The Hunger Games Medallion

Image courtesy of Photobucket

Disclaimer: No worries if you haven’t seen the movie. I don’t give away the story or outcome in this post!

I saw the movie The Hunger Games last week. I had not read the books, and was only vaguely aware of the storyline due to the promotions on talk shows. I must say, the premise of the story didn’t seem appealing to me, so this movie was not on my “must see” list. As a matter of fact, I saw this movie completely by default, because it fit into my schedule. So, suffice it to say I wasn’t expecting that I’d enjoy the movie as much as I did.

I’m hard pressed to remember a movie that impacted me the way The Hunger Games did!

I walked out of the theater completely wiped, emotionally exhausted and unable to say anything, period. I mean, nothing. By the time I got to my car I realized there were so many emotions swirling in my head I better just free-write. If you’re not aware of the technique it means you jot down anything and everything that comes to mind. Luckily, Evernote is always ready to document my thoughts quickly and effortlessly. I needed to release all those emotions which included, but are not limited to, the following; power-weak, hope-fear, trust-distrust, proud-disgust, sad-happy, settled-unsettled, belief-worry, concern, love-heartbreak, sadness-anger, happiness-sorrow, relief-grief, loss-triumph, hate-joy, anxiety-comfort, and so many more contrasts back and forth.

This movie did everything great writing and movies do. I was emotionally connected and invested in the positive characters (protagonists) of this movie.

I genuinely cared about their welfare. On the other hand, I genuinely was confused and terrified by the antagonists in this movie. The author, Suzanne Collins, created a powerful story that supported these emotions. This truly might have been some of the finest collection of writing and storytelling I’ve witnessed in a long time. I bought into the entire thing and felt at a loss for how this story could possibly create the happily ever after Hollywood story ending.

I was frightened by the acts of inhumanity inflicted by man against man strictly for entertainment and power.

It made me reflect on the real life instances of these acts of uncivilized, unspeakable behavior in the world we live. I also couldn’t help but see the parallels to our zest for entertainment a la reality shows such as Survivor, soap operas, TMZ or other fictional writings. Are our own lives that dull that we need these incredibly anti-reality shows to make us feel better about our own world? Would we be attracted to the “show” in The Hunger Games like the audience in the movie? We humans are funny creatures, and this movie just goes on to show that. The emotions evoked in the movie were very strong, powerful and opposites. They were very negative and full of sadness. Even the victories were hollow. But, I believe connecting with your audience is also critical in the business world.

Your brand is the vehicle for connecting emotionally with your audience.

Your customers, whether you’re in the B2B or B2C market are humans, and they make decisions to buy based on emotions. People don’t buy products or services because they love your widget or how you service your widget. They buy because your widget makes them “feel” something. Maybe it’s just the feeling of belonging to a superior set of standards. Or, maybe it’s the feeling they get from being the first one to have your widget. Or, maybe it’s because your widget reminds them of their childhood long past.

For example, I’ve been using Colgate toothpaste since I was a kid. I have powerful emotions surrounding that brand because it reminds me of my childhood, family and everything in between. I’ve been using Colgate (the original) my entire life (many many decades) and don’t plan to change. Why…because it’s a simple emotional connection to my childhood. A good feel emotion, but strong emotion. I guarantee you I’ll feel an incredible loss, but extreme anger if Proctor and Gamble ever decides to remove this product from the marketplace. That’s like taking away a piece of my childhood. It’s bad enough that we age, but take away an important piece of my life and history, that’s grounds for retaliation through Social Media.

Emotionally connecting with your customers and employees through branding/messaging/culture is critical to the long term success of your business, regardless of your company’s size. Your customers and employees want and need those connections. After all, at our simplest level we are “human” animals with a strong need to connect with others. We buy for that reason, and it’s doubtful that’s going to change anytime soon. We’re just wired that way.

As a company, using powerful emotions correctly communicated in a story that connects to its target is vital to the success of your product or service in competitive marketplaces.

This is especially true if your product or service isn’t the best or even the first in the category. You have an uphill battle to get noticed in the marketplace. What will be the differentiator that makes your customers choose your product or service over another. I propose that powerful branding emotionally connects and moves your customers in ways they never thought possible and sometimes at a very simple basic level.

Ask yourself the following questions to find out if The Hunger Games is better at connecting emotionally with their audience than your brand connects with your customers;

  1. What if your brand had as strong an emotional affect on your customers, as The Hunger Games did for me?
  2. How would that emotional connection impact brand awareness?
  3. Are your customers going to remember your brand enough to buy your product or service?
  4. What would they tell their friends, family, co-workers, church or other group members about your product or service?
  5. Will they chatter about your product or service in the online social circles, like Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
  6. Will they talk about your company, even if they’ve never been a customer?
  7. And, what would they say…would it be positive, negative or worse, indifference?

Take a step back for a moment. Can you objectively answer those questions in a positive manner?

It’s a difficult thing for any company executive, director or manager to do…think objectively about what your customers really think about your company. Maybe it’s time to do a brand awareness study, whether informally in social communities or more formally via surveys or focus groups. Your company’s true brand is out there waiting for you to see…you just have to take off your rose colored glasses for a minute.  Is your brand as seen by your customers, good or bad, happy or sad, loved or hated, trusted or disgusted?  The Hunger Games story created such strong emotions in my body I felt to my core. Guess what, that physiological and psychological connection is one I’ll never forget. Is it time for you to make a change…rebrand?

Don’t be the last to know how your brand affects your customers.