Emotional responses trump rational ones


Business may be about numbers, but it’s also about emotional responses and human connections. Get those right and the numbers will add up

Businesses have never before had so much information about their customers. But before we fret that we’re being ruled by algorithms, we must remember that it’s people who make the decisions in businesses.

As human beings, we want authenticity, trust, respect and a sense of self-worth. In short, we want to feel an emotional connection with the people and the companies with whom we do business.

Let’s be honest, in the last three months, has something changed at work to make you worried? To be annoyed, disappointed, afraid or angry? What about satisfied, hopeful or happy? If it hasn’t, then you’re one of the tiny minority of people who haven’t reacted emotionally to recent changes in the workplace.

Modern marketing is all about change. To make change happen, marketers need to move beyond being ‘on-message’ to being ‘on-emotion’. Why? The evidence is that the emotional trumps the rational when it comes to influencing change and making decisions in business. It just needs to be harnessed.

There are four practical steps you can make to turn being on-emotion into a competitive advantage and transform emotional connections into hard business.

Tangled web of emotional responses

First, identify the tangled web of emotional responses that surrounds the change you’re trying to sell in.

Take decision makers in the banking industry – do they thrive on fear or hope? Fear can be effective, for example, in a campaign to enforce new regulatory measures. But when introducing new accountancy software or embedding a new brand platform into the business, you need a different tack. You need to understand what emotions the decision makers are experiencing and position your brand accordingly.

As a business, you must stop thinking of modern companies as sterile decision-making machines. Your business is a network of human relationships. Change will be more likely to succeed if we identify the human relevance in our approach.

What slows change down and speeds change up?

Second, understand which of those emotional responses slow change down and speed change up. When it comes to embedding a new brand platform into the business, are employees more likely to succeed quickly if they are fearful or hopeful? Similarly, if you’re looking for promotion, will making your boss hopeful you can drive success or fearful you might leave be the right answer?

Should you be the catalyst or the antidote?

Next, decide if your brand should be the catalyst or the antidote for the emotional responses that make the biggest differences. Successful businesses need to go beyond reason.

By acting as a catalyst you ignite the emotional responses that accelerate change; by being the antidote you extinguish the emotional responses that block it. Both have a place – you just need to choose which you are and, most importantly, be clear as to how you go about it.

Conventional wisdom has it that business and emotions don’t mix. But the evidence shows they do. Reason will always depend on emotion to frame up what is important to us as individual decision makers. Emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions. Now is the time for businesses to move beyond being on-message to being on-emotion.

For those that do, there should be less worry, annoyance, disappointment, fear and anger and more satisfaction, hope and happiness.

For similar articles see:

Emotional intelligence, CEOs and psychopathic tendencies

Why happy employees are the key to success for all companies

About author

Kate Howe

Kate Howe

Kate Howe is managing director of marketing consultancy gyro

No comments

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.


Sun-kissed St Lucia

Revitalise body and soul at this stylish spa on sun-kissed St Lucia As the weather turns distinctly nippier, it’s sadly all-too often the cue for our ...