to nuts.com and pay a little more.

So what makes nuts.com so dear to this marketer’s beating heart? All the little things.


Awwwww. Just like Con Ed. (New Yorkers will get it)

The whole tone of their branding makes you smile. They market themselves as a family business that’s been around since 1929 when “Poppy Sol” started the business. That’s a warm and fuzzy. Where ever possible they use a goofy font that is friendly, approachable and resembles a grade schooler’s penmanship – emphasizing the story that there’s real people behind this purchase. The transactional emails are written in a jaunty friendly way that stands out from the cold cold copy of other emails. When my package arrived, they (through the carrier) sent me an email that said “Hiya Christopher! Doorbell. Special delivery from the nutmobile.”. OK, maybe it’s a tad hokey. But I’m a jaded New Yorker and I still think it’s cute.

The packaging is bright and cheery and has little anthropomorphic nut characters on it. The packaging is also durable, easy to open and easy to reseal. It has a little clear window so you can see the contents. Someone clearly put some time and thought into that consideration. Other sites I used to order from just dump the nuts in a clear plastic bag with a twist tie that may or may not be originally intended as a garbage can liner.

Nuts.com well branded bag

Good branding! Nobody’s going to look at this bag and ask “Hey, where’d you get those pumpkin seeds?”

Fulfillment is great, I got an email every step of the way and I got my nuts the very next day after I placed my order. OK, it’s coming from a few miles away in New Jersey, but still!

They offer a 100% money back guarantee – for any reason. Now, I’ve had no cause to see if this is true, but it jibes with the whole brand message “we’re a family business of nice friendly people who just want you to enjoy some nuts”.

Jeffrey, Kenny, Uncle Sandy and Cousin David you’re doing a hell of a job.

Tesla segmenting

Mr. Musk’s patent surrender really has got me thinking hard about Teslas and marketing segmentation. I can’t think of another auto brand that says so much about a person than Tesla. Well, an auto brand that has a product for sale under $100,000. I think we can all imagine the type who drives a $250,000 Lamborghini and you probably don’t want to sit next to him on a long flight even if it is first class. But a Tesla? Tells me right off the bat you’ve got a lot of disposable income, you’re probably highly educated, interested in technology and environmentally sensitive. 

If I had a business in the Hamptons or Greenwich or any play ground of the 1% the first thing I would do would do is to go out and buy a Tesla Super Charger and market the beejeezus out of it. If you don’t know, Tesla is setting up a network of super charger stations that will recharge the Tesla’s batteries in under an hour, thus eliminating the “range fear” of running out of batteries before you can recharge your car.

What would I stock for these people? Solar cell phone chargers. Maybe some high end gluten free snacks. $10 organic artisanal scones. I’m not sure, but as I watch that Wall Street bond trader who wants the world to know he’s successful but not too full of himself exit that amazing car I will most certainly keep track of what he’s buying. ABT: always be testing.

Only partially tongue in cheek suggestion to Starbucks

For New Yorkers a Starbucks public bathroom was a much appreciated relief oasis in a desolate desert filled with “Restroom for customers only” signs. Of course, in New York as on the internet once something becomes common knowledge to the unwashed masses (craigslist, myspace) the quality goes right into the toilet (pun intended). So Starbucks has suspended their open bathroom policy which was previously a great way to get foot traffic in the door. A sad day for cross-legged and squinting New Yorkers but understandable given the antics that were going on in their establishments. But not all is lost, perhaps this is a new marketing opportunity?

In loyalty marketing there are two types of customer benefits: hard and soft. Hard benefits are quantifiable – think coupons. Soft benefits and more esoteric and psychological and meant to build warm and fuzzy branding feelings – think a customized card on your birthday. Sure, lots of retailers have mobile apps and the hard benefits are there to instill loyalty: discounts mostly. But what about a mobile app that had a soft benefit of epic proportions to the on-the-go New Yorker: it opens bathroom doors.

I personally hate Starbucks coffee: bitter and thin I find it. I think I’ve purchased 5 cups in the 15 plus years I’ve been exposed to the brand. Given their sales and ubiquity I’m clearly in the minority. But if their app could open bathroom doors it would be the very first app I would download when I get my Christmas present to myself: the iPhone 4s. It might soften my opinion, maybe get me to try one of those ridiculously overpriced double half skim whatever foamy fru fru drinks I’ve previously managed to successfully live my life without.

You listening Starbucks? Here’s how it works. You install those 4 number code push button locks on your bathroom doors. In the app, in addition to the announcements about new drinks and coupons and all that stuff that everyone already does, you have a section that lists the 4 digit codes to the bathroom locks. Of course, it’s geo-location driven so just push a button and the app tells you the code for your current Starbucks location. And maybe you don’t allow that feature to work unless push notifications is enabled in your settings allowing for greater app value?