I Get So Emotional, Baby

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This week, I was in Lexington, Ken. at Alltech’s 29th annual International Symposium.

While waiting for the conference to get underway, I’ve been using my travel time to catch up on some much needed reading. At another conference a few weeks ago, I bought a copy of the book Contagious, Why Things Catch On, written by Jonah Berger.

Mr. Berger is a Wharton school of business marketing professor who has spent the last decade trying to figure out the science behind why people talk about certain products, why some stories and rumors are infectious, and what makes online content viral.

I’ve written about the need to connect to the consumer: ask your true stakeholders what their needs are, and then address those specific needs. What I haven’t spent much time addressing, however, is how you do that.

One of the biggest “how-to’s” I can share with you is getting in touch with emotion. I think emotion is a great equalizer for people. Why? Because everyone has feelings.

Humans are social beings who love to share opinions and information with others. The Internet and that wonderful, annoying, amazing, infuriating thing called “social media” have been increasingly engineered to support people’s natural inclinations to share ideas, offer advice and spread gossip.

As an industry, of course we want to tap into this network in a positive way. As good as our public relations teams are, however, they’re never going to make much headway unless they are supported by those on the ground working with animals. Why? Because humans are social; they like to connect to others who they can relate to.

While I’m happy to speak on behalf of the industry when called upon to do so, the best stories are those that can be told directly from an individual farmer or rancher. Those stories get in touch with fundamental emotions and are more likely to be shared.

Activist groups are masters at using emotion to reach their target audiences and accomplish their goals. How many of you have seen the commercial of sick dogs and cats with the Sarah McLaughlin song playing in the background? That commercial is operating strictly on emotion; there’s barely any substance and no facts even being discussed.

I’m not advising you to stoop to the level of the activists. Rather, I’m trying to illustrate the point that emotion helps content and messaging be shared far and wide. That’s what we want.

I’ve been told many times that the reason why it’s difficult to ‘share agriculture’s story’ is because a lot of the practices are highly scientific and difficult to explain. Well, the cure-all for that is emotion.

Emotion, as I said before is a great equalizer; it also cuts through the gobbledy-gook and science lingo that we may otherwise use to describe various practices. If we strip away all the data and statistics and get in touch with the “why” behind the “what,” we’ll be capturing the basic emotions behind decisions.

Those emotions will ultimately resonate with consumers.

According to Mr. Berger, science articles, interestingly enough, frequently make the most-emailed list more than articles about fashion, politics or business news. That’s because these articles chronicle innovations and discoveries made and transmit a powerful emotion to readers: awe.

People are amazed by what they are unfamiliar with. It is my firm belief that even though the majority of consumers are three generations removed from the family farm--they are fascinated by it.

Personally, I am fascinated every time I tour a farm or processing facility because I’m learning something new.

On a recent plant tour, I heard a story that I still talk about today, months later. It was a story of one employee’s parents, how they worked in the plant, which allowed them to send their daughter to college. When she graduated, she returned to the plant as a manager in the HR department.

Why has that story stayed with me, and why do I keep telling it? Because it put me in touch with a fundamental human emotion: pride. I can relate to that feeling, human to human. And the science and complications fade away. It’s just that simple. 

 

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