Inside Out

It’s always good when the latest Disney hit film affirms a basic tenant of your business. We deliver marketing insight from the inside out.

Two scientists, who helped Pixar’s genius filmmaker Pete Doctor sort out the emotional themes for “Inside Out,” made fascinating comments in yesterday’s NYT.

“Emotions organize–rather than disrupt–rational thinking. Traditionally, the view has been that emotions are enemies of rationality. The truth is that emotions guide our perceptions of the world, our memories of the past and even our moral judgments of right and wrong, most typically in ways that enable effective responses to the current situation.”

Hear, hear! That’s an excellent way to think about consumer decision-making. Emotions organize and guide brand choice. People seek “effective responses”: they want to feel they made the rationally thoughtful choice.

But wait. Exactly which emotions are at play? The movie personifies five emotions as the characters Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Joy. Of these, only Joy seems like a positive and desirable emotion. So is that the primary emotion that smart marketers should go for?

As these scientists note, “The real star of the film is Sadness.” Interesting. Sadness? Yes, Sadness. Sadness guides the main character Riley to leave childhood behind and find a new identity.

When it comes to marketing, all emotions are potentially powerful tools. It’s not just about making your brand evoke feelings of joy. Rather, as in any compelling story, it’s about resolving conflicted desires. It’s about the promise that life can be or feel younger, happier, steadier, and more meaningful. We all live less-than lives, yearning for better selves.

Great marketing is about triggering an emotion that links to the target’s desired identity. Often, it’s the troubling emotions that get triggered and then resolved by trusted brands.

Now, about “Frozen.” I guess its message to marketers is: be fearless. Face the challenges, admit that you may be trapped in ideas and feelings that no longer serve your brand, test the limits, break through–and “Let It Go”!