Marketing: Emotional Sales Point

By Christopher Zoukis

Jane Ebert, who is a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, calls feeling-based marketing “forecasting” and “backcasting.” Forecasting is when a customer predicts how they will feel by imagining how they will feel when they do something. Someone might say, “I’ll be very sad if I don’t get to go shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch today.” Likewise, the customer can predict how they will feel after they do something. The same person might say, “I’m going to be happy tomorrow because I’m going to Abercrombie & Fitch.” In both instances, the customer is anticipating a certain feeling. 

Another example of “forecasting” and “backcasting” would be a harried, affluent executive who receives two brochures from two different travel agents for a Hawaiian vacation. One brochure ballyhoos the reduced cost of the vacation special, while the other brochure begins by saying, “Feeling worn-out? Work getting you down? Think how you’ll feel a month from now if you don’t get a break? Wouldn’t a trip to a stress-free zone be wonderful right now? Give me a call. I can arrange it.”  Image courtesy

There’s no feeling attached to the first travel brochure. The second brochure allows the stressed executive to predict how he will feel if he does not get relief. This brochure is selling a feeling, not a trip to Hawaii. Price becomes irrelevant when compared with the feeling of a stress-free zone. In his situation, the executive does not care about the cost. He cares about the feeling of relaxation.

The different approaches of the two travel brochures suggest that merely changing the way potential customers feel about a luxury purchase and how they expect the purchase to affect their future feelings have tremendous influence. In other words, affluent customers make buying decisions based on how the purchase will make them feel.

Alan Fairweather refers to the “feel” of luxury products and services as “unique sales point” and “emotional sales point.” Fairweather contends that most businesses do not know what their unique sales point is, and even if they do, it is probably not unique. Every other business is making the same claim, such as “lower price,” or “better value,” or “superior quality.” Thus the unique sales point is nothing more than the luxury product itself.

Instead of selling the “thing,” Fairweather urges businesses to focus on selling the feeling, which is the emotional sales point, which is how the customer feels when they shop at a store or after they buy the product or service. Emphasize the feeling.

For example, a unique sales point might be, “We guarantee next day delivery.” By applying the emotional sales point, feeling, to the message it becomes “You’ll be the envy of your friends by tomorrow.”

Another example might be, “Our prices can’t be beat.” This assertion is not unique, because every company around makes the same claim. Add a little feeling to it and it becomes “Satisfaction costs a little more, but isn’t your peace of mind worth it.” The implication is that the customer will feel satisfied, which will provide the feeling of peace of mind.

Affluent women do not buy Clive Christian perfume for $2150 per ounce simply because it smells good. They buy Clive Christian perfume because they want to feel like Princess Grace or Angelina Jolie as she strolls down the red carpet at a movie premiere. Affluent men do not buy a Ferrari because they like red sportscars. They buy Ferrari because they want to feel like a World Champion Formula One driver as they drive to the golf course.