by Marguerite de Villiers. Sometimes something just feels right, whether physically or emotionally. Yet researchers and marketers are only recently beginning to untangle the intricacies of feelings, desires, inclinations and intentions — and what implications these might have on the individual and collective experience.

Do not touch

The sense of touch is embodied in our engagement with the world. We use our sense of touch to judge the quality of a product: its weight, texture, strength and temperature. Based on consumers’ preferences of these qualities, we make particular judgments which influence our purchase behaviour. In a time of growing online shopping, marketing the sense of touch becomes limited and challenging, and marketers look for creative and innovative ways to draw on the symbolic connections that touch establishes between products and consumers.

Apple’s packaging is often considered to be part of the product as it adds to the overall brand experience. Apple has taken this a step further in the development of its concept store, where consumers are able to experience the brand more holistically — they may hold the product, try it out, listen to music, and examine it in person.

Coca-Cola’s familiar bottle shape is a prime example of ergonomics (the design of a product to be both functional and comfortable for human use). The bottle has been designed to be held comfortably, but also to be recognisable as unmistakably part of the Coca-Cola brand.

With feeling

In marketing, affect (to move emotionally) often leads to effect (to bring about change). To feel is to experience something; to have sense and sensibility. It is a shift from consciousness (feeling experienced the mind) to action (feeling embodied). In a world of uncertainly, distrust and change, consumers are drawn to brands that represent honesty, transparency, upliftment and authenticity. Messages of empowerment and inspiration are welcomed and positively received.

#LoveHasNoLabels was a campaign that challenges people to acknowledge and remove the prejudices they might have towards others, based on the labels they place on them. It called for a move away from judgment, stereotypes and generalisations. It did this through an interactive campaign that demonstrated — with the use of an x-ray screen — that the labels we place on each other have no physical grounding. It was an emotive campaign that moved people to re-evaluate their own perspectives, opinions and views of the world.

The challenge for marketers is to draw on consumers’ feelings — both in the physical and emotional sense — to create a holistic experience in which they can immerse themselves and to connect with brands in a real, authentic, and tangible way.


Marguerite de VilliersMarguerite de Villiers is an anthropologist at strategic marketing consultancy, Added Value.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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