By Chris Searson, Chair of Smart Cookie,

Your customers and potential customers are all spoilt. The films they choose to watch are created by incredibly talented teams that are very successful at engaging and entertaining their audiences by connecting with them on an emotional level. They scare them or make them laugh. They can make the most cynical cry or deliver awe inspiring experiences, such as floating in space. When your customers are not watching these films they’re playing games, which, as the industry moves towards virtual reality, delivers more and more realistic and exciting experiences. In business, when trying to engage customers, we’re competing and being judged against those experiences.

The best marketers already recognise this and are reaping the benefits. “It’s a Jungle out There” was a very successful campaign from the creative agency Zone Design for Bayer’s animal parasite control treatments because it tapped into the emotional response that animal lovers have for their dogs. I challenge you to watch that advert without a lump appearing in your throat. Ever After similarly produced a film for LEGO Education to promote their literacy product StoryStarter, that tapped into the concern most adults feel towards children overcoming barriers to achieve their potential. The film was so successful in engaging audiences on an emotional level that the team at LEGO Education cried when they first saw it.

But of course making your customers cry is not always appropriate: it’s good to make them laugh too, or even change their mood. When American Airlines recently rebranded it wasn’t just their logo and corporate colours they reviewed, they also looked at the usually stressful experience of boarding a plane. They decided they wanted their customers to feel more relaxed and look forward to getting on one of their planes. The video we created shows stunning images of the US with original backing music that together creates a feeling of calm (and pride if the US is your home). It is that feeling that American Airline’s customers will remember and associate with them in future. Whether they remember why or not, customers will return to American Airlines because of their emotional response to the brand.

Following the evolution of the entertainment industry, intelligent marketers are now also using ‘gamification’ and virtual reality to engage customers. This is a step on from the old style experiential marketing and very effective. Which is more memorable: American Airlines advertising their involvement in Disney’s “Planes” or getting passengers, and even pilots, to play a game at airports where they pretend to be the plane?

All business owners and marketers should therefore ask themselves: how do you make your customers feel? Are you just one of the thousands of messages being shouted at them every day that they try to block out? Are they bored with you? Do they hate you for pestering them? Or do they look forward to their next encounter with you? Do they clamber to view or experience your marketing, even when it means going out of their way to find it? Which type of marketing do you think generates the most loyal customers? Which is remembered and which is quickly forgotten?