MTM Ep#22: How love conquers fear in marketing with Nichole Kelly

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Welcome back to the More Than Marketing podcast. We’re talking with Nichole Kelly today. She has over 20 years of marketing experience, and she’s seen it all. She has ran her own agency, worked in-house, and worked with start ups and big brands. We talk about how emotional intelligence and love-based marketing (rather than fear-based marketing) can lead to more productivity and online sales.


– [Nichole] If you know that you are the social conditioning engine of the world that you live in, then I believe that that comes with some accountability. And that accountability is leave people better off than when they started.

– Hey, welcome back to another episode of “More than Marketing.” I’m your host, Arsham Mirshah. And today I’m joined by, none other than, Nichole Kelly. Hi, Nichole.

– Hello.

– Hey, good to have you.

– Thank you.

– So, Nichole, this is awesome. We’re talking emotional intelligence today. We’re gonna talk about what it means and how to kinda get in-tuned with it. But a little bit about Nichole real quick, I’ve known her for the better part of 10 years. She’s got the better part of 20 years of marketing experience, right, Nichole? You’ve been in, you ran your own agency, you’ve worked with big brands, you’ve worked in-house with start ups and the like. So you’ve seen it all.

– I have, big, small…

– Managed teams.

– Yeah, for sure.

– This emotional intelligence is kinda near and dear to your heart, as I understand it. Because over your time with working with teams, working with agencies, as an agency, you’ve seen and felt a lot, right?

– Yeah, I have. I learned how to feel, I would say.

– That’s interesting, see, I like that. And I think, if I am reading through this, you experienced more productivity out of the teams you worked with, and you experienced better results for the client or clients, when emotional intelligence was present.

– Right, it comes down to ultimately as leaders, we rely on the performance of our teams. And if we’re really efficient leaders, like I am, we tend to hire really intelligent, smart, highly productive people, right? People who are A players, as I like to call them. And when you’re doing with A players, A players are highly motivated, likely many times obsessive about their trade and they use what’s called flow state, in order to produce ridiculous results. And they may not understand that that’s what they’re doing, but it is what they’re doing. And scientific research is now showing that in the work place when teams are able to hit flow state, we have huge gains in productivity, huge gains in the ability to learn, huge gains in creativity and innovation. The things that we want as leadership from our teams. However, what I found, is that when you start to optimize flow state in your team it kinda has a downside to it. And it’s not talked about very often, you find this in in between the lines of the research. When they start talking about that flow state kicks up all of these creative chemicals in your brain that you dump, in order to get to flow state. And if you’re optimizing yourself for flow state on a regular basis, like I’ve worked on with so many teams, then what happens is that ultimately every day you come in and drop all of your brain’s chemicals that are responsible for regulating mood. And so when you drop all of those chemicals your body needs time to replenish it, and we aren’t giving ourselves the time to replenish it. So this can lead to anxiety, depression, and all of these cycles inside of your team, that if you’re not aware of what’s happening, it can create really big pockets of problem in the team. Where you have employees who really stop performing all the sudden and you don’t know why. Suddenly that top performer is really sad.

– The way I see it is kinda two prongs. When I hear marketing with an emotional intelligence, one prong, which you’re touching on right now is the human producing the marketing work. Whether they’re managing an ad campaign, doing media buy or probably more importantly in this case, is the creative aspect of marketing. What is the concept of the campaign or what is the creative look like, design-wise? That’s one prong, the human doing the marketing, creating the marketing. And maybe the copy that they write also, comes out of that, right? And then the other end of it is the actual production, is what they produce, it’s the deliverable. And that’s where the copy comes out or the timing or the cadence of the emails, it comes out. ‘Cause that’s the other end, the audience. How are they experiencing your message?

– Exactly, so let’s just look at the life cycle of marketing. So in a life cycle of marketing, I’m a creative, I come up with an idea and I put together a campaign in order to express that idea. It involves several things, I’ve got graphics, I’ve got design, development, I’ve got copy writing. I probably have QA involved in there somewhere. So there’s all of these people who are touching the pot, if you will. Every single person, if you will, transferring their energy into this pot that we are creating. This co-creation of art that we’re putting out into the marketplace. So you have this piece of it, which is the creative going in. My emotional state when I’m creating that content matters.

– It matters, yeah.

– Right? Because I’m storytelling.

– The input! That’s the input, if you think about it. That’s the input and we’ve all heard the saying in data, “garbage in, garbage out.” If the data’s not clean, the integrity of the data, if it’s just not there, or if it’s not clean, well, it doesn’t matter, your analysis is inaccurate. So the same thing goes in creative work.

– Exactly. And so it’s not necessarily about whether or not you’re the copy writer, writing the copy, so much is that if you’re in your flow state, your performance flow state, we’re performance marketers, so there’s this performance element. You’re in your flow state you’re putting your energy into this. And as you put your energy into it, just think about it, if I’m trying to write jokes and I’m coming from a place where I’m not really feeling funny, my jokes aren’t gonna be very good. So at best, I’m getting just crappy marketing, on the back-end of this. At worse, I could be getting something that is a little bit more dangerous, if you will, and I use these words very lightly. Because I think, in context, any single piece of marketing has a limited effect, but when you look at marketing on a global scale and how much exposure we have, then you start to see how it bleeds into our lives. So in this marketing piece, now I’m telling the story and I’m taking people on an emotional journey. I’ve heard it at conference after conference, sell to the heart. Use emotions in your marketing. But we’re sitting here and we write to a sixth grade level but do we ever stop to consider the lowest common denominator of the emotional state of our audience?

– What is that?

– Before we take ’em on a roller coaster of emotions?

– What is lowest common denominator of emotions?

– Well, I think it’s all perspective, but I can tell you my lower common denominator has been when I was suicidally depressed. And so would you do something different if the executive on the other end of your B2B marketing piece, if you knew that they were suicidal, would you put them on an emotional roller coaster about cyber attacks?

– Would you still use fear-based messaging?

– Would you still use fear-based messaging? And I’d say that we probably wouldn’t.

– Right, if you knew.

– But we don’t even have a barometer for this right now. And while we could be raising the level of which we’re writing to and starting to actually help society have a better vocabulary, we’re actually really harming ourselves on the emotional side. Because what happens? So I get in, I create this marketing, I then put it out into the world, people absorb that marketing and then when happens? Now they have these emotions. Well where are we supposed to express emotions?

– I don’t know, at home with your family? Or at the gym?

– Hopefully.

– Right.

– But how many people in our society feel like they don’t have an outlet for their emotions?

– Yeah, sure, that’s a challenge. And us as marketers, we have an impact. Marketers and advertisers, we have an impact. What it is, you see at a minimum, 5,000 brand impressions a day. So that’s amazing, think about that. Not obviously all on your computer screen and your phone screen. You’re walking and you open the fridge, there’s a Coca-Cola there, you’re gonna see that, right? So we’re getting all these impressions, so we as marketers have the ability to control that message. So why not make it a better message? I think HubSpot did a survey, or they got this from somewhere and I saw them publishing that trust is at an all-time low.

– Right, absolutely.

– In general, trust is at an all-time low for marketing, in politics, in marketing. I think politicians are 1% of people trust politicians and then after that it’s 4% for marketers. So yay, we beat out politicians, congratulations, right? But then it goes on from fire fighters have like a 60-something percent. So our goal should be to move up and make the world a better place and in doing so, I think, we can actually achieve better results.

– Think about this, pull yourself back from your marketing campaign for a minute and just look at the global view. In the global view we have all of these people who have reasons of which we either work together or we don’t, right? And most of these things are actually human-created things. They’re labels and all of these things that are kinda human-created. So if that’s the case, and we start to look at their inputs, what you have behind the curtain of humanity, is a social conditioning engine. And I believe that that social conditioning engine is marketing.

– Yeah, we’re certainly driving it.

– We are doing the advertising, we’re creating the media, the movies–

– The messaging.

– The radio, like all of it. We create all of it and it starts at such a young age. So if you know that you are the social conditioning engine of the world that you live in, then I believe that that comes with some accountability. And that accountability is leave people better off than when they started. Leave a positive trace behind you.

– So, Nicole, I agree with you. But I’m a CMO, or I’m a marketer and I’m charged with getting results.

– Right.

– Right? So I’m charged with getting results this sounds to me like, yeah of course I wanna leave the world a better place, okay, I already recycle and whatever. And I drive an electric car, I don’t know, I’m just making stuff up now. But now when I got to work, my job is to get results. I need that click through rate, I need that cost per lead to come down and I need that cost per sale to come down. So will this help with that? That’s where I imagine people are thinking.

– Yeah, I can give you some basic tests that I’ve run that essentially show that yes, in practice we believe that this works. But in scale that’s where we’re at right now. How do you do this at scale in a way that also delivers return on investment? Because this isn’t about a trade off between return on investment and marketing with emotional intelligence. It is absolutely about a combination of both of them. In emotional intelligence what we’ve done is when you start to look at social media, is a great example of where you can look to for the gauge of emotional intelligence. So we created a community and in that community, this was the care one case study, where we had a community of over a million people who were in debt. And they felt safe to talk about their finances in a community where they typically, this is something that in society–

– This is debt consolidation, right? So this is debt, it’s a shameful thing, it’s embarrassing, let’s say.

– Yes, and there was a ton of shame around it. Because when you go into debt, there’s just so much, so whatever your story with–

– Judgment.

– Money is, your own personal judgment, external judgment, all of that. And so we have this online community with a million people and they’re talking about debt. And it started out that people were anonymous, in the beginning. And as Facebook started to come in and Twitter started to get really big, we started to see this shift of where people went from anonymous to being themselves. And as that started to happen, and we started to measure what was the impact of the community was. When we actually just simply provide a forum for you to belong, we found that basically, it was over 680% improvement on return on investment. Of them, overall.

– Meaning they’re more likely to–

– Convert.

– Convert. And become a lead.

– And becoming customers and then they paid better.

– Or a customer of the consolidation.

– It goes up from there. They became customers better, they paid better.

– They paid their bills better.

– They actually finished their plans at a higher rate.

– If they’re part of the community.

– The long-term value of creating a positive emotional experience was really incredible for them. So as we look at this in brands, it’s how do you implement this? What is this actually, let’s get to the brass tacks, no BS.

– I’ll leave.

– What does this mean?

– I don’t need to host, that was my next question. Because one of the things, okay, emotional intelligence, lowest common denominator. On the other end of our ad, there are people seeing it. And they may be depressed. So do we want to leave them even more depressed? The answer is generally no, we don’t.

– And also, do you think that this one ad is gonna leave them more depressed? Probably not.

– Yeah, probably not.

– We generally don’t associate that our one piece of marketing has this huge impact. So I see that as well, but it’s true.

– But at the same time, if I say, okay, so what does that mean? Remove the false sense of urgency. So “sale ends in an hour,” right?

– Right.

– But why do people use “sale ends in an hour?” Because it converts better. It triggers that FOMO, fear of missing out, and therefore people convert better. So where’s the balance between you know…

– I think it’s a couple of things. I think that the early test that we’re running are on copy. Because I think that the biggest leverage point that we have, in terms of changing messaging, and sending out more of a positive message, is just simply by writing it. So we’re doing copy tests. And what that looks like right now is simply, when we’ve chosen to use something, that after I read it, I feel less pleasant than I did when I started, we’re adjusting it to feel more pleasant. So that’s the gauge. Now that might be that a change a headline, it might mean that I remove some fear messaging, but mostly it’s a measure of that I ask of, “Is this empowering or disempowering messaging?”

– Good.

– Where am I leaving the person. We understand that there is a journey of messaging, you have to create tension to create desire. So there is a piece of it that’s about creating that tension. And that tension might be, “Hey, you have this problem you need to solve.” Absolutely. But at the end of that, I don’t need to couple that with, “If you don’t solve it, you could lose millions of dollars!” And maybe that’s true, but where is the appropriate place to put that? And what’s the real value in telling, that’s not a value proposition, at the end of the day. That’s just fear.

– So let’s use a couple examples. ‘Cause I know you mentioned the cyber security one, so I wanna touch on that one. And then I have a health and wellness one that we actually ran a split test on this, so I have the numbers for that. The cyber security one is interesting. So cyber security, give me an example of the fear-based messaging. The ads that we always see in cyber security.

– Oh, it’s all about, “Your network’s at risk! “Everything’s gonna be gone, you’re gonna be infiltrated!”

– You’re gonna pay these huge fines, infiltrated.

– Huge liabilities.

– And there’s fear, right? There’s fear, does that make you wanna act? Maybe it does, if I’m a CTO or CIO or a SysO. Of course I don’t want that stuff, right? But then, how do we shift that? Or what do I want?

– Well, what do I want?

– So yes, that’s not what I want, correct, that’s fear-based. What do I want?

– Yes, exactly. And that’s the question.

– Secure network, sleep better at night, remove worries.

– Show CTOs on vacation.

– There you go.

– Think about what you want them to feel. What you want them to feel is relief. So what do they do when they feel relief? They take their vacation, they play with their kids, show them the experiences they want more of and how this tool or solution can offer them the ability to do that. So when you’re 99.999 gazillion uptime, I can take a vacation with confidence.

– Although anytime our CTO, Dave, is out of the office or working from home, that’s when our internet flickers, every single time, it’s so weird. It’s like it knows, that’s an inside joke, but it’s actually happened. It’s so weird. So perfect transition into the health and wellness one. We ran a split test where the landing page, this is a health and wellness client, they do Eastern and Western medicine. So this landing page is promoting helping fix back pain. Back pain, lower back pain, especially is very common. The only thing we tested was the image, the main image that you see when you land on the page. And one variation was what you are experiencing now, guy kinda holding his back or gal holding her back like, “Ow, it hurts,” and they’re in pain. And the other version was the, “Hey, I’m on the beach, “and I’m jumping up and I’m playing Frisbee “with my grandkid,” whatever it was. It was the desired state. And I think it was 113% or something increase in conversion rate. Everything else the same, just the image. Crazy, right, thousands of visitors.

– We act like this is something special but just think about it, just walk around and talk to your friends and say, “What is it that you want?” I’m telling you almost everyone says they want a vacation, they want more time with your kids. People aren’t saying, “Man, I wish I had 20 more hours to put into the office.” Said no one ever.

– Maybe some entrepreneurs, maybe Gary Vee.

– Gary Vee says that, right. Gary Vee’s like, “How can I make more time?” He’s investing in time machines.

– Hyperloos.

– Hyperloos.

– So if you know that, you intrinsically start to look at human dynamics, which ultimately is what marketing is about. I think sometimes we get lost in the tools and the tactics. Marketing is about human dynamics and understanding the psychological state, the emotional state, the mental state and connecting your product or service in a way that is compelling enough to buy. That’s it. So not understanding the emotional state of your audience is like not understanding the demographics of your audience.

– Yeah, that’s exactly right. I think no one will argue with you that marketing and emotion are very well connected. We are looking to influence people using emotion. But if you have a choice, why not use good emotion? I think no one would argue with that either. If they are, they’re a bad person.

– No bad people.

– You get what I’m saying, I mean, saying if the results are the same, why not choose the good messaging. Then let’s circle this back to, this all starts as us as marketers and our emotions, and our flow state, and our well-being. I think that’s where a lot of your study is. ‘Cause that’s the root.

– And also just imagine trying to portray something you don’t experience. So it’s just like, I talk a lot about marketers who actually aren’t their target customers who think they have these deep understandings of their target customers. But you’re not your target customer so you really, truly can’t understand your customer. So this is the same thing, right? So as a marketer, if you don’t understand your own emotions then you actually can’t create the emotion predictably in your marketing. And I’ll tell you the one that we misunderstand almost 95% of the time when I talk to people about it, is fear. We call denial fear, we call guilt fear, we call shame fear, we call judgment fear. We call a lot of things fear that are not fear, at all.

– All right, now we’re getting into the philosophical segment. Couldn’t you say that guilt, shame, whatever else you… Isn’t that a fear of lack of approval? Like all those…

– Intrinsically, yes. If you want to get down to the reptilian brain of it, it’s fight or flight.

– Right, that’s what I’m trying to get to.

– It’s like getting kicked out of the tribe.

– Approval, right.

– Ultimately that’s fear. That speaks to the emotional state on whether or not we’re in fight or flight or not. If you’re in a place of emotional balance and emotional wellness, then you’re not in that fight or flight. You can remove yourself when that fear comes up and you can kinda just rest assured and be calm and know that you’re not actually in fear. And the truth of it is, in this scientific studies are proving this as well, is that so many of us are living in fight or flight syndrome, that the cortisol that’s running through our bodies is causing huge health impacts on us. So a part of this, for our own emotional well-being as creatives, is if we don’t understand flow state, if we don’t understand the chemical composition of our brains, and what happens when we’re at work, and how to optimize this in a way that we can create balance and wellness in our lives, then what’s the point?

– We’re hurting humanity and then we’re hurting ourselves in doing so too.

– Unintentionally.

– I think it’s easy to do. I think this comes also as marketers, has to do with some leveled effort too. I think it’s generally much easier to use fear-based messaging, let’s say.

– It sure is.

– It’s just easier. By default, hey I got a new client, or I’m in a new company, I’m gonna run new ads, they’re gonna be fear-based. ‘Cause that’s what I know, that’s what I know has worked or can work. But I think it’s short-term based. I think you might see a short-term base in result. But I think ultimately it might, in the long-term, those results will fade, as well as potentially even hurt your brand.

– And it comes down to what kind of customer do you want? When you attract a customer who’s coming from a place of fear, they tend to also not perform well as customers. Because they’re the customers who complain, they’re sketchy, they may or may not pay on time, they tend to cancel more. So when you attract from this place of fear, you’re actually attracting a customer that you don’t wanna work with. And it’s also like this desperation that gets put into your money supply, if you will.

– It’s the short-term versus long-term thinking. It totally is.

– But if you attract somebody when they’re from a place of confidence, and they feel confidence in their decision, then they feel confidence in you. So we also ran another test with another wellness company where we tested emotionally intelligent copy. And while it didn’t perform better, in terms of delivering more leads, it was actually the same, it was flat. What we found, is that the leads performed much better. Because they were higher-quality leads.

– So then your cost of sale, which ultimately will matter, now we’re closing the loop. Go a podcast where I talk about that, I’m sure there’s one or two. That’s ultimately what we want. I think marketers should be held accountable to more than just lead gen. And lowering costs per acquisition, cost per lead, and moreso held accountable to cost per sale. As well as retention. Something that marketers don’t talk about much, or at all, say, in some circles, is retention and growing accounts or growing a customer. The frequency in which they buy or the average ticket values. And I think you can apply emotional intelligence there too. Not just with creating new customers but also, hey, how can I give my current accounts, my current customers a better experience and leaving them better off. Such that in the longer term, or even in the short-term, they come and they buy more, more frequently, or bigger tickets.

– Yeah, exactly, it’s ultimately emotional intelligence becomes part of the overall UX experience.

– Exactly, it’s it. Nichole, we are running out of time, here’s what we’re gonna do. Let’s wrap this up but then let’s you and I commit to running some more tests, getting some more people on this bandwagon, talking about it, doing stuff about it, sharing the results and ultimately making the world a better place.

– That’s good, yeah.

– You down for that? And then we’ll come back, we’ll share our results and hopefully influence all y’all out there. That good?

– Yeah, I’m down.

– Anything else you wanna talk about.

– No, I think that’s it.

– That’s good, all right.

– I think we just got.

– Pssh.

– Boom. Nichole Kelly, everyone, thanks for listening. I’m Arsham Mirshah, this is “More than Marketing.” Please subscribe, share this with your friends, like it, do all the good stuff. And let us know what you wanna hear about. Hopefully this is helpful to you. Until next time, cheers.

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Arsham Mirshah

Arsham MirshahCEO & Co-Founder

Podcasts Info:
Creative + UX
News + Business

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