Generate Monster Ideas (By Getting All Emotional and Stuff)

by Stefan Mumaw

Whether we’re designers, writers, illustrators, photographers, creatives or clerics, we call some facet of marketing “home.” Our pictures, words, drawings or photographs play a part in the unique purpose of altering human behavior in favor of our client’s product, service or offering. Which is just fancy-schmancy talk for generating ideas to convince someone to buy our client’s toys; ideas that we want to be big, fat, hairy, monstrous successes.

In every case, we have two choices for directing those ideas: tell the consumer what it is or show the consumer what it does. “What it is” is the rational purchase drivers we all need to make the decision to consume. “What it does,” however, are the emotional purchase drivers that show us how we’ll feel if we choose to consume. As creatives, we often spend our time generating ideas that position the rational purchase drivers to the forefront, but our own innate humanity leads us to make purchase decisions based on the emotions behind the brands. We may need to know what the product or service does, but what moves us to buy is knowing how that product or service makes us feel. The ideas that recognize and employ these emotional characteristics have a greater likelihood of turning monster.

There’s a whole world of emotions we can use to connect to consumers: hope, fear, distress, surprise, guilt, shame, interest, excitement, joy, anger, disgust, contempt, sadness, happiness, peacefulness, grief, sorrow, trust, anticipation, depression, envy, frustration, sympathy, loneliness, embarrassment, horror, dread, awe… the list is limitless.

There are three key canons to live by when you’re looking to attach that emotional accelerant to your communication ideas. Keep these in mind as you ideate and you’ll have the makings of a monster:

“Authentic” Ain’t Just a River in Egypt
That didn’t make any sense, but that was the point. It’s easy to sniff out that which is inauthentic, and emotion is no different. When the emotion isn’t authentic to the product or service, or the emotion is contrived and trivial, we completely lose the connection with the consumer. If you sell Mixed Martial Arts equipment, peacefulness may not be the most authentic emotion to hitch your wagon to. If you are raising awareness for protected wilderness sanctuaries, however, peacefulness may be a fully appropriate catalyst. Authenticity of emotion, therefore, becomes a key component to monster idea potential.

You Got To Show It, Not Just Tell It
We’ve become masters of telling people about the emotions they’ll feel if they consume the product or service we are peddling, but what are we doing to prove it’s not all talk? Monster ideas that truly evoke an emotional response do so because the emotion is generated, not just communicated. Do we tell people they’ll love it, or do we provide an experience that allows the consumer to generate the feeling of love themselves? In order for an idea to truly go monster, it has to be one that calls upon the emotions within us, one that allows us to put ourselves in place of the subject.

Know Thy Audience
Emotion is a powerful foundation and requires insight into audience that many aren’t willing to take time or effort to discover. Knowing what moves your particular audience is essential for knowing what emotion to employ. When this lack of intimate understanding of audience is coupled with a shallow attempt to draw upon emotion that may or may not exist within that audience, you can get embarrassing results. Ask Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the Boston Police Department.

Emotion is a tricky but powerful communication vehicle. This slippery slope is a primary reason why so many marketers and advertisers choose to sit on rational purchase drivers over emotional ones: rational drivers are rarely wrong. There’s little risk with telling someone that the product in question has more features or is priced comparably. There’s also little reward, and if our goal is monster ideas, we need to be willing to take that risk.


Diagram of rational (product/price) vs. emotional (equity/experience/energy)


There are five general purchase drivers we use to make any purchase decision. Two of those five are “rational” purchase drivers, controlled by the mind: Product and Price. The other three are “emotional” purchase drivers, controlled by the heart: Equity, Experience and Energy.

Image courtesy of Stefan Mumaw


Quick Tips
1. Be authentic in the emotions you choose to generate. Contrived emotions can have devastating effects on an idea’s potential to go monster.

2. Develop ideas that serve to generate emotional response vs. telling the consumer what emotion they’ll likely experience.

3. Know what moves your audience. It does little good to sell nostalgia to 8-year-olds.


Dig Deeper!
1. Read all about the 7 characteristics of monster ideas in Stefan Mumaw’s book Chasing the Monster Idea: The Marketer’s Almanac for Predicting Idea Epicness.

2. Check out a fantastic example of a monstrously successful emotional idea: The DeBeers “Unbreakable Kiss” Campaign. www.chasingthemonsteridea.com/UnbreakableKiss

3. Check out a glorious example of a monstrously epic failure involving a complete disregard for emotional authenticity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Boston_bomb_scare


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