The Ultimate Edge: Establishing Emotional Benefits

Do you know why customers buy your products and services? Or what motivates employees to do their best and stay with your firm?

Chances are the answer isn’t in the tangible description of your products or the salary you offer your employees. Those attributes tend to be short lived. They are important, for example, only until your competitor matches your product’s features or another company offers your employee slightly more money.

The key to establishing a lasting relationship with your customers and employees lies in understanding the emotional benefits that your company or brand offers. Emotional benefits enable the consumer or employee to say something positive about him or herself as a result of using a product or service or belonging to your staff. These benefits are the vehicle for establishing an emotional connection between the product/service and the user or employee. The emotional connection builds the trust that leads to loyalty. With the connection firmly in place, loyal shareholders, customers and employees will be less likely to abandon the brand because they know they can count on it. In the end, this emotional connection can help retain or gain market share.

Say Something Nice About Me
For example, the following are emotional benefits we have observed when conducting qualitative research for a range of clients:

• “Knowing that I can receive on-the-job training to advance to store manager makes me feel successful — just like the guy down the street who went to college and works for IBM.”

• “When I prepare a whole turkey from scratch, I feel like more of an accomplished mom.”

• “When my employer produces training materials in Spanish, I feel they are recognizing me as a Hispanic and reaching out to me. That makes me feel important and pay more attention to what they are trying to get us to do for customers.”

• “Working with a pharmaceutical company that has a history of standing behind their products tells me that I can trust them. That level of trust allows me to focus on the patient and ultimately be a better physician.”

• “Being in the Elite Member Club gives me prestige. When I bring friends to the Club as my guests, I feel proud — like a very important person.”

Case Study: Establishing an Emotional Connection
Here’s an example of a practical application of emotional benefits. When public relations agency Kemper Lesnik introduced Renova, a Johnson & Johnson prescription drug that reduces wrinkles, JRS Consulting, Inc. conducted focus groups to explore how women felt about the aging process. Our in-depth discussions revealed that when it comes to wrinkles, women think “beauty” and not “medicine.” The emotional benefit associated with using Renova was that women would feel more attractive if they reduced their wrinkles. However, feeling attractive was more associated with a setting that suggested pampering and self-improvement than the clinical image of a physician’s office.

To convey this idea, Kemper Lesnik effectively positioned Renova as a cosmetic rather than a prescribed medication. They offered dermatologists in Nordstrom’s cosmetic counters and booked dermatologists on the air to link skin care and beauty with Renova. According to Kemper Lesnik, Renova prescriptions increased dramatically as thousands lined up at Nordstrom’s cosmetic counters. Understanding the emotional benefit that women associated with Renova allowed the PR firm to position the product in a way that established an emotional connection with the end user.

By the way, we are seeing a further trend in this area with the recent increase in “medical spas.” This new concept combines cosmetic procedures administered by medically trained professionals with the more traditional spa treatments such as manicures and pedicures. Day spas are expanding their services to offer medical procedures administered by medically trained professionals such as Botox injections. At the same time, some cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists are including massage and nail care among their services. Clearly, the cosmetics and medical worlds have discovered that promoting the emotional benefits of their products and expertise are very powerful sales tools.

Communicating Facts With Feelings
When we conduct focus groups or interviews to explore reactions to products, services or communications, we probe to get at the emotional reactions that lead to identifying potential emotional benefits. By understanding what lies beneath what people initially tell us, we can help our clients to identify the most compelling way to tell their stories.

For example, when senior executives in business-to-business research responded indifferently to promotional materials describing a specific geographic location as a potential area for business expansion, we probed to further understand their objections. We discovered that the executives considered the site under discussion to be unsophisticated, with an untrained workforce. The examples presented in the materials of thriving automobile plants only emphasized that image. “This article suggests early 1900s labor,” explained a financial executive. “It doesn’t sound sophisticated.” The solution: Create materials that emphasize the area’s skilled labor industries such as telecommunications and medical electronics, and promote the population’s level of education and cultural attractions.

Another initiative involved exploring employee reactions to a hotel chain’s attempt to deliver better customer service. We were originally retained to explore employee reactions to the customer service training materials that the hotel had prepared, including aspects such as clarity and accessibility. However, our research also uncovered emotional benefits associated with the new focus on service. Specifically, employees described feeling empowered by the new training their employer had instituted, leading to increased commitment to their employer.

When hotel staff implemented the service actions they had learned, they were rewarded by the improved way hotel guests treated them, leading them to feel valued and better about themselves and their work. For some employees, these positive feelings led to an increased commitment to stay with the organization and work to advance to department supervisor. Other staff members said that hearing hotel guests make comments about the improved service made them feel proud to work for the chain. Overall, our exploration of emotional benefits showed that the hotel chain’s attempts to improve customer relationships with better service had also resulted in more committed employees.

Last but not least, we have found that even our own market research offers clients emotional benefits. In a casual conversation recently, one of our clients noted, “Jenny, you help companies develop a kind of magnetism that attracts customers and employees.” For this client, our “product” — communications consulting based on research — offered the emotional benefit of a feeling of increased confidence in ultimate success.

The bottom line here: To establish a lasting relationship with your customers and employees, think less about what you make in the plant and more about what these important audiences want from you. Understanding the emotional benefits of your products and services leads to the invaluable ability to translate share of heart to market share.


Jenny Schade is president of JRS Consulting, Inc., a firm that helps organizations build leading brands and efficiently attract and retain employees and customers. Subscribe to the free JRS newsletter on

© JRS Consulting, Inc. 2007