Emotional Marketing – Using the Coca Cola strategy to get more tourist visits

Emotion is such a strong force. It’s powerful in many ways because it can influence a decision and urge people to act. That’s why it has been an effective marketing technique to inspire people to take specific actions and reach business milestones.

Emotional marketing is the deliberate use of persuasive messages that tap into human emotion to form a deep connection with the audience toward achieving the desired result. Often, it appeals to a single emotion only. It can be fear, anger, joy, or any other human emotion that is strong enough to influence decision-making or urge an action.

Almost all big brands use emotions to market – perhaps the most well-known is Coca Cola who very cleverly use the emotion of happiness in their marketing. Their 2015 ‘choose happiness’ campaign rocked the internet by tapping into everyone’s desire to be happy and share a moment of happiness. Coca Cola spend almost $4bn a year establishing a deep emotional connection between ‘happiness’ and their brand. They place a high value on storytelling, personalisation, and emotional branding to connect their brand with consumer experiences, in fact, their personalisation strategy of ‘share a coke’ resulted in strongest sales growth in a decade. Keep reading to see how destination Kenya can use these exact marketing principles, but at a faction of the cost, to gain more visitor numbers.

Red Bull’s ‘Dare to be Different’ marketing approach is just as impressive – they have cultivated a brand identity that is all about creativity, non-conformism, energy, speed, risk-taking, and euphoria—traits that are associated with members of its primary target audience of college-aged males. The company uses a wide range of techniques to engage its consumers in emotional experiences that help support this brand identity. Their use of emotions to sell a relatively easy to replicate product (still hold 40% market share) again goes to show that marketing is not just about having a great product to sell, something again I strongly believe destination Kenya can learn from.

I really could keep going – fast food joints (think McDonalds), alcohol companies (Tusker?), Apple, etc. all have had stunning success using variations of emotional marketing. The real question is how destination Kenya can tap into this to improve both the quality and number of tourists that we attract.

Firstly, it is important to understand that emotion and memory are closely linked together as people have a higher tendency to have longer-lasting memory when it comes to emotionally charged events. When you leave an emotional impact on your audience, your brand and your content will stick in their hearts and minds.

For me, this is Kenya’s biggest strength! Visitors have a experience that is ‘magical’. They get to see animals in their natural habitat (this is so rare in our world today, that it leaves a very memorable mark on most visitors). Additionally, our culture (both from a traditional and emotional perspective) is very memorable as is our landscape and flora and fauna. To any Kenyan, especially those in the travel industry, this is not a surprising revelation – we know visitors ‘feel at one’, they form a deep connection to the Kenyan experience when they visit. Coca Cola spends $4m a year and Red Bull $2m to create these emotional connections. In Kenya, we get this for free from those that visit us! The problem is we don’t market this enough.

To market successfully, it isn’t as simple as picking an emotion and shouting about it! You have to tell a story that creates a deep connection between audiences and brands in a personal, human way. Coke picked happiness, an emotion every human relates to, but then spends a fortune connecting their brand to that emotion. Red Bull similarly spends most of its marketing budget connecting itself to adrenaline fuelled activities, making its brand synonymous with the emotions of those type of activities. In Kenya, we have the audience, we have the emotion, we create the memories, all we need to do is connect the audience to their experience get the best out of this type of marketing.

A small caveat, in Kenya, our audience is influenced heavily by global media and unfortunately, we can’t just shout out to everyone and expect them to come running. We need to be cognitive of global perceptions of our offering. Where we do have a strong, positive connection is with those that have visited us and know the ‘truth’ of our offering. Similar to Red Bull (who only allocate 5% of their marketing budget to ‘traditional’ advertising like digital / print / TV ads), I also think that Kenya’s marketing should be heavily experience focused (i.e. use Experiential and Emotional marketing more than “shout and they’ll come” ‘traditional’ marketing).

Kenya doesn’t need to sell 7.9 billion cans (like Red Bull did in 2020) or 31.3bn like Coke. We had about 2m visitors pre-pandemic and will hopefully surpass that again soon. We should be a ~10m visitor market like Egypt. We have everything to be that and more, but to get there, if we were to use the Coca Cola / Red Bull model, we need to tell a good story (we have a great story, we just don’t tell it), connect this to memories and emotions (based on a visitor’s time in Kenya), personalise the message (so it remains valuable) and allow those that know how good we are (the ‘insiders’) to tell those that don’t.

How do we so this? We have a perfect platform to tell a personalised story of a visitor’s time in Kenya, that captures their emotions and allows them to share this with those most likely to visit next, their friends and family! It is the Safari Photobook. To tell a good story, we need to be the narrators of that story. Kenya is a predictable travel destination, in that most trips are carefully planned beforehand. We have detailed itineraries, which means we have skeleton of the visitor’s story before they turn up! Additionally, we are generally a guided experience. That means we have our people experiencing the magic with the tourist in real time! This means we can capture the memorable moments that the visitor experiences (driver takes a picture of guests seeing a lion in a game drive, having a sundowner, dancing with the Masai, having a bush breakfast etc etc).

By knowing the story we want to tell and being there to capture it, we have found a way of connecting the audience with our brand. By documenting this story where the visitors is the central character, we have made this connection in a personal and human way.

Emotional Marketing ‘tells a story that connects audiences with brands in a personal and human way’

We can do this easily in Kenya – even more impressive is that this product is so valuable to the tourist that they will pay for it. So how we have a marketing approach that is free (paid for by the tourist) and follows the same fundamentals as the Emotional and Experiential marketing approach Coca Cola, Red Bull etc use!

To summarise, the Benefits of Emotional Marketing are :

  • You become more memorable – When you leave an emotional impact on your audience, your brand and your content will stick in their hearts and minds.
  • Your content becomes more shareable. People love to share stories or things, whether good or bad. It’s just human nature.
  • It influences purchasing decisions. According to a study, 31% of ads with emotional pull succeeded versus the 16% success of ads that focused on rational content. Clearly, an emotional response to an ad can influence the intent to make a purchase.
  • It helps build customer loyalty and produce brand advocates. Another study shows that customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value and will likely recommend the company at a rate of 71%, rather than the average rate of 45%. This means that when customers are emotional connected with you, they’ll reward you with their loyalty and advocacy.