Communicating the emotional benefits over the pragmatic

Communicating the emotional benefits over the pragmatic

Charlotte Stoel

Charlotte Stoel

Data floods us with an incredible amount of insight on people and our behaviour. Online retailers, for example, can see age, demographic, how long customers spend on each page, where the mouse hovers, what’s in a person’s basket, what’s abandoned… and so on. But what data like this doesn’t tell you is the why. Of course, you can do surveys and find out what your customers are thinking, but be careful. Is that what they’re really thinking or are they saying something that seems like the right, logical answer?

For instance, when you think of glasses, what’s the most important part? The lenses, to be able to see, right? So, with this logic, lenses should be the determining factor when buying glasses, yet the frames are the big sellers. It’s the frames we care about the most when selecting glasses. Why? The frame is the emotional connection to the glasses, which makes you think things like “do I look more intelligent?”, “do these accentuate my facial features?”, and “I hate glasses, so I want the most subtle ones”.

We have to look beyond what people say. I was reminded the other day of the brilliant Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked what people wanted, they would’ve said faster horses”. And of course, we all know that’s not what Henry Ford gave them, instead it was the first mass-produced automobile in the form of the Ford Model T In this scenario this focus on speed was actually about time gained. The Ford Model T allowed the average person to own an automobile and, as a result, spend more time with friends, family, acquaintances, etc.  I mean, just look at the many car adverts out there that show good times with family and experiences. The adverts are rarely ever about the features in the car.

Think gain and maintain

Now, we’re not all trained psychologists, but it’s worth spending some time thinking about how you communicate benefits for your organisation. Whether that’s the benefits to employees, or the benefits to the customer. Often, we find ourselves talking a lot about pragmatic benefits, for example, how this solution or product will enable growth or success. And in some cases, it’s not about communicating a ‘gain’ but communicating about what you ‘maintain’. Take a new learning platform as an example - you may get some whizzy new features, but it also offers your employees a way to stay and grow within the company.

It's worth looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – most of us are very familiar with this – but have it in front of you when you’re thinking of communicating benefits. In the B2B space, you’ll often be looking at the ‘Esteem’ category which includes achievement, respect, confidence, status, and recognition. Of course, it’s important to communicate the impact on an organisation, but to tap into the needs of the human buying the solution, you need to think at an emotional level. Why are they really considering this purchase?

There are also psychological beliefs that you may think you know, but you don’t.


The words seamless, frictionless, easy, intuitive are bandied around a lot. But actually, there are moments where frictionless isn’t the best option. Think about relationships, the more time you put in, the more invested you are. That’s not to say make everything difficult, but there are occasions where it’s important to create a relationship over time, particularly when trust is an important factor to make that sale.


As simple as you may think you’ve made something, it’ll still be open to interpretation. Remember the white and gold dress, or was it blue and black? It should’ve been a simple thing, but our differences in colour perception created huge disagreement. Your brain makes quick decisions, quick judgement calls, and that can often lead to misinterpretation.


When we sell, we think we should just communicate the positive. But that’s not always the right approach. Like a story, something bad may happen before the good, that’s what creates the arc and the intrigue. It’s worth communicating the negatives, along with how you’ve removed these as a brand. The brain is wired to assess for risk, so it’s best to be authentic and transparent. That also creates an honest dialogue, and we all appreciate honesty.


We all have split personalities. We’re ourselves, our avoided self (who we don’t want to be, the days we see all our flaws) and our ideal self.  So, you may carefully analyse the personality types you’re communicating to, but bad news, these are personalities that are in constant flux. It means careful positioning, framing and use of language, knowing that it may not hit the spot on the wrong day at the wrong time.

Hopefully this has got you thinking in terms of how you communicate the benefits of your products, services and/or company. Now, although this is psychology at a really basic level, there are organisations out there that can dig a lot deeper and help develop psychological insight. This piece was inspired by a webinar run by InnovationBubble, who are a whole team of psychologists specialising in different areas.

We’ve all been through quite a year with a lot of change. So, ask yourself, how are you relevant now? And are you communicating that in the right way?

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