The best stories combine the rational and the emotional. Stories that connect with the head and the heart are more likely to captivate and be remembered. Think of a movie that is all car chases and no love story, or vice versa—your favorites have a bit of both.
Following this pattern, the strongest brands connect with consumers through persuasive and authentic communication that taps into both the rational and emotional parts of the brain. Moreover, the most effective word-of-mouth marketing programs fuse different forms of content to reach each side equally:
Rational + Emotional. Sometimes we want to read about performance, reliability, and quality, and other times we need to be convinced a purchase will make us happy, safer, or cool.
Visual + Descriptive. We retain and believe the most when we can see it, feel it, and hear it, as well as read authentic facts about a product or service.
Prepared + Spontaneous. There is power in the forethought and balance of a contemplative testimonial and a different, complementary power in immediate outbursts from delighted fans.
The reason that the strongest brand associations are made when shoppers are exposed to two-sided content marketing can be traced back to how the human brain works. The left (logical) brain is the processing center for rational, descriptive, and prepared information while the right (reptilian) brain processes reactions to the emotional, visual, and spontaneous. When both sides of the brain are stimulated in regards to a topic or a product, we are more likely to remember, relate, and react.
Significant research exists in psychology and neuroscience about the role of emotion in decision-making. Wikipedia provides a lightweight summary of some of the thinking in this area so far here: Emotions in decision making
So if we accept there is a role for different types of content in influencing decisions, how do brands use this to spread their message and win customers?
Engage both the left and right brain to resonate
Fast Company recently published a great POV article that considers every brand interaction from a sensory perspective. Building a lasting connection with audiences requires experiences that touch on both the logical and sensory centers of the brain. Reviews feed the left-brain. They let everyday people to share their experiences with products and provide in-depth feedback to brands and advice to future shoppers. And they’re incredibly effective at driving purchase decisions. Social media, meanwhile, is the realm of unprompted, emotional interactions. When you have a great, emotional experience with a product, you almost can’t help but bring it up in casual conversation.
Social media posts are a perfect complement to reviews. They’re often less technical and more emotive. Less specific and more whimsical. Many social media posts are visual – showing off a new look, or showing a product in the context of real life. Think of it as the right-brain “OMG SRSLY GR8!!” balance to the left-brain depth of facts and product reviews.
Your brand’s marketing efforts should integrate social media for a multitude of reasons. The most important is that genuine user-generated content leads to authenticity and trust.
But to be most effective, social content should be balanced with logical details about products and brands, both from consumers and the brand. Social photos from real people on sites like Instagram pique curiosity and set the hook. Reviews provide the detail and consumer confidence needed to reel customers in.
Employ content effectively
In a crowded and noisy marketplace, you have to connect social media posts with authentic, more technical reviews for the consumer. The future is combining the left and right brain content shared by real people in an appealing and powerful way.
Harnessing this balance correctly in a holistic word of mouth marketing program will drive the best results: increased conversions and engagement.
Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @Bazaarvoice how you have delivered or experienced successful communication that tapped into both sides of the brain.