Getting to the Heart

Brands offer rational benefits ‑ what they do for you ‑ and emotional benefits ‑ how they make you feel. The most successful brands are those who not only offer tangible benefits but also own an emotional place in your heart. We talked to experienced marketing leaders in our community to learn how they get to the heart of the matter.

Ronelle Sellers

Founder, Partner, Southside Creative

With so much competition in every industry today, marketing efforts have to be strategic to not only identify a rational need for consumers, but also zero in on how to cultivate a feeling of trust and relatability. This means focusing equally on creating a brand reputation with consumers and establishing a culture that reflects the brand’s soul. The most successful brands today work themselves into the minds and hearts of their target consumers. At Southside Creative, we knew that our place of work needed to be a reflection of who we are and what our brand philosophy is. This has helped show consumers our core aesthetic in a more impactful way. We want our signature style to be reflected in every aspect of our business so as to relate to and attract likeminded clients, partners, and even potential new team members. Our art directors are the visionaries behind this initiative, hand-selecting every detail in our new office space and overseeing all design work to maintain consistent quality that our clients, and potential clients, have come to know and expect.

Mike Wadel

Wadel Media

Brand loyalty is on the decline. People need a
reason to forgo the price shopping and stick with a particular product or provider. We tell our clients that the most effective way to connect to a potential customer’s purse strings is by plucking at the heart strings. Every decision that we make as human beings is based in emotion and the priorities we have attached to them. We must speak to the hearts of the customers and not just their heads. Facts are important in the decision-making process, but their emotional response to that information is what moves them to action. Whether the advertising makes us laugh or causes us concern for our safety, whether it makes us dream of a better quality of life or imagine a life without pain, whether a small family business or a major corporation, we must build an emotional relationship with the consumer if we are to ever see brand loyalty again.

Larissa Huskey

Director of Brand Management, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

Winning a customer’s heart does not happen overnight. It requires significant focus and effort that involves everyone in our organization, every day and at every touch point. There’s no secret ingredient, but there are a few things that we do to gain trust. First, we listen to our customers, including our own employees, to better understand their needs and how they feel about our brand. We can accomplish this through surveys, focus groups, phone calls, and social media. Second, we go above and beyond to offer an unparalleled customer experience. Each employee should focus on making things easier and better for our customers, wherever they are and however they reach us. Each interaction our customers have with us is an opportunity to build a relationship with them. Finally, we have to tell our story in a meaningful way, ensuring it ties back to our mission and values. Whatever we say to our customers – via advertising, in a mailing, or during a phone call – should portray who we are as a brand in a genuine way.

Cindy Todd

VP, Chief Marketing and Development Officer, Tennessee Aquarium

A brand is the sum total of all that is known, thought, felt, and perceived about your company, service, or product, so we rely on extensive research to identify what makes us different and special to our guests. National research shows people increasingly value feeling inspired and better informed. So, we strive to create that experience for them at the Tennessee Aquarium. We excel in demonstrating care for animals in our collection and in the wild; connecting kids with nature; emphasizing sustainable, ethical practices; and doing good work in conservation. It’s critically important to us that a high percentage of our guests indicate they were inspired to care more about protecting animals, rivers, lakes, and streams after their visit. This means we’re not only achieving our mission, but also differentiating ourselves from other aquariums. If guests have a great time with the people they love and leave feeling inspired and more informed, the Tennessee Aquarium will continue to be a successful brand with a positive impact on Chattanooga.

Joe Johnson

CEO, The Johnson Group

Since a whopping 95% of purchase decisions are based on our subconscious emotions, not rational reasons, a lot of time and expense has been spent trying to peer into the subconscious mind. In addition to basic consumer research, you also have neuromarketing – using fMRI, which tracks the “pleasure center” in the brain, and EEG, which tracks emotions such as anger, excitement, and sorrow. Yet a tried and true, less scientific method is to keep abreast of pop culture and what’s hot in music, color, fragrance, causes, and beliefs. Then you apply one of these emotional triggers, like music, to your brand. Our executive creative director penned a love song, then adapted it to create a wildly popular campaign for Chattanooga tourism. We used lyrics from The Lumineers’ hit “Ho Hey” to reinforce the warm family connection to Sunbelt Bakery granola bars. The end result is the same; we’re creating messages consumers “hear” with their hearts.

Dave Santucci

VP of Marketing, Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau

If you’ve seen a commercial about visiting Chattanooga in the past ten years, then you know the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau works every day to own a place in our visitors’ hearts. The original music is written both lyrically and musically to connect the audience to the emotional feeling one gets while experiencing Chattanooga as a visitor. The visual elements play to both the rational and emotional mind by showcasing the natural beauty, outdoor adventure, world-class attractions, dining experiences, music/nightlife, history, arts, and culture of Chattanooga. If you have not seen commercials for visiting Chattanooga, it’s because they play exclusively in markets more than an hour away from our city in order to drive overnight visitors to our community. As a result of a community-wide effort and consistent support from our county commissioners and mayor, tourism has about doubled in the past ten years. Chattanooga has always had our hearts; now it has the hearts of millions of visitors as well.

Brian May

President & Executive Creative Director,

Discovering a rational benefit isn’t all that difficult. If you’re in the business of selling tires, rationally you’re selling the ability to get from point A to point B without rolling on the rims. Finding an emotional benefit at face value seems just as easy, but it’s far from it. Discovering a psychological advantage that will resonate with your target audience, is believable by your audience, and connects with your audience takes hard work and experience. Some even think it’s magic. In fact, magic isn’t magic – at least not in the sense that leaves out the hard work, experience, and brilliance it takes to be effective. Great magic requires spending countless hours tweaking the idea, designing the illusion, working on props, and honing the delivery until finally one day it’s ready for an audience. At Maycreate, we have a unique discovery process where we work with the client to find the place where rational and emotional benefits cross paths. It’s a process that explores brand levers from four points of view: tangible, intangible, emotional, and functional. It’s in this process that the beginning of an emotional connection starts to reveal itself.

Lisa McCluskey, MBA

VP, Marketing and Communications, CHI Memorial

Creating an emotional connection with consumers is about getting people to connect with your brand in a way that not only builds loyalty over time, but makes them feel passionate enough to be ambassadors for your brand. In health care, that emotional connection often begins online. Seventy percent of patients are using online reviews in choosing a doctor, and then coming back to post or review feedback. More review sites are getting into the doctor review business – Yelp, for example. At CHI Memorial, we’ve realized that cultivating an online personality and managing a physician’s reputation has become a very important factor in attracting patients. The next step is how people feel when they walk through the door in the physician’s office. We’ve thoughtfully designed new offices to use colors that evoke a calm and positive emotional response, evaluated the placement of signage, and provided scripting to front-line staff. When people are ill, they are vulnerable and sensitive, and we train our team to pay attention to how we make people feel when they interact with us.

J.Ed. Marston

VP of Marketing, EPB

EPB’s brand is rooted in serving our neighbors. Our mission to enhance quality of life and help the local economy prosper gives heart to our brand and purpose to our work. Efforts like operating the electric system, managing the community-wide gig network, and interacting with customers take on the greater meaning of empowering people across our community to work more productively, earn their living, achieve their highest potential through learning, and get the most enjoyment from their free time. For EPB, serving the Chattanooga area is built into our work culture, our decision making, our day-to-day assignments, and our history extending back nearly 80 years. Whether we’re engaged in overarching efforts like utilizing the nation’s most advanced smart grid to dramatically reduce the impact of outages or interacting one-on-one with customers, EPB is proud to be in the 423, and we strive every day to give you reasons to take as much pride in our community as we do.

Amy Clarke

VP, Corporate Communications, Morning Pointe Senior Living

As a regional leader in the assisted living and Alzheimer’s memory care industry, communicating the rational benefits of the type of care we offer means overcoming the false belief that we are a nursing home and that moving here means giving up your entire independence. We not only focus on exceptional around-the-clock medical care but also emphasize quality of life and socialization. The emotional benefits are communicated through stories, often shared by the very families that now call Morning Pointe home. They see the difference in their loved one’s health and overall wellbeing. They see them active and engaged and they enjoy just being a son, daughter, or spouse, rather than a caregiver 24/7. Sharing their words and stories is how we at Morning Pointe Senior Living will continue to serve seniors and their families for generations to come. Our services truly get to the heart of the matter… quality care and quality of life.


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