Through social media and digital devices, today’s consumers are more informed, cautious, and selective than ever before. In a seamless blend of online and offline life, they can decide when, where, and how to engage with brands. They can change their minds if they want to and organizations are fighting for their attention while keeping track of the changing behaviors, new values being forged, and communities simultaneously being co-created in order to stay relevant.

How can emotional engineering help engage today’s customers and how do we make that happen in today’s digitally connected world?

For this topic, I reached out to Dev Glover, a digital entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and author of the DOING YOUR DREAM book series.

Dev Glover, Author of Doing Your Dream Book Series

Emotional Engineering

“There are many definitions out there but the definition that I like comes from the context of the actual words themselves: emotional and engineering. And I see it as a synthesis of the most unlikely and diametrically opposed forces – in service of the consumer,” Dev begins.

“When we think about the word emotion, we think about feelings, intuition, perception, etc. Engineering, on the other hand, is related to something logical, structured, specific, and comes with very specific outcomes that have to be delivered in order for it to be deemed successful.”

“But when we look at emotional engineering especially at it is evolving in this new decade and beyond, I really like to think of it as the use of all of the available means of persuasion in service of the ultimate goal which is to engage the customer.”

Red products from Apple help support causes aimed to raise funds, spread awareness, and eradicate HIV/AIDS as well as the fight against the COVID-19 virus. Photo Credit: The Verge

“That might be in the way a product is designed, the way it feels when you put it in your hand, or the way it speaks to you. To put more concretely, for example, when you go to a store and you see a new laptop or tablet or phone, well, they essentially do the same thing, but one may ‘feel’ differently that makes you look at it differently.”

“Colors may actually trigger specific emotions for you. They may be emotions from your past or aspirational emotions that you would like to embody. Whether that be a certain type of influence that you have or a certain type of wealth or status that you have.”

You know, when we buy things, we rarely buy them based upon logic. We choose items based upon some really intrinsic and much deeper values. I think that is one of the key tenets of emotional engineering.

Dev GloverMarketing Strategist and Author of Doing Your Dream Book Series

Bare Minimum

For organizations that would like to explore emotional engineering, Dev stresses the importance of doing an ongoing research and evolving the brand as the customers do.
“I think the smart organizations know that research is necessary and the smart organizations realize that in many cases the customer is always changing and evolving, so it has to be an ongoing practice.”
“Traditionally, products were sold and marketed based upon what was known as demographics such as age, ethnicity, gender, income range, etc. But more and more companies are using psychographics.”
“As we look at global communities, psychographics is really about how people behave, the thoughts that people share, their ideas and ideals, if you will.”

Photo Credit: Clevertap

“A broad stroke and a very simple stroke would maybe to look at a group that we call millennials, which will be for a while the largest target market in terms of consumption of all products. So when we look at how we actually make the emotional engineering real, well, research is one step. And a word of caution is to be open to seeing that data changing on a very, very quick basis.”
“But the real challenge here is how organizations should design programming, services, and engagement activities that actually speak to a specific type of brand on a consistent basis (and quite frankly, a brand is really a set of perceptions and emotions that the consumer ultimately attaches).”

What I would ask organizations is this: What are we in a position to give our unique audience that no one else is in the position to do? What is our value: both on the tangible level and the intrinsic level? Among the basic human emotions, what does this product or service most consistently attempt to provide? Now, once we answer these questions, then the strategies and the tactics come after.”

“Now from the organization standpoint, these are going to be things that you want to build on. But ultimately, the end consumer is going to really tell you what works for them, what they like or don’t like. If they resonate with the organization’s mission and if the brand feels authentic to them, then if that is the case, they are more likely to keep returning, sharing your content, helping you to even build a more successful brand down the road for the long term. So it is a very, very complex undertaking and a long-term strategy for those organizations that really want to enjoy a certain type of success.”

If end consumers resonate with the organization's mission and if the brand feels authentic to them, then if that is the case, they are more likely to keep returning, sharing your content, helping you to even build a more successful brand down the road for the long term.

Dev GloverMarketing Strategist and Author of Doing Your Dream Book Series

The Standouts

In terms of successful executions of emotional engineering, two brands come to Dev’s mind: Apple and Starbucks.
“The one that, I think, stands out for me is Apple. Apparently, in a meeting of the highest executives of Apple, Steve Jobs raised the question: What is the mission of Apple? What does Apple do? Why does Apple exist? And so the people in the room who had been with the company for several years, individually, they, sort of, looked around the room and thought, well, the obvious question for Apple’s existence is to sell computers, cellphones, etc. And that seemed of course to be the obvious and most likely answer.”
“And Steve Jobs in his indomitable style, thought for a moment and said, that’s really not true.”

Screen grabs from Apple’s 2019 holiday ad titled “The magic of mini,” which features Tierra Whack in a narrative about how music can help improve one’s mood. Photo Credit: Apple’s Youtube channel

“The mission of Apple is to connect consumers with their passions (of course with their own technology). So Steve Jobs saw their role much broader than just products. He saw their role and their mission almost on an existential platform, if you will.”
“Today, you see Apple products look a certain way, feel a certain way, and engage people emotionally in a certain way to the extent that whenever new Apple product gets about to be launched, there are people lining outside their stores even before it’s going to actually be launched.”

Apple store in New York during the iPhone 11 launch. 12 years since the first iPhone was launched, Apple customers continue to line up to be one of the early adopters. Photo Credit: Apple

“And that is really probably one of the most important case studies as it relates to long-term customer engagement within the realm of emotional engineering.”
“If there is a sort of a best case, I think that would really have to be one.”
“A close second is probably Starbucks. I’m always impressed when I listen to the founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, who in the early days talked about Starbucks as a place that goes beyond selling your morning coffee.”
“It was about community, people being able to come together, and to collaborate. And they still work on that today. So those two instantly come to mind. I think they have really sort of taken the lead in terms of finding out beyond just the product or beyond just the service.”

More than just a place for coffee, Starbucks has branded itself as the “Third Place” and consistently transformed itself. Seen here is the Starbucks Roasters in Tokyo. Photo Credit: Time Out

“What does our consumer, what do they want, how do they want to feel, how do they think, what do they aspire to? And then how do we package our products, services, and brand around those notions? These were the questions that these two brands answered and responded to very well.”

Taking it online

When it comes to emotional engineering and engaging the customer in today’s digitally connected world, Dev believes that the onus is on organizations to establish that connection.

The HiPanda store in Japan uses augmented and haptic technology to build fluid and participatory experiences for its tech-savvy target audience. Photo Credit: Curiosity.JP

“It is all about connection with the consumer. It is an ongoing dialogue between the organization and the consumer.”

“And what is really, really interesting is that we’re seeing just more and more of that even from consumers who are in their teens. Huge brands are being built specifically for the teen market. We think about things like TikTok for example, which first found a mass appeal among the Gen Z market but found a way to expand to a much broader market. And it was designed specifically for teens, designed for them to have fun, for them to have engagement, through the use of very, very short video engagement, something that was unique to them.”

In a 2019 campaign called #UTPlayYourWorld, Uniqlo asked its customers to upload videos wearing their favorite outfits from 2019 collection on the social media app, TikTok. Selected videos where played in stores in the US, France, Japan and Taiwan and generated over 700M views. Photo Credit: The Current Daily

“I think platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok have made it accessible to connect businesses, entrepreneurs, creators of any type who are interested in what I believe in creating the highest level of engagement.”

“But a lot of times, organizations want to capture the entire market on these platforms, which is really not very, very smart because it’s not really sustainable.”

“What is a more sustainable approach is to really figure out your specific target market and apply demographic and psychographic analysis. That takes work over time and that work never ever stops. So the connection as it relates to technology today and the need for connection is really just basic human nature. We hear the word tribe, a lot. Belonging to a tribe definitely has its feeling of being included. That can be a very, very powerful thing. And that’s what organizations should strive for when engaging with their clients online: make them feel that they belong.”

And that’s what organizations should strive for when engaging with their clients online: make them feel that they belong.

Dev GloverMarketing Strategist and Author of Doing Your Dream Book Series
“And the organizations, entrepreneurs and creators who are going to have the most effective engagement, the most effective content are going to be those who do the work consistently. This takes time and that’s because you cannot necessarily evoke a specific emotion from everybody because everybody is emotionally charged and emotionally scaled differently.”
“It’s more than just posting some content online. It’s more than taking selfies. But to really engage an audience over time, a market share over time, really involves creating value for them overtime. I call it the Customer Value Proposition.”

“How do you communicate to them in a consistent way where you are serving their needs first before you may even ask for them to buy your product or buy your service? Show them that you care first. A lot of people have that backwards. A lot of people I have worked with have that backwards.”

Future Trends

Because the digital world is continually shifting, Dev provides this advice on the intersection of digital communications and customer engagement:

“The people that are going to be the most effective, the most engaging, are going to be those persons who are able to communicate their unique message within the context of specific platforms that are made for their target market. And they have to watch out closely as these platforms change quickly. This may change in six months, nine months.”
“The truly successful organization, entrepreneur, creator, etc. is not going to stop it. The smart people will be coming up with strategies and will keep creating value using whatever emerging platform there is and communicating in the context of the platform to create that unique mark.”

“One of the things that I mentioned in one of my books is whether you’re a business, small or large creator of any type, entrepreneur of any type, you have one goal: that is to stand out way ahead of your competition. You want to be seen as the number one provider of your product or service bar none.”

Perhaps the overarching goal is to create raving fans. If you can create people who will walk on the water for you – that is a testament that your emotional engineering and online communications have worked.

Dev GloverMarketing Strategist and Author of Doing Your Dream Book Series

“Perhaps the overarching goal is to create raving fans. If you can create people who will walk on the water for you, for your products or service, if you give your customers creative, consistent, and powerful value that they would emotionally feel horrible to go to someone else for the product or someone else for the service you have given them – that is a testament that your emotional engineering and online communications have worked,” Dev concludes.

Dev Glover is a digital entrepreneur, author and speaker. His is the author of the DOING YOUR DREAM book series, exclusively at Amazon, which includes two titles: DOING YOUR DREAM: 7 Steps to Creativity, Entrepreneurship & Wealth! and DOING YOUR DREAM, THE POWER QUOTES: 25 Quotes for Passion, Power, Purpose & Profits!

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James Redmond Chua

James Redmond Chua

Executive Project Manager, JCE Japan Creative Enterprise