Marketing and Emotions

How do you get something to really sink in?

Why is it so hard to shake old habits, feelings, ways of seeing the world? Why can’t you just make yourself change?

This morning, I gave a talk at the Boston Center for Community and Justice, which runs a leadership development program I participated in a couple of years ago called LeadBoston. One of the readings from the program that stays with me is from Primal Leadership, by “emotional intelligence” guru Daniel Goleman and his posse. The best insight for marketers?

Our emotions and drives are learned early in life and are governed by the brain’s limbic system. If those patterns are holding us back, we have to relearn them–but most people try to do it with books and lectures, which reach a completely different part of the brain, the neocortex. In other words, if we want to change or improve what is deep inside of ourselves, we can’t do it through “reason”–we have to make people feel, act, practice, and reach the emotional part of their brain. Giving them facts alone won’t do it.

This is a major issue in social marketing, which tackles the recalcitrants who know drunk driving is bad but do it anyway, or the folks who refuse to use condoms or bicycle helmets or quit smoking. (I teach a course on this at Tufts University.) It’s such a human quandary–what are the forces inside ourselves that sabotage our best intentions? And for social change marketers, how can we discover and defeat them?

What do you think?

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.