It's Time To Get Emotional

At Shop It To Me we are customer-driven so we think about product a lot. We’ve noticed that too many Internet companies today think about their product almost exclusively in terms of a functional experience. What need are we serving? What solution do we provide?  What features should we add?  Recent books and blogs encourage that by having you ask questions like “what problem are you trying to solve?”, “what is the pain point you are addressing”?

Those questions are certainly important to answer, but if you want to build a deep connection with your users or customers, you will also need to answer a much more important question: What emotion should customers be feeling when using your service?

Successful consumer products are often valued more for the emotion they generate than the tangible value they provide.  If you look at almost all successful marketing campaigns, you’ll see the deep emotion behind it.  CPG companies are particularly amazing at figuring this out.

Some examples:

  • Michelin Tires are not just tires to help your car move.  They embody safety, security, protection. Michelin ads are all about safety — they have either a huge puffy mascot (who looks like an airbag), or a baby riding inside the tires.  With these tires, you not only have wheels to move your car, you can feel rest-assured your kids and the things you care deeply about will be safe.
  • CocaCola is not just carbonated sugar. It’s bottled up happiness.  Their ads (Happiness Machine, Sleepwaking) all show happiness in unlikely circumstances, and their tagline “Open Happiness” is a pretty obvious connection on how they want you to feel when you open a bottle. .

Having a strong emotional connection is not just for physical consumer products.  It is important for any online service or product as it can have a major impact on who uses the product, when they use it, what you can charge and your overall product’s success.

Take two recent mobile-based taxi-alternatives:  Lyft & Uber.  Both are trying to solve the same problem:  I need to get somewhere now and there is no taxi available.  But both are building different relationships with their users by touching upon very different emotions.

Uber’s messaging and service is built to make you feel pampered, like a high-powered executive.  They primarily use black cars or nice hybrid SUVs to pick you up.  Their site is in classic silver and black with a luxury car featured.  Their tagline “everyone’s private driver” —  reinforces the emotion.   With Uber, you are like the guy in the back of the limo passing the bottle of Grey Poupon.


Lyft is taking almost the opposite end of the spectrum.  They are focusing on being your pal.  Instead of black cars, they solicit regular people to be their drivers.   All of their cars identify themselves with quirky pink mustaches.   Their domain name is a quirky as opposed to a more standard   They encourage you to sit in the front seat and fist-pump the driver when you enter and exit.   Lyft is less like having a private driver, and more like having a friend who today is your designated driver.

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Based on the marketing alone, one would expect very different experiences with the two services. Want a professional, polite, quiet driver?  Use Uber.  Want a friendly conversation and a quirky fun, low-key experience?  Choose Lyft.

If your business is in a crowded marketplace, creating a strong emotion can be a huge differentiator.    Bottled water is pretty commoditized, and yet companies like VOSS can thrive by creating a product more than 2x the price of the rest of the market (and therefore generate many more profits) because they aren’t just delivering water, they are delivering on the feelings of luxury, stylishness and exclusivity.

At Shop It To Me, we are constantly looking at not just what we do (giving you updates on what you want) but what emotions we want you to feel (smart, in-the-know, excited, accomplished).  Because while the service may help fill a need, it is the emotions that users will remember.

So next time you are thinking about your value proposition or what need you are serving, don’t just stop at the services and features.  Take the time and think about the key emotions you want your users to feel when you successfully fulfill their needs and you’ll end up building a much longer-lasting relationship.