Tip Jars and Emotional Connections

August 27, 2012

By Bill Duggan

Tip jars are now common at coffee shops, delis, and some quick serve restaurants. And those tip jars have recently taught me something about emotional connections.

One shop I frequent has a cash register that automatically dispenses change to customers and the tip jar is adjacent to that dispenser.  I never deposit change in that tip jar.  In another shop, a server provides the change to the customer—one human hand to the other.  I sometimes tip there.

Said another way, I never tip when the machine provides change but sometimes tip when a person provides change—usually when that person looks me in the eye, smiles, and says thank you.  So I tip when there is a human, emotional connection. 

Brands can learn from tip jars too as there is usually more power in creating an emotional connection in marketing/advertising versus communicating a rational/functional benefit.  Two recent examples from the trade press provide examples.

Advertising Age recently profiled Zumba CMO Jeffrey Perlman who cited the “a-ha” moment in Zumba’s growth as, “I realized we were selling the wrong thing.  We were selling fitness when we should be selling emotion.  I wanted to turn Zumba into a brand where people felt that kind of free and electrifying joy.”  

MediaPost reports on new Nielsen research from their TV Brand Effect service on factors that contribute to successful television commercials.  Nielsen found that ads building an emotional connection are effective “by triggering the brain to identify an experience as important enough to remember.”  Spots can’t just dole out information, but need to establish a narrative. 

Brands can learn from tip jars, Zumba, and Nielsen – emotional connections are typically better than rational ones.


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