Flashpoints: The Influence of Emotional Drivers

Gayle Ronan | Sep 16, 2015

As humans, we like to think of ourselves as logical, rational thinkers. Yet, we really are of two minds…literally…when it comes to decision-making.

There is the conscious mind, the logical processor of rational thought that often perseveres only after we take a deep breath. As marketers, we use our discovery process to determine how to connect with the conscious mind by conveying benefits, proof points and a value proposition.

Then, there is the instinctive mind, a leftover from the fight-or-flight caveman days. It reaches its conclusions a bit differently, using shortcuts that psychologists refer to as behavioral biases. We all tend to have our own personal collection of biases. In fact, they have a hand in defining who we are.

Identifying these biases is not commonly part of the strategic discovery and planning process. Yet, knowing which biases may be common to your target audiences can help fine-tune messaging to address what often goes unsaid during a more traditional discovery. This is essential, because these unspoken biases may be keeping your audience members from choosing to take action in your favor.


Why Behavioral Biases Matter More Today

In a recent article about marketing in an increasingly mobile world, Sridhar Ramaswamy1 talks about the stolen moments purchasers of goods and services use during the day to get things done. They use these moments to access the information that influences their decisions. This leads to “flashpoint” moments, which are increasingly reached while online, in line at a store or in even in front of a salesperson or advisor.

This shift in the context and way in which your messaging reaches audiences means that your content needs to resonate almost instinctively. It needs to engage or address the underlying emotional drivers in order to succeed as quickly as possible.


From Mindsets to Language Cues and Tactics

We believe having a better understanding of the commonalities in our target audiences’ mindsets will help us build stories and messaging that speak to these collective biases more quickly, while still addressing their practical needs and objectives.

For instance, consider how ambiguity biases—the aversion to something unknown or vague—can come into play. These can impede the introduction of a new and unfounded type of product or service. To overcome the bias against the untested and unfamiliar and tip the target into taking action in your favor, it can help to incorporate a no-risk trial period. This can be similar to what many software companies now do—offering a free version to demonstrate value and charging to download an update with full features once a level of comfort is achieved.

When regret over having to acknowledge previous poor choices is the bias, the solution needs to avoid making the audience self-conscious about it. That can just trigger further avoidance. Instead, it may help to highlight the sense of relief and pride that audience members will feel when their issues are resolved with the help of an organization that is “judgment free.”

In other words, when you incorporate the mindset of your target into your discovery process, you can tell a story that is more likely to create the emotional connections you need to make in order to get your more rational case heard.

For more information on how we’ve incorporated the identification of emotional drivers into our process to tip the scales toward favorable results for our clients, download our checklist or contact Steve Schmieder at 312-327-5120 or sschmieder@blueflamethinking.com.



[1] Sridhar Ramaswamy, “How Micro-Moments Are Changing the Rules,” thinkwithgoogle.com, posted April 2015, retrieved August 26, 2015.


Gayle Ronan

Gayle has over 25 years of financial services marketing, research, and writing experience to craft compelling content for the digital age.

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